Photography Techniques | Flash Composite

February 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This will be the first in a series of posts about different photography techniques. My goal is to help photographers that are starting out like I once was and help them add to their bag of tricks to get a broader range of images in their portfolios.

A flash composite is a picture made from multiple shots. Some of the shots will have flash and others will not. I know it sounds a little confusing at first, but it will make sense once I explain it with some sample pictures.I would say flash composites are in the intermediate to advanced categories, but not because of the difficulty. Mostly because you need to have some off-camera flash skills and you have to already have the equipment to do it with. You will need at least one off camera flash, light stand or assistant, and a way to trigger the flash remotely.

The first step for a flash composite is to get a shot with your desired ambient exposure. For the shot below my settings were as follows:

ISO 100

F9

1/250

As you can see, that exposure gives me a great looking sky, but the couple is underexposed. The main purpose for this first shot is to give you a clean background. As you'll see in the next shot, your light stand or assistant will be in the shot.

This shot has all the same settings as the first, but now we'll add flash. I believe I was at 1/2 or full power on the flash for these shots. (Note that you do not need a tripod for these shots, but try to stay relatively in the same spot and try to capture each shot as close to the other as possible.)

For this particular setup, since there are 2 people in the shot, we will then take another shot to light the bride.

Once you have the shots of all your subjects lit the way you'd like, your shot is done. Well, half way done, the rest will be done in post production by combining all your images in Photoshop. Below is my final image after compositing, toning, and applying a texture.

As you can tell, there are many advantages to using this technique. To get this type of lighting in one shot with multiple people without the light source being in the picture, you would probably need a few powerful studio strobes, which are not very portable. This technique lets you just use 1 or 2 small flash units and get in close to produce soft light even without a modifier.

Next week, I'll show you step by step how to composite the images in Photoshop. It seems like a lot of work, but once you get used to it you can finish an image in just minutes. Hope you enjoy and learn from this tutorial and if you have any questions just leave them in the comments. For now, I'll leave you with a few more images that were created through the flash composite method.

Houston Wedding Photography This last one is a combination of flash composite and the Brenizer Method, which I will go into on a future tutorial.

 

 


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