Time to Spread Your Wings and Fly...

Time to spread your wings & fly

Fast Shutter Speed, Shallow Depth of Field and High Speed Sync

When you are shooting indoors during daylight and there is a window in frame, you know the score; the light outside is always going to be so much brighter out there than it is inside. One solution is to expose for the outside then fill in on the inside by using strobe light. If you want to retain a  super shallow depth of field ( like the f1.2 used for this shot), with its rich creamy bokeh, it's likely that in order to dial down the exposure on the exterior you'll need a faster shutter speed than the standard maximum threshold of around 200 fps that most strobes and flashes sync at. The solution, if you have access to the functionality, is to utilize High Speed Sync.

High Speed Sync allows you to fire your strobes at much higher shutter speeds like the 1/2000th of a second used to create this portrait. This allows you to  get your background exposure correct without worrying about shutter speed and then fill in the interior using your strobes. Do be aware, however, that you won't field as much power from your strobes as you can when using them in regular mode.

See behind the scenes video of the Spread Your Wings & Fly Shoot: 

Shooting Notes:

• Strobes were positioned so that they did not cause reflections in the windows.

• Strobes were positioned so the light  was feathered up and away from the subject in order to have more influence on the face and less on the body. 

• For an enhanced sense of depth, fake foliage was purposely balanced on top of a ladder and positioned to be in the foreground of frame. 

• A v-flat was positioned against the glass breeze blocks to prevent them causing a reflection in the window behind the subject.

• The butterfly is obviously fake, so was purposely positioned to be out of focus so that its lack of realism would be less noticeable.

• Nailing sharp focus on the eye when shooting a self portrait at such a shallow depth of field is not  easy. Using a device like a camranger (which I did here, controlled by an ipad)  allows the self portrait artist to focus remotely. It really helps,  but is not an infallible method of nailing the focus, because the tiniest of movements can shift you out of the focal plane. The answer is to keep checking, readjusting and trying again.  


Focal Length • 85mm

Speed 1/2000

f 1.2

ISO 160

Before Edit versus After Edit

  • Pre-Edit Time to spread your wings & fly
  • Time to spread your wings & fly

Editing Notes:

• This final shot was chosen for the expression, but the butterfly angle looked better in a different shot, so the screen was split between the two and combined using Photoshop.

• A few minor blemishes/pimples were removed but otherise the skin was left untouched.

• A pucker in the dress was edited to lie against the chest without gaping or creasing.

• Butterfly and lip color was tweaked to match the subject hair color to enhance the harmony of the color story.

• Overall tweaks to exposure, contrast and color were implemented.

For the Love of a Challenge

As has so often been the case recently, this shot was created for the wonderful 52frames weekly challenges that have been inspiring me to explore photography more deeply and shoot in a way I might not normally do. The challenge this week was 'fast shutter', but for me it goes further than just what is currently on the roster. I was struck, this week, by how much previous challenges impacted and inspired my direction: I still had window light, color relationships and cinematic results on my mind. It's wonderful exploring ways to bring multiple influences from the project together into one frame. I'm very grateful to have found this community.

As always, thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about this technique in the comments. 

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