Isolating a subject using strobe

I felt like doing an article on my experiment with strobe techniques & some post processing exposure layering. So I rigged up what I had to attempt this. Since my knowledge on using the flash is still pretty limited & basic, I figured that practice makes perfect. This is new to me so let’s explore together & see how things turn out!

The equipment

I decided to use the 5DmkII for the shoot. The 50mm was the choice of lens & the only flash unit I had was the 430EXII. Since the 5DmkII cannot do off-shoe flash triggering, I’ll be using a set of Pixel Knight TR-332 Flashgun E-TTL trigger… a transmitter & a receiver. This set of triggers aren’t your typical ones… they enable you to perform high-speed syncs up to 1/8000th sec. Nice!

The subject

I needed something that stayed still.. so human subjects are not going to work. The reason is because I do not have a 2nd flash unit… so I had to improvise a little bit to make it appear that I had 2 flashes. So it was between the figurine of a marbled horse… or this! Beethoven!!

The stands & flash diffuser

I needed the flash to be slightly elevated on the left side of Beethoven. I rigged a flash stand together with a studio umbrella.

For the tripod, I was too lazy to go downstairs from my apartment to get my Manfrotto from the car… so I used a Benro tripod instead.

The experiment

Initially I wanted a half lit figure with a black background, isolated by using high-speed flash & a fast shutter speed. As I progressed, it seemed that a creamy soft look made Beethoven look really good, so I changed my mind & went for Creamy Beethoven.. lol!

I wanted a couple of test shots in auto mode just to see how things look to the camera. I set it to Programmable Auto… a mode I haven’t used in years! Here is the shot…

Not too bad actually. If you didn’t know what you were doing, just shoot in P mode! However this wasn’t what I had in mind… at this point in time, I envisioned a totally black background. For the next shot, I wanted to see if a small aperture of f/11 will work. So I switched the camera to Aperture Priority this time & fired another test shot.

Yucks! Horrible! This was exactly like Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony… bad bad bad! This was way off what I had in mind. At the same time I was pretty impressed with the P auto mode metering system which got me my first shot.

Ok so looks like them auto modes aren’t going to work. I switched to Manual mode this time & set the shutter speed to 1/100th sec.

Ok better than the 2nd!… now what bothered me this time were the curtains behind. Remember I wanted a dark background… still did. So the next shot, I went for 1/1000th sec.

Oh no! The foreground is too dark this time. Worse still… I can still see the curtains behind. Bummer! This time I wasn’t too happy with what the flash was doing. It was on E-TTL all this time so looks like auto flash was a no go as well. It was messing up my shots so much I swear I could hear Beethoven singing Funky Town at me… lol!!

Also gone was my initial intention of going for small aperture to create a sharp image of Beethoven with a 100% black background. I flipped back on the camera replay & kinda liked the Beethoven’s 1st much better. Now I need to find the right combo to make him stand out even more. I dialed the aperture to f2.0 & the shutter speed right up to 1/5000th sec. I set the flash to 1/1 full blast just to see what would happen.

Whoa! Just like Beethoven’s 5th! Big & bold! Ha ha! A tad too bright… so the next shot I dialed the flash to 1/2 power.

Looks like the f/2.0 kinda worked quite well. I think I’m able to create Creamy Beethoven now!

Ah… just nice. Much like Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, “Pastoral”… lol!

Alright, now that I had my shot… I needed back-light on the statue to create the illusion that I had a 2nd flash unit. So I moved the flash stand to the rear right hand side of the subject & this time I removed the umbrella.

Dang… that was too much! Looks like I need the umbrella anyway. So I stuck the umbrella back on & turned the flash down to 1/4 power.

Just nice & subtle. Exactly what I wanted. Excellent I had the 2 shots that I needed to work with.

Final steps

So it was off to the computer now. I took the photo I chosen & used the last photo with the back-light & placed it on top of the 1st one. Then I used layer mask to add the light which bounced off the back of the figure. I did not alter any other settings, other than resizing & the final sharpening.

Here is the final image. You can view a higher resolution version on my Flickr account.

 

P.S. If you’re wondering why I posted this many shots of Beethoven… mouse over each of them & you’ll understand why…

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3 responses to “Isolating a subject using strobe”

  1. Sunsun says :

    hhaaha… chicky… cheating ppl to mouse over…kakkaka
    Nice Article! Did u ever post any nightview shooting? not sure what settings to use is better..
    Longing for that.. hehhe

  2. Sunsun says :

    aisk..wait till year end got more beautiful lightings? hahha.. awaiting .. awaiting..

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