Recently I was invited by Rey Dacalos to join them in their Bikini Photo Safari. This is an organization formed by Rob Lucas to offer to both local and foreign photographers the chance to visit different tourist destinations in the Philippines and take photos of professional models in their swimwear. They have another similar event this coming February 2015.
Immediately upon knowing that it is going to be an outdoor shoot, I made sure that I have the right equipment to work with a strong ambient light. If you’re game plan is to use a strobe light to counter the shadows created by the ambient light, you need to even out the playing field.
When shooting portraits outdoors, one of the technique is to blur the background. This technique allows you to put more emphasis to your subject. To reduce the depth of field, you need to open up your aperture which in turn lets more light in so shutter speed needs to be increased to reduce the light.
Increasing your shutter speed poses a problem when working with strobe. Normally a safe shutter speed when working with strobe is anything below 1/200sec. Typical outdoor light will read averagely in your meter at f/1.4, 1/4000sec. That’s a problem. The solution is to use a neutral density filter.
An ND filter is like a putting a shades in your lens. It dims down the light to allow you shoot at f/1.4 and keeps the shutter speed below 1/200sec. Now you can use your strobe to fill up some shadows or to add direction to the light.
ND filters comes in many grades. The higher the ND number, the darker it becomes. Normally it’s measured by number of stops. In my case, I’m comfortable working with ND8 which is about 3 stops. Normally, landscape photographers would use darker filter at around 8 stops.
In my many years of shooting models, learning light is one thing to learn and working with models is another thing. Understanding the concept of strobe and ambient is easily understood but the “doing it” part is where you can get easily confused. The objective is to react to the lighting condition effortlessly so you can deal with another variable which is the model.
There is no other way to learn all these but to go out and shoot. Review and criticize your work so you can do better next time. Always challenge yourself to achieve a certain result and learn from every opportunity. Keep on shooting everyone!
Text and photos by Albert Pedrosa