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Flash is not the enemy: Achieve natural results by mixing it with ambient light

Photographic lighting company, Profoto, followed photographer Adam Angelides on a commercial assignment at a decommissioned airport in Norwich, England. As a lifestyle photographer, Angelides needs to create images that look realistic, even when nature doesn’t give him the weather and lighting he wants.

That means using off-camera strobes to mimic, balance, or simply replace the sun when necessary. The trick is employing flash photography in such a way so that the viewer doesn’t notice it. While Angelides is working with high-end gear, including a Canon EOS-1D X and two Profoto B1 portable strobes, his technique applies to any type of camera and off-camera lighting. Here’s what Angelides teaches us:

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Don’t underexpose the ambient light: If your goal is to get an image that looks natural, then leaving in as much of the ambient light as possible will help. This is helpful even if you’re stuck with an on-camera flash. If the flash is too bright compared to the surroundings, you may end up with the “deer in the headlights” look.

Pay attention to the direction of light: Photographers use light from different directions to create dramatic effects all the time, but a photo meant to look like it was shot under available outdoor light won’t look natural if the subject is clearly being lit from two different directions. If the sun is acting as a backlight, you can counter it with a flash in front of your subject – but make sure you use a large light source, like an umbrella or soft box, to soften shadows and mask the directionality of the second light.

Fake the time of day with colored gels: Too many clouds in the sky? Missed golden hour? With the right gels, you don’t have to worry. In the video, Angelides demonstrates how a CTO (color temperature orange) gel can create a warm lens flare on a cloudy day or illuminate an interior with a sunset-like glow where no sunlight actually existed.

For sample images and more information, check out the full article on the Profoto blog.