Over-powering the Sun with flash creates stunning images for your fashion, portrait and wedding portfolio. In this article I will explain the concept behind the technique and how you can create images like this as well. Over-powering the Sun with flash is very simple and produces elegant images that will “wow” your fashion, portrait and wedding clients.
The tools required are a 160w/s or better monolight and a portable battery pack. If you subject is close to the flash, 160w/s is enough. However, when the Sun is very bright or at “high noon” or the flash is far away, then I would recommend a 320w/s flash unit. I can recall at least one instance where I used a 1000w/s monolight because the Sun was extremely bright at the beach…and the beauty dish was 12ft away from the model.
Why is so much power from a flash? The problem or issue really lies in the slow flash sync shutter speed of our DSLR’s. In most cases, the DSLR has a top flash sync of 1/250th or maybe just 1/160th of a second. If we set our f/stop for proper exposure outdoors at 1/250th shutter speed, our f/stop will fall around f/11 or even f/16 on sunny days. Overcast days and early morning or sunset this f/stop will change to f/5.6 or f/8. At sunrise and sunset 160w/s is just fine, but for “high noon” and bright sunny days, I recommend at least 320w/s. Experiment with how much you overpower the Sun. I prefer to use one of three different lighting ratios…. 1:1, 1:2, and 1:3 usually provide the most flattering and optimal results. Simple lighting and great composition, it really is just that easy!
I found two videos by Southern California fashion photographer Emily Soto. I really enjoy her photographic style and simple approach to lighting. Pay especially close attention to her composition. Notice how she uses the foreground and places it out of focus for adding depth and emotion to the images. Later we see her assistant holding flowers in front of the lens for an interesting compositional image revealed later in the final images (the model holding a huge flower).
In the following videos, we see a Alien Bee monolight, a Vagabond II Portable Power System, as well as a 48″ Octabox w/Grid and also a Mola Dish. I prefer to use either a 22″ Beauty Dish or the 48″ Octabox w/Grid because of the round catchlights (like the sun) that both modifiers produce. A softbox will naturally work just fine, but you will have square catchlights. Use a grid on either your octabox or softbox to control the light spill on the foreground. Angle the lighting modifier so that it only lights your subject….not the entire grass field in front of your subject!