Shooting with mixed light is considered a difficult task, for which beginners need to mentally prepare, or better, take a couple of courses. Indeed, to control several sources at the same time, one of which shines constantly, the other has a short pulse, seems to a novice photographer to be a difficult, nervous and not always justified task in terms of the effort expended. But in fact, photographers use mixed light much more often than they think, and even in the most seemingly mundane shoots.
We understand what mixed light is, why you shouldn’t be afraid of it, and from simple to complex, we tell you why and in what situations to use it.
What is mixed light
Mixed light photography is a creative technique in which the photographer combines flash and constant light. The meaning of the reception lies in the differences in the operation of pulsed and constant light, as well as in the settings of the camera — a slow shutter speed is required.
— The pulsed light “beats” with a short powerful flash at the moment when the photographer presses the shutter button on the camera. It needs a synchronizer to work. He is responsible for “freezing” the object, leaving it in sharpness. For example, the person’s face in the frame. It is better to use a radio synchronizer or a sync cable — an IR synchronizer can ruin the lighting scheme by adding red color to the photo.
— Constant light always illuminates the model evenly and with the same intensity while the source is turned on. The sun, the flashlight on your phone, any lamp in the apartment — these are all examples of the constant light that we encounter in life. When we shoot with mixed light, it is responsible for “blurring” the elements in the photo. For example, the background, flying fabrics of the model’s dress. Also, with the help of constant light, you can create a blurry trail from the movement of the person himself in the frame — he can move, wave his arms, turn his head.
— Long exposure allows, on the one hand, to “freeze” the object to which the pulsed light is directed, and on the other hand, the camera has enough time to “collect” less powerful constant light, which is responsible for blurring and atmosphere.
— You will have to find the necessary shutter speed settings empirically, since it all depends on the power of the light and the effect you want to get. But for starters, you can set the shutter speed to 1 second and shift it one step down or up, depending on the result.
Using mixed light
In fact, a photographer needs mixed light much more often than it seems. When you want to use the flash on a sunny day to highlight the face of the model so that it is not filled with deep shadows, this is shooting with mixed light. When a model stands by the window in the studio, and you illuminate her face or figure with a pulsed light source, this is also a mixed light.
Let’s take a look at when and how we can use blended light from simple to complex.
Simple and practical techniques for working with mixed light
The combination of constant and pulsed light allows you to improve the quality of images, give them a “glosiness”, create the desired chiaroscuro due to controlled flash. In these situations, standard shutter speeds in the range from 1/60 to 1/200 seconds are used.
With mixed light you can:
- highlight the background and details when shooting indoors
Pulsed light acts as the main drawing source responsible for chiaroscuro. Permanent light will be just an addition that can complement the atmosphere, create backlight on the model, highlight interior details. This can be either light from windows or switched on lamps, floor lamps, lanterns, lightsabers, LED panels (for example, YONGNUO YN300 Air Pro, as in the illustration below), burning candles.
- get rid of extra shadows on the face, highlight the model when shooting outdoors
In this case, we direct the pulsed light to those areas that need to be illuminated. It’s just a supplement to a brighter constant light that acts as a fill light, unless you’re shooting in the dark, of course.
- illuminate the model indoors without interrupting the natural light
Actual for daytime shooting in studios with large panoramic windows. In this case, pulsed light can be both drawing (creating chiaroscuro) and filling (uniform diffused light that brightens shadows, backlight).
The main thing here is to set the pulsed light to low power so that it does not interrupt the natural one. The power must be brought out experimentally, since on a sunny day, cloudy weather, at sunset, and depending on whether the windows face the sunny side, the settings will be different.
If the pulsed light is still too bright for the scene, then you need to use a neutral gray down filter, which reduces the amount of light entering the matrix.
Creative techniques for working with mixed light
Now let’s look at more complex techniques for creating various effects. In this case, the effect is impossible without a slow shutter speed. You can focus on the range from 0.5 to 6 seconds.
- achieve the effect of blurring, blurring, softness
In this situation, the constant light will be used as a fill light, and the pulsed light as a key light. You can “fill” the scene with colored light — then you need a reflector with colored filters.
When shooting with mixed light, it is important that natural light and pulsed light do not interrupt each other. Therefore, it is necessary to use nozzles that limit the luminous flux — honeycombs, tubes, curtains for reflectors.
- create a blurry glowing outline or motion effect
Pulsed light will create a black and white pattern on the model, while constant light will create backlights. In this case, a beauty dish with a honeycomb, aimed at the model’s face, and a reflector attachment with curtains behind the model as backlights are suitable.
- get an unusual glowing background
We direct a pulsed light at the model, and put one or more assistants behind. In their hands they can have diode tapes, lightsabers, flashlights from telephones, garlands. After the flash, assistants with constant light sources turned on can draw any geometric shapes, waves, chaotic lines — all their movements will be recorded by the camera at a slow shutter speed.
Tips for shooting with mixed light
- An interesting effect can be achieved even if the model is stationary. You yourself can move the camera horizontally or vertically, “twist” it in a spiral, step back or go a couple of steps (if you have a fixed lens), or zoom (if you have a zoom lens).
The main thing is to do all this before or after the pulsed light has worked and “frozen” the model. The moment before or after the flash is responsible for the blur effect, when the camera “collects” the remaining constant light at a slow shutter speed. This is controlled by a special setting — synchronization on the first or second (front or rear) curtain. When synchronizing on the first curtain, the plume will be in front of the object, and when syncing on the second curtain, it will be behind.
— Cut off excess light with the help of curtains for reflectors, honeycombs for beauty dishes, tubes. Pulsed and constant light should be as isolated from each other as possible — pulsed light illuminates its part of the frame, constant light — its own.
— Be sure to turn off the modeling light on the pulsed source, otherwise it will affect the lighting scheme and spoil the result.
— If the pulsed light is too strong relative to constant light, even at the lowest settings, use an ND filter.
— In creative shooting, start setting up with constant light, since it is he who is responsible for the blur effect for which this technique is used.
— For creative shooting, the shutter speed will have to be selected manually, but, most likely, a range from 0.5 to 6 seconds will be enough for you. You can start from 1 second.