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.

Syd_Fabian from pixabay.com

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.

Con­stant sources illu­mi­nate the back­ground, cre­ate a cozy atmos­phere with the help of the includ­ed lamp, and the key light is cre­at­ed by an exter­nal flash / Illus­tra­tion by the author
  • 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.

Sun­light cre­ates a pat­tern on the face of the mod­el, and pulsed light illu­mi­nates it from the back, cre­at­ing a back­light / Illus­tra­tion by the author

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.

Syd_Fabian from pixabay.com

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.

The effect of a beam of light jump­ing over the syn­the­siz­er was obtained due to the slow shut­ter speed, warm fill light and cold, which was dri­ven on the keys / piqsels.com
  • 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.