Five years ago on this blog I wrote about recreating sunlight using a speedlight. I’ve always preferred to ‘do it in the camera’ if it is possible. Not to say I don’t enjoy post processing and working in LR and PS, but honestly, I’m always looking for any excuse to be outside and making pictures. Using a speedlight to create sunlight falls under what I call camera craft. We have been teaching online creative camera craft classes, and we start again on Monday…we still have three spots available. We discuss and practice many topics such as new compositional rules, dimension in pictures, the best black and white conversions, and photographing celestial bodies like the moon, sun, stars and Milky Way. Each session is recorded as a video so you can go back as much as you want.
Things have changed since I wrote my blog on creating sunlight. The biggest change is now using a radio signal is standard with the WR-R10 (Nikon), so no more sun interference using an optical transmitter. But that said I still love using my SU-800 transmitter, especially in shade. It is very simple to use, and just slides on quickly to the hotshoe.
There are a few things to consider when creating ‘sunlight’ using flash. First, consider the direction of the sun. If possible, try to aim your flash so it would follow the natural direction of the sun in your picture. This way any shadows or sun patches makes sense with artificial light you are creating.
Next, you have to line up your flash so it is almost on axis with your lens and perspective. Putting the flash almost in view creates more flare which simulates sunlight. Put your flash off to the side and it looks like….a flash instead of sun.
I use Rogue Gels to create the warm colored light. I normally double up two CTO gels, or you can use a strong orange colored gel.
I normally use TTL mode for much of my flash work, but this is one time I will use manual flash. Since the flash is backlighting the scene, TTL metering can be off. To remedy this, I just set my flash mode to manual, and adjust output. I normally overexpose the flash output to create more flash and mood in the shot. Place your flash further away from the flower so it won’t be rendered sharp if it is in the image.
Experiment with your aperture. For the image at top, I used F8. Another important point is finding a flower that is tall. Shooting flowers near the ground will result in the flash illuminating the foreground leading to the flower, and overexposed elements.
Don’t just limit your artificial sunlight to backlit flowers! I love putting a speedlight outside a window to shoot warm ‘sunlight’ into a room. Or how about illuminating a room wall, or shooting flash through a car window. With a simple speedlight, you can transform a scene into something special.