Crush Ambient Light with Shutter Speed

You guys know how much I love crushing ambient light when shooting with flash to create drama in my images. On a normally bright day, to get a proper exposure, the background may look very bright. I like being able to separate my subject from the background, so it pops.

In this video, I’m shooting with a MamiyaLeaf Credo 40 medium format camera. 80mm Schneider Kreuznach LS lens at f/2.8 and ISO 50. I start with a balanced ambient exposure which looks right at 1/160 sec. I’m only adjusting my shutter in this video to show you guys how changing the shutter speed affects exposure.

In the case of the Mamiya and leaf shutter lens, I have the ability to shutter sync flash up to 1/1600 sec, however I’m limited to 1/500 sec with my a href=”″ target=”_blank”>PocketWizard Plus III’s. which is why the 1/800 and 1/1000 sec frames didn’t pop. (I thought I was able to sync to 1/1000 with the Plus IIIs but realized it afterward.)

I double the shutter speed to 1/320. Looks good, but starting to lose detail in the motorcycle. I then pop up to 1/500. I really like how the background looks here, but we’ve lost a ton of detail on the bike. So I add my strobe, an Einstein thru a Softlighter, and bam! The exposure looks great. Nice drama in the background, but the bike is lit just right.

I then pop up to 1/800 and even 1/1000 sec to see how things look but after 1/500, the exposure loses too much detail for my taste.

This is what it’s all about. Trial and error. Some of you guys have cameras that have a maximum flash sync of 1/200 or 1/250. In that case you’ll need to either use an ND filter to be able to shoot wide open or you’re going to have to close down your aperture and get more from your flash. I recommend if you are restricted to 1/200 or so, that you start with a good exposure around 1/60 sec and increase the shutter speed from there so you’ve got somewhere to go.

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