Shooting People and Sunsets plus Other Dramatic Backgrounds - part 1 of 1 2

by Doug Box Published 01/11/2007


You have a dramatic background and a great subject, but you need to light the subject. On-camera flash is flat, with no direction or dimension. In fact, boring. Just like anyone with a point and shoot camera could do. One small soft box and a battery-powered flash can add excitement to your images.

In these situations the light on the background and the light on the subject is different. In the sunset images, the sun lights the background. Without the light on the subject we would have a silhouette. With simple, on-camera flash, the lighting would have been flat, with no direction of dimension. In fact, boring. Just like anyone with a point-and-shoot camera could do. We can do better! And here is how.

[1]The sun was setting, we didn't have much time, we wanted some dramatic images, we were in the water! Out came one of my favorite pieces of equipment, a 28" Soft Box especially designed to use a shoe-mounted flash and a set of Pocket Wizards.


The first step is to meter the background. I used the in-camera metering system to determine the base exposure - 1/80 @ f6.3 - ISO 100. The camera was in the manual mode. Adjust the power of the flash up or down until it meters f6.3. [2]Taken with an on-camera flash. Notice the lack of modelling on the face and the body.

I used two Pocket Wizard Plus radio control units to sync the camera to the flash and a Sekonic 358 meter with wireless transmitter to meter the flash.

The camera was on a tripod and I used an external battery pack on the flash for faster recycle time. The light was on a stand and I had a friend hold the light. Note: Please be careful if you use a flash in or near water.

The soft box I used is called the 'Doug Box' it is available at

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1st Published 01/11/2007
last update 06/11/2019 11:08:22

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