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Using soft focus filter to soften background, while keeping the subject crispy sharp:This technique can be achieved when two light sources are used and each is lighting a different part of the image. Studio strobe, shoe mount flash, or pop up flash can be used to mix with natural or artificial continues light.
Before we get into the art of mixing the strobe light with natural light and allowing soft filter to blur the background during the long exposure, let us first touch on the basics of how light and time works.
Light and time are the backbones of photography. The light travels faster than anything else known to men, (at the speed of light). Main camera functions are designed to control the light.
Shutter in camera opens and shuts to let the light onto the digital sensor. Thus, shutter speeds control the duration of time for the shutter to remain open.
Aperture controls the amount of light entering through the lens.The smaller the f-stop, the wider the aperture so more light enters though, and vice-versa: the bigger the f-stop the narrower the aperture, so the less light enters through. And because the time in turn is controlled by the shutter speed there is direct correlation in controlling the exposure.
ISO is the sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number the more sensitive it is.
When using any type of flash, pop up flash, hot shoe or studio strobe, the duration of the flash is controlled by the flash unit. Regardless of the setting, the duration of the flash is so short that the shutter speed has no influence on the exposure. This is not to be confused with the camera sync speed (generally for SLR cameras speed has to be below 250/sec in order to be sync) When using flash the camera can only control the exposure with the f-stop (aperture) and ISO (sensitivity), or power settings on the flash unit.
Lets take an example of the shot we demonstrate in the video above:
The Subject (Santa ornament) is lit by flash. While the background (Tree) is lit by natural window light. To make things a little bit more difficult there is the third light source (the lights on the tree).
To repeat what was stated earlier: when using continuous source (sun + Christmas lights) the exposure is controlled by all three: shutter, aperture and ISO.
Flash exposure is controlled by the power settings on the flash unit, aperture and ISO.
What does continuous source and flash have in common? They are both controlled by Aperture and ISO. What is unique to each source? They can be controlled independently: Continuous light can be controlled by Shutter while Flash power and duration can be controlled by power setting on a flash unit. And in contrary, the change of power setting of the strobe does not influence areas exposed only by ambient (continuous) light and in turn the change of shutter setting does not influence the exposure of flash.
Since flash pop only lasts a short period of time, part of the image that is exposed by continuous light source can be altered during the exposure. In the video above, we used a 1 second shutter speed. So the flash pop only lasts about 1/1000 of a second but because we have the exposure set to 1 full second, the light on the subject (Santa) that is projected by strobe will not be altered in any way after the pop. So if the flash is only active during 1/1000 of the second, you have the rest of the second to alter the background (tree and lights). Right after the flash pop you can place anything over the lens. Possible tools are:
1. Soft Filter – makes lights to glow and softens the background
2. Star Filter – will create star glow effect
3. Soft Star Filter – creates both round glow like soft filter and star glow effect like star filter does
4. Also there are some DIY alternatives: you can use, a clear glass or plastic and smudge it with few drops of Karo syrup mixed with starch, to create a soft filter look.
With Soft Focus Filter:
This technique can also be used when photographing people as your subject. Just ask them not to move for 1 second.
The idea of this article was to give you better understanding of how the technique of mixing the light works. Understanding concepts of photography will give you special powers and ability to create your own unique images.
Let us know if you have any questions. Try this tutorial and post your results here. Seeing your work inspires others and helps us to understand your skill level better, which plays a big role in crafting new tutorials. Please share your shots in comments area below:
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