Impromptu Portrait

Impromptu Portrait (click to view on flickr). 50mm, f7.1, 1/250s, ISO 200

I’d really like to learn how to better make use of strobes be they on or off camera, big or small. I have a basic wireless setup and am gradually learning with help of sites such as One recent afternoon I happened on one of my daughters playing the piano (*someone* is always playing the piano in our house) and I decided to take advantage of the situation to experiment with off-camera flash.  She continued to play — I started shooting.

At first I didn’t even bother to get the light stand out. I used the “foot” that comes with the Canon 580EXii and placed the flash at various points on, around, and under the piano. Sometimes I shot from the same side as the light, sometimes I shot such that the light created a backlight effect. I used CTO (that would be orange) gels and blue gels…just had fun with it.

I got permission from my daughter to post the shot above (she hadn’t done “hair and makeup”). There are some details I don’t like about it but for a quick experimental session I thought it turned out cool. This was lit via flash @ 1/32 power through a 43″ umbrella at camera left. I used a full-CTO gel (Why? Because that’s what happened to be on when I got this shot). Inspired by this post, I used shutter speed to control the ambient. I used a fast shutter speed to darken the ambient (for the purpose of eliminating the background in my case).  It was mid afternoon and there’s a very large window a few feet from the piano.  The background was very busy — pictures on the wall, an old lamp, part of a door frame — but I was able to remove it in-camera to the point where slight background color variation was all that was left. I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom to remove that by reducing the exposure in these areas (literally a 10-second fix).

Lots to learn yet but I’m having fun so far.


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