Firstly, it is simple, so there is no need to stress, so long as you are able to shoot in manual on your camera. The rules are however different when shooting with flash heads or speedlights in a photo studio environment, or in fact, for any indoor shoot where a flash is involved. When shooting in a studio, it is important that you measure the light and the temperature prior to starting your shoot. The camera settings and the rules may sound “weird”, but I will explain as we move on with this process. This is where you position your subject on the “marked spot” on the curve that you are intending to them to stand for the shot. There is no need to give instruction as to posing or expression at this time. You are simply going to focus on the face and take a tightly cropped shot. The reason for this is that the skin is where you are going to get the most accurate exposure and temperature reading.

How to take an accurate light reading

Camera settings

Important to note that you will no longer make use of your camera’s light meter, as it will not be true and will result in disaster, especially after the bright flash suddenly infiltrates the intended reading, so avoid the light meter. Now that you have no idea of the settings to guide you on the exposure, we will need a “thumb suck” starter setting to begin with. This works for me, and I trust will do the same for you.

My “secret camera preset’ is as follows:

ISO 200

(the intention is to ensure there is no noise in the image, it’s not about the lighting environment in this case)

Shutter speed 1/125

(the flash will determine the exposure time, not the speed of the shutter, as the flash is six times the speed of movement… very fast, so the subject will be frozen and sharp), note that the flash will also be creating a bright light when it flashes, hence, the low ISO setting.

Aperture f5.6

(this will allow for a standard depth of field)

Now take the shot…

The first thing to look at after the first shot is the exposure on this preset. If the face is too dark on the LCD, adjust the flash power/compensation, either by adjusting the setting on the camera or the speedlight until you are happy satisfied. You also have the option to adjust the aperture setting according the preferred depth of field. This will influence the exposure as you adjust the f stop. (the lower the aperture number, the more light enters the lens, and visa versa, the lower the aperture number, the shallower the DOP… just something to take note of when choosing the option). To compensate, you will then adjust the flash power until you fully satisfied. The next thing to consider at is the temperature of the skin tone, either you are happy with the complexion, or you will find that the tone is too warm or too cold, this you will adjust by setting the white balance. (5100k is normally perfect as a natural light setting, however, the higher the Kelvin number, the warmer the temperature)

Now take another shot… you should be happy now

I trust this short tip will save you time and ensure you are able to set up without and time wastage, just follow these simple steps and you won’t have a problem. Should you wish to explore different lighting setups and educate yourself on lighting gear, I suggest you attend a short workshop using this knowledge you have gained from above. You are almost there, the so called difficult part is over.