Back when I sad that my trip up north for the May long weekend was full of shooting, I wasn't quite joking. After a day or exploring, we thought the setting sun and expansive fields by Christine's house would be the perfect opportunity to capture just a couple more photos while there was still light. This time, I pulled out all the stops and we used artificial light as well.
Shooting outdoors can sometimes be a hassle. The sun is a light source without a dial. Without the proper know how, under compensation for the sun's intensity results in way-too-bright pictures, and overcompensation results in the exact opposite. The key is to find the middle ground that will give a nice light, but not distract or blow out the image too much.
Today's cameras and flashes come equipped with some pretty awesome technology, but one of the most impressive is TTL, or through-the-lens metering. This allows the system to determine the proper flash exposure with little user intervention. That doesn't mean you're out of the woods for doing any work though.
First, you'll want to determine your ambient exposure. Before you mount the flash to the camera - or if you already have, before you turn it on - adjust your settings to meter how you want your background - or anything that the flash doesn't hit - to look. Don't worry if your subject is dark, they'll be lit by the flash. You only want to worry about overall exposure here.
Now I'll admit, the sky in the photo above is a little blown out. But hey, mistakes happen. Besides, I think it works for this shot as it removes the detail from the sky and puts the focus back on Christine and Jason. So if the subject was too dark in the first step, how did we get them so bright? Mount your flash, my friends, and let TTL do the work. After you've got your baseline exposure, you can turn the flash on and take another shot. Subjects too bright? Don't adjust your camera; adjust the flash, maybe putting it down by a third of a stop.
Once you get the hang of it, it should be pretty simple to do a lighting setup like this in less than a minute. Not only does it look impressive when you do so, but the final results are much better than using that dreaded pop-up flash.
Oh, and when I said simple, I meant simple. Sometimes a VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) works wonders as well.
PS, take note of the difference in light between where the flash hits. That was the difference between my ambient exposure and my flash exposure.