New Technique: ND filter + Flash for Portrait

Usually, photographers use a Neutral Density (ND) Filter to shoot landscape, so they can use a lower shutter speed to show the motion in the subject. For example, those silky water fall images you see often.

We can also use it to shoot people portrait. I read about this technique from Joe L. Basically, the idea is to use a Neutral Density (ND) Filter to cut down the ambient light and then use a flash to light the subject for correct exposure. Now the background is darker, so the subject stands out for the image.

I got a chance to try out this technique last week. The images in this post were taken around 4pm in a sunny Calforina afternoon. The Sun was not hitting the pool but the ambient is still very bright. I think it was around f8 at 1/250. I used a ND8 filter to cut down 3 stops of the light. To compensate it, I had a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight attached to a Lastolite Ezybox 24" Softbox. I think the flash was set at 1/2 power. The light was held on top the model on camera right by an assistant.

Camera was set at ISO200, f2.8 at 1/250 and the pool was nice and warm.

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