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Using Negative Fill Flash (NSFW)

Guest Post & Photos by Abba Shapiro

Final Image Canon EOS 5D Mark III Shutter speed 1/125 Exposure: 6.3 ISO 100 Canon 240105@97MM Post-processed with Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Shutter speed 1/125 | Exposure: 6.3 | ISO 100
Canon [email protected]
Post-processed with Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop

I find when photographing people controlling light is the key.

I often see photographers diligently re-positioning their strobes to control the light but rarely controlling the dark. Negative fill can make or break an image. Light is a pesky fellow it can bounce around a room, reflect of odd surfaces, and light your talent from angles you never expected. That is where negative fill come in. Large pieces of black foam core or black reflectors, which block stray reflections and absorb ambient light from your strobes.

I usually try to place this negative fill as close to my subject as possible sometimes so close that I require Photoshop to hide or remove it. Usually the closer it is – the better it works – however sometimes placing your negative-fill too close can actually throw light on your subject.. Black is black but bear in mind different surfaces have different levels of reflectivity so you may get different results from a piece of foam core vs. a black pop-out reflector. And when it comes to fabrics satin, muslin, felt and velvet will all give different results.

Test shot — Model: Brynn Canon EOS 5D Mark III Shutter speed 1/125 Exposure: F4 ISO 100 Canon 240105@47MM
Test shot Model: Brynn
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Shutter speed 1/125 | Exposure: 4 | ISO 100
Canon [email protected]

In this shot I wanted quite a dramatic contrast between the light and dark areasso in addition to using negative fill, I lit using a single strobe modified with a 1 X 3 strip box and fabric grid. I did a test shot without the model first to ensure that there was no stray light. I then positioned her and the light and took meter readings at her cheek, shoulder, and hip. During the shoot I had her selectively rotate parts of body to vary the amount to light falling on her face and torso.

Everything was shot Camera Raw and a bit to the right Which basically meant I over-exposed the image about one stop. I know that way I could still bring back the details in the highlights and maintain very clean shadows.

In post I converted the image to Black and white with Silver Effects Pro and placed a vignette over the image to further control the shadows


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