20 Mar

Episode 5 of 1 minute 101's v2

Broncolor Siros L, getting studio power when there is no power... and exploring the exposure triangle!

I'm reposting some old studio lighting blogs from my old site host on to the new one, as they may help those new to studio photography.  I actually had a conversation just the other day with a client that covers things featured in these videos, so hopefully these will find you well, and that I don't find them too cringe while putting these blogs back together 

The 'L' stands for, "Loh my god, these work like magic".. or something.  In fact, I was just about to write that the wall powered versions are called the Broncolor Siros S, and that I have no idea why, and then my only two functioning braincells decided to rub together and suggest that it's probably referencing that 'S' stands for 'studio' as it can be plugged in, and 'L', for 'location', as you don't need any external power source - we'll pretend that's a fact, even if it isn't, and that I knew it all along!

Now these, unlike our previous strobe lights mentioned, can do a little more than your average light, and perform way past the basics, so much so, I still haven't fully explored them myself.  I bought them while considering their practicality of being used in the Splash Point Photo pool location, but also partly for the freedom of being outside without a power source, and then furthering that, should I ever want to fight the sun with high speed sync.

Click here to see the Broncolor Siros L specs.

Again, if you wish to have a quick read about the limitations of sync speed between your camera's shutter and strobe lights, then you can have a nosey here on our website, where I've already briefly covered it.  What high speed sync (or HSS for short) references, is the ability of some lights to push past those limitations via better and typically more expensive technology.  And why would you need that in the Sun?  Well, because it'll give you access to expanding on your camera's shutter speed, which just so happens to be the only part of your exposure triangle that is limited by your average strobe light.  The ISO and f.stop will also directly influence the flash exposure on any strobe (making it seem brighter or less so), whereas the shutter, however, will only directly impact the ambient light.  This means you can stop down (lower) the sun's exposure, while partly keeping the strobes same output on the subject.  I say partly, because you do typically lose some power in the process because of how HSS works.  During an exposure in HSS, rather than that flash head firing just once at full exposure, it'll fire a few times, albeit not noticeably to the naked eye.  I'll probably cover shutter speed again in more detail in the blog accompanying triggers and receivers (how you fire your lights using the camera), and may be one day these 101's will get far enough in a series that we'll properly explain and explore HSS too!

The Exposure Triangle

There may be a few people here very new to photography, or just self-taught enough that those references above went over your head... and we don't want that, so let try to explain them.. or maybe make it worse.. hopefully not!  I'm just ramming this in here, even if I'd advise getting a hold on your exposure triangle long prior to visiting a studio, and certainly long before using the likes of Broncolor, but there's a reason for it.. loosely.  

Your exposure triangle is your creative control while exposing an image correctly. When shooting in manual mode, you're making all the decisions instead of the camera, and for this, you need to use your exposure triangle. Even if you've never referred to it as such before, the 'exposure triangle' is your ISO, Shutter, and Aperture, the three settings that you will need to manipulate to take any photo as you envision it.. or maybe just for practical reasons and to get a correct exposure. Let's say you have a perfectly framed and exposed photo at ISO100, f10, 1/160, but you want a more shallow depth, so you decide on f4. Hopefully you know that lowering the f.stop will allow in more light, and that it also gives a more blurry background (as a general rule) - so to get your blurry shallow goodness, your image will now be grossly over exposed if you don't adjust a corresponding setting in your triangle.

In this scenario, you don't have a lens filter that blocks light out (you can get them), so the only ways to reduce light in to your camera sensor would be to lower your ISO or raise your shutter speed.  Many cameras don't go down to ISO50, not that that would help much anyway (a lower ISO makes your sensor less sensitive to light), so you're left with adjusting the shutter speed alone (a faster shutter is open less time, so it lets less light in) and as a result you are hugely limited by the practicality and physics of it all. To take that same shot, with the same exposure, but also with your new fancy shallow depth of field, you'll have to compensate by pushing your shutter speed up to 1/1000. Your again correctly exposed new shot settings will read ISO100, f4 and 1/1000, yet nothing has changed in terms of exposure other than your creative choices. 

If you then did introduce a flash whose sync speed caps out at say 1/160th, that's when you'd need HSS and being able to expand your shutter sync speed to 1/1000.  Remember, though, sometimes that shot you really want, you just can't get, and it actually IS the equipment and not you.. kinda!  As with every industry though, there's usually an expensive advancement in tech to try and tackle limitations, like a fancy light that has HSS, or a stop down lens filter - of which all of this brings me tediously back to the Broncolor and the reason I wrote this blog.  We're all just slaves to the mistress that is physics.  Outside of creativity, a photographer is merely a problem solver that understands both the limitations of physics and their available tools to tackle it, which is why a fancy camera will do you no good if you can't use it - so tell that to people the next time they tell you that your fancy camera must be amazing at taking photos - and even then, let's face it, it's probably more the lens and your decision-making; a good camera just aids that process with simplicity and convenience.

If you do want to get serious about photography, I implore you to stop allowing your camera to make decisions for you and instead to shoot in manual, not least because in your average studio, you'll have to!  If you're shooting events and in fast-paced environments (especially where lighting conditions change rapidly or say sport, where the shutter speed is a priority) where capturing something 'close enough' is better than forgetting that you've not changed your exposure, or if you can't get the right exposure dialled in in time so you are missing the action, then by all means use a priority mode; it's an invaluable tool too.  Every tool has its place! Having said all that, mirrorless cameras have massively changed the playing field with their inbuilt 'exposure simulator' (Canon terminology) as it allows you to see the real time exposure through the viewfinder or LCD (assuming you're not using any flash), so you can make creative choices in real time.. and in manual.. and all while being pretty confident of the results.  If, like me, you insisted on shooting mostly in manual anyway, on a dSLR, you'd be keeping one eye on your in camera light meter and trying to understand how it's reading the scene so you can change settings on the fly to get it 'close enough' for RAW (file type retaining the most data, quality and ability to change basic setting on the computer after).  When using a priority mode anyway, you'd still need to account for how your camera light meter reads the scene and then adjust the exposure compensation accordingly, so you don't gain much outside of enabling complacency, unless of course the lighting condition is so rapidly changing that capturing something is better than nothing.

Do you want a foolproof way to change your triangle on the fly for creativity but still being able to keep correct exposures? Well, I realised this way later than I should! It was a eureka moment if you will, and yet brutally obvious, but also easy to overlook and not think about too.  The shutter dial and aperture pin wheel rotational clicks (on a Canon at least) are in thirds of a stop, so if you need to change quickly, all you need to do is know where those settings are on your camera and count your clicks.  That's it!  For every click in one direction on one, you just need to click in the relevant direction on either of your other adjacent exposure triangle settings.  More hobbyist priced cameras may have one of these setting in a button menu rather than on a wheel, and that's where a good camera really does matter!  Even on pro level cameras, the ISO is often in a menu or on a top panel with other buttons way too close as your prod at it, and because I shot a lot of low light live music, I set mine up to not be.  I can hold down the 'set' button in the middle of the pin wheel, and use it like a shift key, and then I use my shutter dial to change my ISO too, giving me compete on the fly access to my whole triangle with absolute certainty.  Modern camera touch screens are nice in a slow paced environment like a studio like, but they're not gonna get you to where you need to be if you have to be efficiently quick. Anyways, this click system is as easy as counting and takes all the jargon out of it. You don't need to know what a car engine is doing when you press the accelerator, just that that action works, in much the same way that you don't need to know the 'exposure triangle' and every f.stop increment number, just that every click should have an adjacent one.  All you need to remember is that the ISO number goes up for more light, whereas both the shutter speed and F.stop number comes down.. and of course vice versa.

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