Outdoor flash with AlienBees 1600 - single head - Questions

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by rpm_photo, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. Hello all,

    I will be shooting a wedding at the end of the month and it will be at 2:30pm
    outside (formals shot around 3). The sun will be slightly overhead. Currently
    for lighting I have been using a 430EX on my 40D. I am/was somewhat worried
    about the power for this flash alone on this outdoor wedding, so I have
    purchased an AB1600 flash head. I have used studio lighting in the past, but
    never owned any. After much debate with which head to buy (800 vs. 1600, as I
    could only really buy one light due to $$), I decided to buy the most power I
    could afford (the 1600), as recommended by many photographers from this forum.

    Due to the time, I will try to place the subjects where the sun is casting the
    most even shadows, then use the flash for fill. Is this a good idea? :)

    I still have some leftover cash for modifiers and such, but haven't decided on
    what to get yet (shoot thru vs. softbox, vs. brolly vs. reflective umbrella).
    This leads me to my other questions.

    1) Any recommendations for modifiers?

    2) If you had one light to light a formal shot (2-15 people), where would you
    place a single light to get the best results? I know that ideally, it is nice
    to have 2 lights, but in this case, I simply cannot front the cash for a second
    light no matter how I cut it.

    Overall, I am looking to use this light for best results from 2 people (B+G) to
    a larger group and get good results. Obviously, if I need to move the light
    around, that's fine. Can you give me some placement ideas? In the past, just
    using the 430EX inside, I've been able to get good results, but in this case,
    I'm looking for better results... outside.

    Thank you! I'm greatly looking forward to this opportunity for this shot, and
    to using my new light. Let me know if clarification is needed!
  2. You have a very long extension cord, right?

    The best is sun on the subjects' backs and even shade on their faces and fronts. Expose for the bright sun, fill the shaded parts with flash. If you can't get most of each person's face in even shade (no sun hitting bits of noses, cheekbones, etc.), then use the sun as a key light and the flash as fill, but you will have squinting.

    If you only have one light (why not use the 430EX as on camera fill?), it is best just immediately to the left or right of the camera, unless you have small groups, couples, and individuals, where you can push the light further away from the camera (assuming you have on camera fill)--the typical key/fill arrangement, between 30-45 degrees away from the camera..

    If you use modifiers, hope for a windless day or be prepared to sandbag your stand and light heavily (that may not even work) or have an assistant holding the stand and light in place. I would not even use a modifier, since sunlight is already hard light and at the distances you need to use the light for groups, a modifier isn't going to soften much anyway. If you do use one, I would go for a 60" umbrella for ease of set up, or an umbrella box, but larger the better.
  3. Howdy!

    I use an Alien Bee 1600 to do these sorts of shots. All of what Nadine said is gospel, but I would like to add one or two more thoughts:

    If you have absolutely no shade, the best thing to do is to turn the subjects with their backs to the sun, and fill with your Bee.

    If you cannot get the sun behind them, and are forced to use the sun as key and flash as fill, have everyone shut their eyes for a few seconds, then one two three, open eyes and smile.

    My flash meter doesn't work well under these circumstances, so I always arrive plenty early, take lots of test shots, and find a shady place to chimp.

    And if anybody knows a way around that last paragraph, I'd love to hear about it. ;^<)>


  4. Howdy!

    Almost forgot. My best all purpose modifier is a beauty dish. It's large and cumbersome, but it's also made of metal, indestructible, and works well for both up close fashion type stuff and lighting a large group with soft light efficiently.


  5. Hey, Paul--do you have problems with the wind with the beauty dish? Also re the flash meter--I don't think there is a solution. I put the shutter speed on the meter up as fast as possible (1/500th) and try to meter, but in the bright sun, it isn't very accurate, plus the meter has problems with flash that is of longer duration or really, really short duration. So testing, chimping, and looking at the histogram are the best thing to do.
  6. If you don't have power close by you will need the Vagabond battery from Alien Bees.

  7. Howdy!

    I only use the beauty dish outdoors on overcast days with no wind. If the day is bright, I usually need all the power I can get, and if it's windy, the beauty dish makes a great sail. Then again, so do umbrellas and brolly boxes. ;^<)>

    But since Ryan asked about the best all purpose light modifier, I thought I would mention the beauty dish.

    If I don't have power nearby, I use two 580EX flashes in slave mode, and a 580EX as my on camera master. I used to use an ST-E2, but I switched to a third 580EX instead.


  8. Shot in bright sun, outdoors, using nothing but the FL-50 flash in FP mode (allows higher shutter speeds), at 2:00 in the afternoon.


    I don't think you really need the AB1600. It will be almost too powerful and you will have trouble balancing the exposures.
  9. Howdy!

    Lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify:

    I use the beauty dish indoors a LOT. I only use it outdoors if I don't need full power from my flash, and the wind isn't blowing.

    Here's an example of beauty dish outdoors:


    (Mary, I'm posting a link instead of a picture because I'm at my "day job", and I don't have access to my photo database from here). ;^<)>


  10. Howdy!

    Raymond said:

    "I don't think you really need the AB1600. It will be almost too powerful and you will have trouble balancing the exposures".

    Raymond, if you're shooting a large group in bright sun from a distance, the AB1600 is barely powerful enough. Here's an example from your own gallery (most of which is very nice by the way):


    This image certainly could have benefited from more fill in flash power. Even though this is a small group, your on-camera flash isn't really keeping up (unless it just metered the scene wrong).

    This is also a circumstance where off camera flash located closer to the subject with a directional modifier such as a LightSphere head on would have helped immensely.

    Balancing exposure can be done very quickly using bisection. Start with half power. If too much, cut in half. If too little, increase by half. With less than four exposures, you've nailed it.


  11. I talk about it here http://makelightreal.com/photographic-flash/overpower-the-sun/
    And do it here:
    I use the 11inch silver reflector because it keeps the light output focused and condensed (grid soaks up power), doesn't weigh a lot (world travel) and doens't catch too much wind. YMMV.

    I talk about balancing the 'quality' of the strobe lighting with the sunlight here: http://makelightreal.com/photographic-flash/balancing-the-sun-with- flash-crosslighting/ and so that's also part of the reason I use the 11inch reflector. I couldn't begin to answer what power output you'll want to use your flash, but I can give you direction to balance the quality of the light over the subject and then your exposure will fall in place without effort or confusion. I can tell you from experience that I often max out my B800 - so the 1600 will have enough power to do whatever you can conceptualize.
  12. Neil, what wicked contrast in your images. Interesting style.

    Ryan, White Lightning, the parent company of Alein b, sells a fairly new battery power pack inverter for most of the units. So if you have extra cash if is surely worth buying. http://www.white-lightning.com/battery.html

    Whenever you are outside bring a 25 pound sandbag placed on the base of the light stand. If possible 2, 25 pound sandbags. It sicks when the $500 stobes drop to the ground!
  13. The AB sub-company also sells the Vegabonds. I have one, and it works great, and it acts as a sandbag (straps that can attach to the base of the light stand. It's a must for using flashes outside. I use my B800/VII for snowboard/ski photography.
  14. Ryan


    I use one wireless remote 1600Bee with a Vagabond battery attached to a rolling luggage cart on a light stand at a 45 degree angle... nothing fancy, but great power, fast recycle, and very transportable. And best of all, I discovered an elastic white shower cap makes a great diffuser !! ... back light your groups with the sun and fill with your Bee. ( or put everyone in the shade) .. set off a few frames as a test while they're getting ready to pose to check for manual exposure. I usually am back with a 70-200 lens to wash the background. the light is at an angle in front of me. keep your lightstand above eye level. an assistant always helps as well!

    good luck

  15. Steve, can you break that down a bit more? What do you mean by: "the light is at an angle in front of me."

  16. William

    I guess what I meant was that because I am not connected to the Bee with a synch cord, but rather wireless, I
    am able to stand "behind" the 45 degree light stand, shooting with a long lens, keeping the stand and light out
    of the frame, of course. ... hope this makes more sense. ....... now I'm confused!


  17. got it, thanks for taking the time to respond Steve.
  18. Thank you all! The examples were great Neil!

    I actually just picked up the Vagabond - I figured I really cant go wrong with having it. Now at least I know for fact that I'm portable. Maybe after this shoot, I'll see if I can't pick up another 1600. I absolutely love the quality of the flash, and it's nice to be able to play with the power outside!

    Thanks again!
  19. awesome shots, Neil.

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