Author Archive

It’s All A Matter of Balance

Our Friend Luke Pickerill joins us today with this especially thorough post on balancing flash & available light. Luke shares his thoughts on choosing equipment, camera settings, positioning lights.

If you appreciate this kind of detailed instruction you can find more like it at Luke’s website Be sure to watch his “Workshop” page for your opportunity to train in a small class, where each student can receive Luke’s personal attention. Current workshop dates are September 16th in L.A. and September 21st in Central Florida.

It’s All A Matter of Balance.

Today I want to walk you through an image and show you step by step how we set it up, what we we’re thinking and how you can get these kinds of shots with your Quantum gear!

Image 1
Camera:  Nikon D3s Lens:  Nikon 70-200mm Why:  Because I love this lens. The depth of field it can produce is awesome! Plus, it’s pretty sharp when used at it’s widest aperture.

Camera Settings:  1/160 – f/3.2 – ISO1000

Aperture:  f/3.2 Why: Because I wanted maximum depth of field. The lowest aperture I could have used would be 2.8 since that’s the lowest the 70-200 lens can do.  However at 2.8 it can be just a little soft. Stopped down to 3.2 the lens is tack sharp.  To summarize, maximum foreground and background blur while still staying sharp all the way through.

Shutter Speed + ISO: 1/160 + ISO: 1000?Why:  I am putting shutter and ISO together because I used them as a team for 2 reasons:
1.  I wanted to keep my shutter speed as high as possible to minimize camera shake. A Nikon D3s has a max sync speed of 1/250th of a second. So, I started there and then opened up just a little to allow the window light just out of frame left to add a little highlight to our bride.
2.  The Window just out of frame right was throwing a nice highlight onto our bride. We know that our aperture is controlling our flash and our shutter speed is controlling the amount of available light. Adjusting the shutter speed will let more or less available light in.  In this case by lowering my shutter speed we are letting more available light in, which will produce a more visible highlight.

So, setting my ISO to 1000 allowed me to set my shutter speed to 1/160 and get the amount of highlight I wanted.

Image 2
Lighting:  Quantum QFlash with a shoot through umbrella. Why:  My Quantum QFlash is always with me on weddings and is one of my go to lights. It is battery powered, so it’s super portable but much more powerful than a standard speedlight. This is nice when shooting in bright sun or when you need more power.

How To Get This Kind Of Shot:

1.  Meter for the available light: Below is the test shot I took before bringing my bride into the frame. As you can see my assistant is really dark which is exactly what we want. Remember we’re going to be using flash, so we only care about the highlight being cast by the window just out of frame right.
First, I set my Aperture (The why is above) Second, I set my camera to Spot Meterting Third, I metered for the highlight on my assistant. Fourth, I am in the ballpark with where I want to be with my shutter speed (Reasoning above)

Image 3

That’s it. One test shot, looks good, let’s bring our bride in and get the shot.

PRO TIP:  If you’re unsure test the setups with your assistant prior to testing on your bride. Let her sit down or rest, get the shot all set up, then bring her in and shoot.

2.  Bring in The Flash: Start with the flash on a low power setting and raise up the power until you have the exposure you want. In this case I had my QFlash at 1/32 power.

I fired off a quick test shot not worrying about pose or expression or even focus. I just wanted to see that I was getting a good exposure with the flash.  I asked the brides maids to move because you can see their reflection in the mirror back there and we’re ready to get the shot.

Image 4

PRO TIP:  The more you do this kind of shoot the more you’ll get to know your gear. Eventually you won’t have to start at the lowest setting and bring your flash in you’ll already have a good idea where to start based on the settings you’ve chosen.

3. Compose Your Shot & Get a Good Expression. I liked the reflection in the bar and the reflection in the mirror so I wanted to use both. I was shooting at a focal length of 105mm and standing about 15 feet away from my bride.

Image 1

Final Thoughts: I took the first test shot of my Assistant at 12:31 pm and took the shot above at 12:34 pm.  So from start to finish it took us 3 minutes to get this shot.

Pro Tip:  Experiment with the framing. Once your all set up try some different angles and composition. Your light is already set, so don’t worry about looking at the back of your camera to check each frame. Just knock out some great images and move on.

Below: I quickly changed up the composition to get a great detail shot of our bride’s ring.?

Image 5


Luke Pickerill
Pickerill Creative
(818) 391-9541


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Meter, Adjust the Light, Meter… BORING!

Luke Pickerill of and returns to the Flashline to share his thoughts on Studio vs. Location portrait shoots. I can’t believe any shoot Luke is on could be BORING!, but the guy sure does like to move around. Check out some of the location shoot videos on his blog and enter his Makeover Photoshoot Contest for a chance to see for yourself.

1/80sec - f/5.6 - 800 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8I prefer to shoot my clients and their families in their homes rather that in the studio. First, studio shots are boring. Set up a background, set up some lights, meter. Adjust the light, meter. Adjust the light, meter… BORING!

Shooting in a clients home gives me more new things to work with and new problems to solve. I also find that younger children are more relaxed at their homes. It’s a familiar place and they feel comfortable. When the young kids come to a studio or on locations they can easily get distracted by all the newness and surroundings…

Whenever doing a shoot in someone’s home I always ask a lot of questions like:

• Are there windows in that room
• How big is the room
• How big are the windows
• Does the room get direct sunlight
• What color are the walls

1/125sec - f/2.25 - ISO1000 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8Even when I am happy with all the answers and think there is going to be great available light I still bring my flashes and especially my Qflash because more often than not, my dreams of beautiful available light are dashed when I arrive and see what we’re actually working with. Maybe it’s the wrong part of the day for light hitting that room, or maybe the walls are green and giving the light a kind of vomitis color… The point is I always come prepared to create great light in case it doesn’t exist.

For all of these shots I used a Qflash through a shoot through umbrella and two Canon 580 exII’s. I love the Qflash as a main light in this kind of environment because I can run it at a very low power setting and get super fast recycle times. Fast recycle times are crucial if your shooting children.


1/100sec - f/2.8 - 800 Lens: 50mm f/1.4The 580’s are great because I can put them around the room on TV stands, mantles or whatever furniture is in the room and not have to bring additional light stands. I used the two 580’s as fill for the room. I shot them on opposite sides of the room shot up into the ceiling and got the room detail to a nice level.


1/100sec - f/3.2 - 800 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8Then as I move around the room, I can really easily move the position of my Qflash main light. I triggered everything in Manual mode, using radio popper triggers.


1/100sec - f/2.8 - 800 Lens: 24mm f/1.4 1/100sec - f/2.8 - 800 Lens: 50mm f/1.4 1/80sec - f/3.2 - 800 Lens: 50mm f/1.4

1/100sec -f/3.2 - 800 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8 1/100sec - f/2.8 - 800 Lens: 24mm f/1.4 1/100sec - f/3.2 - 800 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8 1/100sec - f/3.2 - 800 Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8

1/100sec - f/2.8 - 800 Lens: 24mm f/1.4 1/125sec - f/2.25 - ISO800 Lens: 50mm f/1.4


Luke Pickerill

Okay, I admit I am a flasher!!! with Luke Pickerill

Louise & Andrew 1

Camera Settings: 1/250 - f/3.5 - ISO320Main Light Quantum T5d-RShoot Through UmbrellaBack Light: SB-800

Today we are joined by “Q”flasher, and professional photographer Luke Pickerill of Luke is both a Photographer and Videographer, and he has been wowing us with his fusion videos!

Okay,  I admit I am a flasher!!!
I love to flash and use it almost to a fault.

Sometimes, I reach for my flashes, get them all set up and once I am ready to start popping I look at the scene, realize I have incredible available light and quite literally drop the flashes where I stand.

Louise & Andrew 5

Camera Settings: 1/250 - f/2.0- ISO100 Main Light Quantum T5dr - shoot through Umbrella Back Light: SB-800

Ok, that was a little but of an exaggeration, but flashing is actually a decision I made long before showing up to a job.

    “Using flash is one of the ways
I set my self apart from my competition.”

I coach a lot of other young photogs and professionals and I am finding that a large majority of them have no idea how to flash.  They rely entirely on available light.  Now don’t get me wrong available light is awesome, and I use it to, but I can also flash!  I am not limited to only that light that happens to exist in a scene.

I have been hearing words like vintage and grungy for quite a while now and that seems to be the current trend.  While I utilize those looks as well, they also take more time in post processing, which for a wedding studio can eat into the bottom line and reduce your profits.  Plus, I like to shoot, not post process, so flashing allows me to get the look I want, in camera without extensive post processing.

Louise & Andrew 7

Camera Settings: 1/100 - f/2.8- ISO1000Main Lights: 2 Video LightsFill Light: Quantum Bounced Off The Wall to the right

I like to use a Quantum T5dr and a Turbo 3 as a main light mostly shot through a 40” shoot through umbrella.  I use a bunch of different modifiers but what I like about the T5dr is that it has enough power to get over the ambient in most situations.  I also used an SB-800 with a 1/4 CTO as a back light in most of these shots.

Luke Pickerill
Pickerill Creative
(818) 391-9541


Louise & Andrew 3 Louise & Andrew 4 Louise & Andrew 6: Camera Settings: 1/160 - f/4.0- ISO100 Main Light Quantum T5dr - shoot through Umbrells Back Light: SB-800 - on the ground behind the couple. Louise & Andrew 8: Camera Settings: 1/40 - f/2.8- ISO800 Back Light:  Quantum