Jan is a very successful business leader in Dubai. He requested some strong portraits for use in magazine articles and PR as he is often featured.
Our ‘studio’ was a wonderfully designed modern office on the 33rd floor with amazing views of Dubai. However, the office had huge windows that allowed daylight to stream in. Since I wanted to shoot at f2.8 and blur the background, I used a 3 stop ND filter. An ND filter simply helps remove unwanted ambient light and offers greater creative control over your strobes. With ND filters, in order to balance fill/ambient creative lighting choice, you may need more powerful strobes.
For lighting this shot, I used a real mix. The main light is a Profoto B3 pack + Pro 7b head with 1×3 stripbox on a boom stand placed above Jan that will bounce soft light off the water and also give a nice reflective element in the shot. The fill light is a Profoto 600r head with a tight grid used just for Jan’s face. The 3rd light is a Canon 580 EX II with a grid placed behind Jan to separate him from the grey wall.
When shooting with an ND filter, I prefer to use a light meter (eg Sekonic) as it’s more accurate, helps with the ‘math’ and reduces lighting guess work viewing camera LCD’s.
Here, in camera I am shooting 125th, f2.8, iso 100, WB daylight – BUT as I have a 3 stop ND filter on my lens, when I meter the light hitting my subjects face, I am looking for f8. Why? as the 3 stops of light removed by the ND filter must be replaced by the strobes to offer a correct metered exposure (f2.8 + 3 stops of light = f8).
As you can see in the test shot below, If I had shot with similar camera settings but without the 3 stop ND filter, the background windows are so blown out and the overall image looks too flat. For another lighting set up on this shoot you can see Corporate Portrait – Mixing Ambient Light With Strobes
Gear used: Hasselbald H4d 40 + 80mm f2.8 HC lens, B+W 3 stop ND filter, Profoto B3 battery + Pro 7b head with zoom reflector + 5 degree grid, ComPact 600r head with Profoto 1×3 stripbox, Canon 580 EX II with grid and pocket wizard Flex TT.
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2 thoughts on “Corporate Portrait – Using ND Filter to Control Ambient Light”
Could you have achieved the same results by increasing your shutter speed (using high-speed sync)? I discovered your website while researching ND filters for portraiture.
Great portrait of Jan, he looks confident.
Hi Brendan, Thanks for your comment. Sorry late reply I have been moving countries! Yes, you can also use HSS but that requires Pocket Wizards or other dedicated triggers set for this…or you can shoot a camera system (EG Hasselblad as I do) with higher sync speeds. I often mix different strobe lights…so using ND filters is easier and quicker when doing this for me.