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Taking Great Photos of a Cat with One Light

Taking Great Photos of a Cat with One Light

This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 200

 

All these cat photo’s were taken using the same lighting setup. Only one softbox with external speedlite was used. I moved the softbox closer and used a higher flash output to get a black background for the first photo. For the other photo’s I put the softbox further away. 

 

Lighting Diagram:

As the softbox moves further away from the subject the ambient light becomes relatively brighter and the light on the subject more constant relative to the surroundings, given that the exposure is adjusted on the camera to get a well exposed photo. This principle is called the inverse square law of light.

 

This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 200

 

The Inverse Square Law of Light

The inverse square law of light, also known as light fall off, explains the decrease in flash strength relative to the distance of the subject. Basically if you double the distance the flash power needs to be increased four times i.e. the flash power is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the subject and the light. The light spreads or “falls off” at further distances. At further distances there is a decreased difference between distance and flash output.

If you increase the distance four times the flash power decreases to a 1/16th of the power. An example would be if you place an object 1 meter from the flash and have the flash output at a 1/16 of its power then if you move the subject to 4 meters you would need the flashes full power keeping all other things such as exposure equal. 

Now in the case with the black background the flash was very close to the subject relative to the background and the flash was set at a relatively low power. In the other photos the flash was further away from the subject relative the the background and therefore a brighter background due to the light spreading more evenly. Having the flash close to the subject creates a big difference in light between background and subject. As you move the flash further away the difference in light between the subject and background decreases creating a more evenly lit photo.

The photo below illustrates light fall off better. The cat is close to the light source and the light falls off very quickly into darkness.

This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 100

 

Video Explaining the Inverse Square Law

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 This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 200
This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 160

This photo was taken in February 2015 with a Canon 5D MkIII, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and an external speedlite with a softbox.
Camera Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 seconds and ISO 160

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