Making of “Blog update”

Blog update

A little while ago I made this photo of Sandra. She was working on her MacBook Air, updating her blog. And as she sat there, I saw an opportunity to create my own version of a photo that photographer and strobist David Hobby once made. Perhaps not the most original thing to do, but for me it was a great way to learn to work with gels on my speedlights which I hadn’t done before.


I had my camera placed on a tripod with my 24mm lens (YAY primes!) and the white balance set to tungsten. This way, the camera would compensate for too much yellow light in a photo by adding in blue (as the camera would have when you are using incandescent light bulbs as a light source). Except, in this situation the available light wasn’t too yellow so the photo would get an overall blue glow.

In manual mode, I dialed up 1/200th of a second for shutter speed as this is my max flash sync speed. I placed one speedlight with a snoot attached on camera left (no gel), aimed at the logo of her notebook. The snoot prevented unwanted spread of my flashlight so that I would only get a small highlight on the back of the MBA.
A second speedlight with a 1/4 CTO gel was placed on the keyboard of the MBA, aimed at the screen so that the light would reflect back on Sandra her face. Due to the gel the speedlight would cast an orange glow on her face. With the tungsten white balance set this would result in a normal looking light compared to the rest of the photo.
On the right, I made a little schematic overview of the positioning of the two speedlights compared to camera and subject.

All that remained was finding the right balance between the two speedlights and the ambient light. The ratio between the speedlights was eventually 2:1, with the one on camera left at the highest power. I don’t know the exact settings anymore, since this info isn’t saved in the EXIF details of a photo. But my guess would be that the speedlights were at 1/4 and 1/8 power. I opened up my aperture to f/2.8 to let the ambient light in as my third light source.

Below you see the photo that came straight out of camera. As you can see the biggest effect has already been made in-camera, something that could have been quite a challenge to achieve in post-processing. I removed all distractions in the background and some reflections on the table and in the drinking glass. I optimized the color balance to enhance the effect of the gelled speedlight, restored some shadows and highlights and applied some brightness, sharpness and contrast improvements. The final version is shown at the top of this post. If you like to see a direct comparison between both versions, you can find this photo as one of the examples at Before & After.

Blog update
For more info or any questions, find me on Twitter or Flickr.