Nine years ago this evening, Sarah and I headed for downtown Columbus to do a Christmas photo shoot. We set up with the skyline in the background and I clicked the shutter for this image at 5:55 pm. I deliberately waited until the clock on my computer said 5:55 to post this article.
Posted December 13, 2015. Updated January 25, 2020.
TTL automatic flash came close to getting the right exposure exposure for Sarah. I had to set a long exposure to capture the city lights and balance them with the flash exposure. The camera was on a tripod. Some movement during the long exposure created the nice effect of some of the city lights showing through Sarah’s dress and arms.
Sarah is the first professional model it was my happy privilege to work with, and she is certainly one of the best.
It was just a little cool when Sarah and I did this photo shoot in downtown Columbus. She is a “cold hardy model” so I wasn’t worried. Not a lot of models will shoot without warm clothing when it is chilly out. One model told me she doesn’t shoot outside when the temperature is below 65°.
The temperature was at 50° Fahrenheit and the wind was 7 MPH when Sarah and I did this shoot, so the windchill was 47°. Not bad, but I still wanted to minimize the amount of time she was in front of the camera without her coat so I set the tripod up and did some test shots to make sure I had the right incident light exposure for the background. I needed an aperture of f/11 to get enough depth of field to keep the background reasonable sharp which led to a 2.6 second shutter speed.
With the background exposure right, Sarah took off her coat and posed. The flash exposure was too bright on the first shot. The flash was in ETTL (automatic) mode so I played with the flash exposure compensation to get the look I wanted. I worked quickly. The total shooting time was 7 minutes and this photo was taken 5 minutes into the shoot. We were away from the car for about 12 minutes.
We also shot in other outside locations that night and the wind chill was around 40 when we finished. The colder the temperature, the shorter the shooting time away from the car.
Sarah happens to hold the record for the coldest shoot I have ever done with a model. We were shooting outside in northern Michigan after a snow storm. The temperature was 17 degrees and the wind chill was 0°
I wrote a series of articles about using off-camera flash, but there are some situations, like this one, that on-camera flash works just fine.
If you want to photograph a model in the cold, read How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°.
Photo Data: Canon 5D, Canon EF 24-105mm lens at 40mm. 2.6 seconds, f/11, ISO 400, Canon 550EX speedlite set to ETTL auto exposure.