One thing I do to make my daytime captures pop a bit is use a strobe. When I do this, my goal is to add to the presentation of the subject while avoiding an unnatural appearance.

Today’s featured photo of a resting swan is an example of this technique. I came across this swan recently while driving to a client’s home. It was just after lunch and the sun was directly overhead creating harsh shadows. The bird was relaxing in the shade of a tree with spots of sun peaking through while the pond in the background was in full sunlight.

To get the shot I put on the longest lens I had with me (70-200 w/ 1.4x extender) and attached a strobe (Canon 430EX) to my camera. My purpose in using the strobe was threefold:

1. Fill in the shadows to create more even lighting
2. Create a Catchlight in the bird’s eye
3. Add separation between the subject and the background.

To achieve these effects without making the shot seem unnaturally lit, I dialed the strobe’s power setting to -1/3 f-stop from the camera’s metered exposure. Doing this allowed the natural light to combine with the strobe’s artificial light, creating a natural appearance to the subject while accomplishing the three objectives. The setting of -1/3 worked on this scene, but I sometimes use more or less power from the strobe on other scenes depending on the light.

Using a strobe in daylight, especially bright sunny days, can greatly enhance your shots. Play around with your flash’s power settings and see what works for you.

Canon 5D, Canon 70-200 f/4L with 1.4x extender – 1/100 second, f/5.6, ISO 100