Using Depth of Field and Flash Creatively
Bellamy-Ferriday House and Gardens in Bethlehem, CT for a photo shoot. While we were supposed to have a model, we ended up without one and were left to our own devices. So as the saying goes, "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade."
On the property there is this cute little one room shed set off at the edge of an overgrown field with a quaint little path mowed through the grass leading to it. I knew I wanted to shoot it and as I walked around I spotted a view that I wanted to explore. It included some wildflowers and a foreground shot of the field, using the shed in the background.
The day had begun gorgeously enough, slightly overcast making for some beautiful soft wrap-around light. As the day progressed the clouds became fluffier and the sun brighter. This presented a problem to my shot. The shed was in slight shadow from the tree line it was against, the field was in full sun while the wildflowers were in shade from a tree just to the right. An additional problem that became obvious on my first exposure was that the spindly nature of the stems meant I really needed some form of separation of the subject from the background. I metered for the open area of the field and shed, knowing I had more control over the light on the wildflowers. Here's the result;
As you can see from my example, you can manipulate your light levels according to your needs. In this case I needed to separate the foreground from my background. Since I knew the foreground was going to be well lit that meant that my background would need to be darker to help set the flowers off against the background. The foreground light against a darker background, in conjunction with the depth of field, helps bring the viewer's attention to the main subject. Keeping the secondary subject readable gives the scene a sense of location and helps fill in the 'story' to the image.
Go ahead and experiment using your off-camera flash to isolate your subject from the background. Keep in mind that you may not get lucky in your first shot with the flash as I did above. If you fire of an exposure with your flash and notice it's too bright or too dark, adjust your flash setting accordingly. Or simply move the flash toward or away to adjust the levels.
Have fun and experiment.