Nikon Learn & Explore

One Shot: Flash Forward

Viktoria Haack photo of a woman and dog under an umbrella

© Viktoria Haack

Z 6II, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens, 1/160 second, f/4, ISO 100, manual exposure, Matrix metering.

Our One Shot stories are almost always prompted by either of two questions. The first is about the idea for the photo—along the lines of, “Where did that come from?” The second has to do with technique—pretty much a straightforward, “Exactly how was that done?”

This One Shot prompted not only both of those questions, but a third as well: How did Viktoria Haack, a landscape, portrait, editorial and lifestyle photographer based in British Columbia, get the dog to look up like that? 

“That was easy,” she says. “Jack is my dog, and my friend just talked to him.” And according to Viktoria, “easy” also describes the rest of the shoot. “I’d been looking at backlit shots made with umbrellas, and I thought I’d have a go at that,” she says, “and I also wanted to try out some new techniques with flash. I have a friend who lives locally, and I asked her to come along and model, and I brought Jack.” 

Nothing was planned beyond that. “It was literally, here’s an umbrella, and an off-camera portable flash, and I thought I’d just tape the flash inside the umbrella, pointing downwards.” A zip-tie replaced the tape and the rest was…well, kind of easy. 

...if you work with animals, you work the way they want you to work.

The shot was made in daytime, with light snow falling. Viktoria underexposed “to make the whole scene go darker, and then thought I’d bring Jack into the shot and see what he did. He sat there, she spoke to him, he looked at her and I banged off a few shots.”

In post-production she cloned out the flash—and Jack’s leash, as well. 

”He’s a very spirited dog,” Viktoria says, “and if you work with animals, you work the way they want you to work.” 

The settings for her Z 6II and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens were 1/160 second, f/4, ISO 100, manual exposure and Matrix metering, and they were worked out without Jack in the frame. “Then, with those settings, and my friend standing with the umbrella, I tried the flash at different power levels to see how it looked. I’m always very careful to not blow out the highlights, so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too bright.” It turned out that just below half-power was the right setting for the light-dark balance supplied by the flash, which was triggered by a remote on the hot shoe of the camera.

All the light we see on Jack and Viktoria’s friend, and the light causing the shadow behind her, is from the flash. “She needed to hold the umbrella out a little bit to make sure the light was covering him and her. It was really so incredibly simple to do.” 

And so incredibly effective, perhaps because Viktoria’s decision to bring Jack into the shot gives the image its irresistible appeal. Simply, she let the dog drive.