flagging your back-lighting flash with the black foamie thing

My favorite on-camera light modifier, the black foamie thing, is of course, nothing more than a very affordable (and flexible) way to flag your flash. This helps control how the light from your on-camera flash spills. (It’s not a flash diffuser!) I also keep one on hand when I use off-camera flash, to flag any direct flash – whether to control it from flaring the lens, or from spilling onto my subject.

When I did the photo session for the review of the Canon 600EX-RT, I had to flag the one speedlight so it didn’t spill on our model. So it has other handy uses other than just for on-camera bounce flash.

During a recent photography workshop at my studio, we photographed Aleona in a freight elevator for that gritty urban look. We added a speedlight behind her to have the rim-light create some separation between her black outfit and the dark silver wall in the back. However, it spilled to the sides, and we had to control the light better …

Learn more inside…


TTL flash for the simplicity and speed

Okay, true strobists might recoil in horror, but I often prefer using TTL flash to sweeten an image when shooting on location. I just get to the final image faster than if I had gone the more methodical route of manual flash.

For some situations, manual flash is the only way to go. For example, when your subject is static in relation to your lights and you have to get consistent lighting and consistent exposures, image after image, then manual flash makes the most sense. But for times where you want to shoot faster, and shoot on the run, I find that TTL flash is the easiest and most fun option for me.

This image of Aleona was from a recent individual photography workshop in New York. As a starting point in explaining how to balance flash and ambient light, we initially work with an easy scenario where the available light isn’t harsh, but also not all that exciting. Now we can easily finesse it with a bit of flash from a softbox …

Learn more inside…


taking photos in hard sunlight

Taking photographs of people in hard sunlight will always be one of the more daunting lighting situations we can find ourselves in. Without additional lighting, or the use of scrims, we have a few basic ways of dealing with the harsh sun:
– pose our subject into the light,
– pose our subject with their back to the sun, or
– just suck it up and accept that our photos will look bad.

Well, that last option isn’t really the way to go if we have any pride in our work as photographers. Which leaves us with the two other options …

Learn more inside…


Photoshop tip – easy effect for more punch

Here is a well-known Photoshop technique – one that I like and use on occasion. It desaturates the photograph, while also compressing the tonal range. It creates a modern look that also looks quite trendy. It is also quite easy to apply, by dragging the layers from a reference image once you’ve set it up.

Starting with the original image, I add these two layers:

Learn more inside…


simple lighting setup for home studio photography

This photo of Anelisa and Aleona, two of my favorite models, were taken towards the end of the evening of the most recent flash photography and lighting workshop in New York. The studio that the workshop was held in, had a white cyclorama that was just inviting to be used. As a recap of manual flash photography, I wanted to show how simple and easy a basic studio lighting setup was … and that it was quite within the reach of every photographer. Well, not the studio itself, but the lighting setup and equipment, as well as the technique, are well within the reach of any photographer.

A comment I had as feedback about this part of the workshop, was: “I was personally surprised at how little it took to create that sort of a photo.”

And that’s what I wanted to show – the simplicity of the lighting setup. Here is the pull-back shot.

Learn more inside…


exposure metering & observing the available light

As a photographer you’ll often hear instruction to just “look at the available light”. Great. But this advice is also often given without clear examples of what we’re actually supposed to be looking at. So let’s explore that a little bit using a sequence of images of our model, Aleona, photographed during a recent individual photography workshop.

This is also keeping with the loose theme over the past few weeks, that for a photographer “using the available light” is not a random thing or just a meaningless catch-phrase.

Learn more inside…


when you’d use high-speed flash sync / Auto FP

Going to High-Speed Flash sync, ie, over maximum flash sync speed, comes with a penalty. So here’s a solid recipe for when it makes most sense to go to high-speed flash sync / Auto FP.

When you need
– shallow depth-of-field, or
– fast shutter speeds,
– you have the flash power to spare.

As mentioned in the tutorial on high-speed flash sync (HSS), there is a considerable loss of power in going into high-speed flash sync territory. So you wouldn’t immediately use HSS in very bright light if you are trying to over-power the sun with flash. While the higher shutter speeds brings the ambient exposure down, it brings the effective flash power down faster than it affects the ambient light. So the sweet spot will always be at maximum flash sync speed. Therefore, using HSS shouldn’t just be a default way of working flash.

With this image, the softbox was close enough to Aleona that we were able to get good flash exposure on her, even at a high shutter speed. However, we did remove the one baffle of the softbox.

Learn more inside…


recap: photography workshop – Jersey City & Manhattan (2010)

Aleona caught in mid-air during the recent flash photography workshop. As part of an explanation of High-Speed Flash Sync, she patiently vaulted into the air numerous times for everyone who attended the 2nd day of the workshop.  As before, the 2nd day is the on-location fun practical segment of the workshop which takes place in Manhattan.

The first day of the workshop still takes place in Jersey City at a hotel where we have a grand view of Manhattan …

Learn more inside…


flash photography workshop in New York

Aleona was one of our striking models at the recent 2-day flash photography workshop held in Jersey City and Manhattan.  The setting here was in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, with Manhattan in the background.  The challenge was to overcome the hard sunlight with a small speedlight … and still make it look good.

The flash photography workshops have undergone certain changes over time – the material and sequence of material are always honed over time. The biggest recent change is that the workshop has expanded with an optional 2nd day where we play around further with on-location lighting. The first day is still the intensive workshop – the combination of seminar and practical sessions where we cover everything thoroughly.  The first day takes place in a hotel in Jersey City with a magnificent view of Manhattan.  (It is right next to the Path station, so it is easily accessible for anyone coming from Manhattan or Brooklyn.)

The second day is where we have fun, and walk around with two models, and try different backgrounds and lighting scenarios. So that’s the workshop now … 2 days, with the first day an intensive 10 hour workshop, with two models.  The next day is the application of that, and we roam around the Meat-Packing District in Manhattan with two different models.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made it a success.  And a big thank you to our four models.  For anyone who might be interested, the next workshop series is coming up in July.

As an aside:  the two recent posts on combining video light and ambient light and photographic composition in editing, both featured images from this workshop …

Learn more inside…


Aleona (model)

June 20, 2009

Aleona – lit with an off-camera Q-flash T5D-R, using Quantum’s wireless system,
and a 24×32 softbox on a lightstand. 
camera settings: 1/1000th @ f4 @ 200 ISO.

related posts:
synching at higher than maximum flash sync speed
video clip: NYC photo sessions