workshops & seminars

more still about flash photography

I presented another Master-Class this year at WPPI in Las Vegas. I rather audaciously chose the title of my talk to be:

Flash Photography – The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

As a photographer, there are certain inescapable essentials we absolutely have to know before we can progress in understanding light and lighting. In this presentation, Neil barrels through the conflicting advice you’ve received, offering the essential building blocks to help you truly grasp the power of flash and lighting done right.

That does seem rather bold now! Very ambitious. With the presentation I pulled together a number of key concepts which are essential to understanding flash photography. So there wasn’t an overall theme in this case – just ten different concepts which I think are important.

The presentation over-ran by about 45 minutes, with all of the questions that had to be answered. The response to my presentation was very good. One of the emails I received afterwards said: “I took your platform class at the WPPI this year and I have to say, it was my favourite by far!!” And that is so good to hear!

With this, I have decided to add the material to the flagship articles here on flash photography. Time to explore!

elements of flash photography


After Dark Photography Education – Dallas, TX – 2012

I’ve raved here about the After Dark photography conventions before, as being the best photography convention / learning experience that I’ve attended. So it is with great pleasure that I did several presentations at the After Dark event in Dallas, TX during Feb 27 -29, 2012. I even expanded the range of topics I taught to include a presentation on basic portrait retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Of course, part of the fun of After Dark Edu, is that you can use any of the 10 bays where there are numerous lighting goodies, and photograph one of the models there. So you get to play with gear you wouldn’t normally have access to … along with the various Mentors there to help you. Or, if you choose, you can just play around on your own and discover. And this is what I did here when I photographed Madison. I added a beauty dish and an  Westcott eyelighter reflector (vendor) , and a gridded softbox for a bit of a kicker, and another light for the background. Just having fun, seeing what the result would look like. And that’s a way to learn. Here’s the pull-back shot …

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flash photography workshop – New York – Oct 25

The Oct 25 workshop is sold out but there have been requests for any spots that might open up due to cancellations. This doesn’t usually happen … but if we can get 5 people together for a smaller workshop, then we can make one last workshop still happen this year. (The next workshop in New York will only happen in May 2012 sometime.)

So if you’re interested in attending a flash photography workshop sometime in the next two weeks, drop me a note before the end of this week. If there is enough response, then we can make it happen.

I’ll announce the workshops for 2012 later on some time. As always, check back .. or better yet, subscribe to the email list.

Check these posts on the Tangents forum for (unsolicited) feedback about the May 16th workshop, and also for feedback about a one-on-one tutoring session.


favorite images – After Dark Edu – Charlotte, NC – 2011

As a mentor and presenter at the recent After Dark Education events in Charlotte, (much like what happens at any workshop or seminar that I present), I didn’t get to shoot much. I feel it is more important to let the people that are attending, get the time with fingers-on-the-camera’s-controls. But I did get to play with some of the lighting equipment in the bays there. That’s much of the attraction of the After Dark events – loads of lighting toys to play with and learn and figure out on your own, or with the help of someone.

With that, here are a few of my favorite images …

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After Dark photography education – Charlotte, NC – 2011

This striking portrait is of Britney, one of the number of models that are at this, the current After Dark photography convention. Regular followers of the Tangents blog will easily recognize the lighting as being a video light. In this case, I reverted to the Lowel ID-light because it creates a stronger beam of light which can be spread wider than an LED video light. Typical of After Dark, this photo session / mini-presentation was an impromptu one that started after the evenings classes and presentations had already ended at midnight.

Meeting up with Britney and her sister Nicole (who is also a model), and two other photographers, the group of photographers eventually spilled out to the lobby of the hotel and swelled to a group of about 30 photographers all taking part. And that’s the reason I wanted to use the Lowel ID-light … the person holding up the video light, could stand further back and we’d still get decent camera settings.  An LED video light would not have been powerful enough for this situation.

image details:
1/160 @ f2.8 @ 1000 ISO … with video light; no flash
Nikon D3;  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (B&H)
The lens was used at 200mm to compress the background – an out-of-focus piece of artwork.

more articles about the use of video light for photography

Enough of the video light though. I’ve gushed about the After Dark experience before when I presented at the Cincinatti event, and when I had a quick look-in at the Las Vegas event.

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flash photography workshops – Dublin, Ireland

It’s been a hectic week, flying in to Dublin (Ireland), for two sold-out workshops there over the past weekend. (Sept 17 & 18) Barely any time for sight-seeing, but it’s been a fantastic trip over.

In the photo, from left to right: Roz, our one model (an entrant for the Miss Universe competition for Ireland!); myself; Hanna, our other model, (an entrant to Ireland and UK’s Next Top Model competition for 2011); Liam Ramsell of Pro Foto Training (host of the workshops); Jesssica, my infamous assistant with a ‘tood; and Peter Kane, our make-up artist extraordinaire.

Here is a short video clip shot during the bounce flash session of the workshop:

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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.

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After Dark photography education – Cincinnati, OH – 2011

In an earlier post I mentioned how impressed I was with After Dark’s workshops & seminar series in Las Vegas. I was invited by Dave Junion to teach at the Cincinnati venue this past week as one of the Mentors.  I presented 4 seminars and shooting sessions, and another impromptu demonstration late the one night. It was exhilarating and energizing to be a part of it.

After Dark has a certain structure –  10 areas / pods set up for seminar presentations; and 10 studio bays set up where Mentors can teach in a direct hands-on manner. But all this doesn’t really describe the easy-going flow of activity and learning and sharing that goes on. In that earlier post I described After Dark as ‘controlled anarchy‘. And that is what makes it so unique. You can move around between presentations and shoots, and learn from anyone. You can even ask any of the Mentors or attendees to help you. It’s an incredibly supportive and nourishing environment for any photographer.

Just as cool is that there are studio bays that are open, which might not be busy at any point. You can then mark down that you want to spend some time there. You also get the opportunity to play with a huge variety of lighting gear. You can play around on your own, or have someone help you. You can make mistakes. You don’t have to impress anyone. You just have to learn and have fun with it all …

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photo sessions  – Shawna – using a variety of photographic lighting options

Shawna is the delightful model I used while I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. She helped us out during the mini-workshops I offered, as well as some photos of my own.  I’ve posted a few photos from these already, but thought it might be interesting to show a further selection of images and discuss them …

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After Dark photography education

This photograph was taken at one of the stations at the After Dark workshops in Las Vegas. Two strip lights on either side, freezing this Cirque du Soleil performer doing jumps on his board. Pretty wild, I think.

“Pretty wild” would also sum up the entire three day experience of attending the After Dark workshop, if I had to go by the Friday evening that I was able to attend. This is where After Dark differs from other workshops and conventions, in my opinion.  Just a simple description of the workshop as being 3 days of a series of seminars and demonstrations, doesn’t quite encompass it …

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