favorite image from the weekend …

using additional off-camera lighting at events

With the Bar Mitzvah boy lifted on the shoulders of his friends at his party, I ducked and weaved to make sure that I kept one of the additional flashes behind him as the group moved.  I purposely shot faster than my flash could recycle, so that I could get images with my on-camera flash, and without.  It’s easier to do it this way and ensure I have both options to choose from in the edit – rather than trying to switch my on-camera flash on & off while shooting fast.

The colored spots are from the DJ’s lights.  The white specs in the photo are the reflective flakes they periodically released from the ceiling, which is now backlit by the flash.

More about the lighting …

This particular venue is tough to shoot in.  It has a black floor, black ceiling and black walls and dark drapes. I had to set up two additional flashguns on either side of the room to help give some kind of separation from the background for anyone I photographed on the dance floor.

The two additional flashguns in this case were Quantum T2 units, set up at just over 1/16th full power, and pointed directly at the dance floor. It could’ve been any kind of speedlight though.  I fired the flashguns with Pocket Wizards.  (They each had the usual Quantum diffuser disc over the front.)

To check the additional lights, I take test shots beforehand, with and without my on-camera flash firing.  Here’s a fun test shot where I set up the MC and one of the dancers, using just the two additional flashguns as lighting.

settings:  1/30 @ f4 @ 1600 ISO  …. and this then are the settings I used for the majority of the photographs on the dance floor for the rest of the evening.

18 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2Linda says

    Neil, great shots. Just wondering if you get a lot of “ghosting” when shooting on a dance floor at 1/30? How do you avoid that?

  2. 3Neil vN says

    Linda .. it depends entirely on how much ambient light there is. With an event like this, the DJ lights kick in and out, and the light levels vary a lot. So I do lose some shots to motion blur.

    I do have to set my shutter speed high enough not to risk losing too many photos to subject / motion blur. In this case, 1/30 was enough.

    Neil vN

  3. 4Hugh says

    Neil, The young boy shot is great & the MC shot is amazing. You’re on a whole diferent level. Wish I could getup there.
    Thanks for the great tuition.

  4. 7Neil vN says

    Nayeem .. I would put a diffuser on the speedlight. But it’s more a matter of choice than a rigid instruction.

    Neil vN

  5. 8Rizal says

    Hi Neil,

    I’m wondering if you had used the ‘black foamie thing’ for this shot. Was the rear flash on SU-4 mode?


  6. 14David says

    Great shots Neil!

    At first I thought you had used some clever image processing on the Bar Mitzvah photograph (looks almost like a scene from Tron)

    I really like the MC shot, very powerful and atmospheric. What are your thoughts on darkening the background items on the left just a little?


  7. 15Neil vN says

    Oh, the image would definitely need work if it was to be used for anything else.

    But .. it was a test shot, and that is how I wanted to show it as that. :)

    Neil vN

  8. 18 says

    Neil, what if you were stuck in a venue like that with just on-camera flash? I was taking pictures of an event and found myself in such a situation: black ceilings, open spaces with no walls, and just my on-camera flash (430 EX II). I think my pictures were pretty bad (a few were acceptable, lucky I was doing it just for “fun”), and I made quite a few mistakes (‘specially when photographing some glass bottles… serves me well for not actually doing all the exercises in Light: Science and Magic!). In this case, do you just have to stop trying to make flash not look like flash and shoot straight on?

    Thanks for all the insights, both here and in your book! And your pictures are simply outstanding!

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