lighting in photography – how complicated does it have to be?
During a lunch-time conversation, a friend told me that she felt intimidated by the on-location flash photography by other photographers. The way to use multiple-flash setups seemed impenetrable to grasp. How would one go about and where do you even start. This made me wonder – just how complicated should photography lighting be? I don’t think it has to be complicated. It just has to be enough.
With on-location photography, my starting point is usually where I consider if I can improve the existing light with flash (or video light). What do I need to add to make it just a little bit better? And does it need something more to make it even better? The final image needs to look good. This is an iterative thought process, rather than a compelling desire that I have to use every flash that I own.
This straight-forward portrait of Anelisa,was taken during an individual workshop in New York. It might be a good example where off-camera flash was used for the tiniest bit of sweetening of the light. A bit of rim-lighting to separate her from the black doorway.
We started off under this awning of a building, where the available light coming in was very flattering – open, clean light.
But I thought it needed a little something. She needed separation from the dark door frame.
A speedlight on a monopod would do the trick. I set it to 1/32 power at first, and then took it up to 1/16 power. I could easily adjust the manual output of the Canon 580EX II via the AC3 ZoneController (B&H) on the FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H), which sits on the camera. Of course, the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite makes it so much easier too with the built-in radio slave.
I stuck the light-stick to the door with a bit of gaffer tape so it wouldn’t fall over. A small roll of gaffer tape (B&H), is very useful thing to have in your camera bag. It’s also useful for temporarily mending your trousers when you split them at an event.
camera settings: 1/100 @ f/4 @ 100 ISO
Canon 5D mark II; Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS (B&H) @ 85mm
I felt that this is all the photograph needed to elevate it a little bit. No need to show off crazy skills with lighting. Just an uncomplicated sweetening of the available light. That’s a good place to start. No need to feel that you’re lost because you don’t know how to set up multiple off-camera flashes. If you feel intimidated by off-camera flash, then start at the simplest starting point – enhancing the existing light with just one speedlight.
The pull-back shot:
Check out the Sexy New York Photographer stance there with the foot swept out!