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 …

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review: Profoto B1 off-camera TTL flash – 500 Ws

I’m a bit of a fan of Profoto gear. When I first started looking at the more serious on-location lighting systems, my initial purchase was the Profoto 600R. I was drawn by their reputation for reliability and features such as consistent color balance even when you change power settings. The wide variety of light modifiers, as well as the ease of use and setup also had me favor Profoto, even thought it is the more expensive system on the market. Of course, the sleek elegant look of Profoto gear also counted. As far as lighting gear goes, Profoto even looks sexy.

Profoto just released the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units (vendor). With 500 Ws output, and various features which make them exceptionally suited for on-location work, Profoto really brought something exciting to the market. I believe this is going to kick them onto another level with photo enthusiasts.

Let’s look at some of the spec, and then how the Profoto B1 flashes performed during actual photo sessions.

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on-location lighting for impact – off-camera flash w/ gridded stripbox

With this photo session of Carina and Carolina, (yes, they are twins), I decided to start off with a landmark spot in New York – Staple Street. That bridge walkway between the two buildings, and this surprising alley has somehow become a landmark. Yet, it works. That walkway makes a perfect frame at the top of photographs.With the tall buildings in Manhattan, you usually get brighter areas or sky towards the top, or you get more buildings in the background. But here, you get that neat visual border. Nice!

Shooting on this late Fall day, in the shadows, the colors went muted and cold. The background turns to bluer hues because I decided to use flash for my lighting – and I didn’t want to be bothered with gelling my flashes somehow to match the very cold tones. In this case though, their black tops and blue jeans very much fit the colors and hues here … which makes their faces pop out even more in the final image.

These two photogenic girls are naturals at posing and take direction extremely well – making this one of those shoots the subjects (and setting) really help carry it to give a set of images that are eye-catching.

More about the lighting and the setup:

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flash photography: using a grid with a speedlight

During this photo session with Austin, I wanted to get a spot-light effect on, similar to that of a video light. Now, I have played around with various speedlight grids before, but never liked the result. Speedlite grids generally they concentrate the light to the extent that the direct light from a speedlight, becomes too concentrated and hard. For dramatic light, I really like the look of a video light, with that dramatic quality to the light, and with more defined shadows. I do want that fall-off in the light as the light spreads away from the subject.

As part of my Spinlight 360, I had two grids – white grid and a black grid. Since I didn’t have a video light with me during this session, I tried the white grid on the spur of the moment, to see if the white part of the grid would sufficiently scatter the light to “defocus” the light beam from the speedlight, while the grid itself contained the light.

And here’s the result. I really like it – a look similar to that of video light, but with more power … and with the PocketWizard TT5 on my camera, I could control the output! For this photograph, I also gelled the flash with 1/2 CTS gel to have the flash’s color balance closer to that of the ambient light.

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book review: Humans of New York

Chances are that you’re following, or at least heard of Humans of New York / FB page. Brandon Stanton is a photographer who has walked countless miles every day for nearly three years, photographing people on the streets of New York, and recording their stories. Their stories are visual (as in the impromptu portraits of them), but what really makes this site so engrossing, and endearing are the anecdotes. The life stories and insights. The way that people reveal themselves to his camera and to the world, through the portraits and a little glimpse into their lives … this is what makes the website so fascinating. These stories are endearing, but very often, quite touching. If you haven’t been aware of that site, time to check it out.

The big news then is that a compilation of many photographs in Humans Of New York (and some new photographs), have just been published as a hardcover book – Humans of New York (Amazon). If you’ve been following the HONY site, you’ll be well aware of this though. It’s quite the event.

304 pages of engrossing images, and snippets of anecdotes. I assume that for brevity, the anecdotes were truncated. In a way this is a pity because the HONY site has become as much about the stories and anecdotes, as the images. Two other (minor) negatives – the book is quite small – 9.7″ x 7.3″ – personally, I would’ve liked to see the images larger. Also, the printing quality is merely okay.But I have to balance the surprisingly low price of the book (only $18) against this.As it is, I would highly recommend this book to any photographer who loves people. In fact, I would recommend this book to anyone. It would take a hard heart not to be captivated by these glimpses into the lives of New Yorkers. A solid 5 stars!

 

 

other photography books

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photography technique: wedding portraits on the beach

I had the great pleasure of photographing Sarah and Antonio’s wedding in Santa Monica, California. For the romantic portrait, we went down to the beach in the late afternoon. With the pier in the background, and with the sun (even at 5pm) still beating down, the photos were going to look vibrant, with that sun-drenched look. Beautiful.

When I posted the photos in an album on Facebook, a number of people asked me about this (and other photos), and how I photographed them. The technique is quite straight-forward, as described in numerous articles on the Tangents blog. With that, instead of just giving the hard numbers of the camera settings, and a few details … I thought it might be better as a challenge to followers of the Tangents blog, to reverse engineer this, and figure out the details. So yes, there’s a little bit of homework involved.

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using video light for romantic portraits of the bride & groom

One of my favorite photos of the day. Why can’t wedding portraits of the bride and groom be a little bit sexy?

When I went back to the bridal suite during a quieter moment in the wedding reception to fetch some gear I had left there earlier, I had this thought that mmmm, yes! romantic portraits of the bride and groom on the bed in their suite. This might just work! So I called Julia and Louis back to the the bridal suite at the venue, and we did a sequence of images using video light.

I’m a big fan of video light for certain wedding portraits. The harder light and the rapid fall-off in light, lends a certain dramatic quality to images. Also, a video light like the Lowel iD-Light (vendor) that I used here, is neatly balanced for the Incandescent lighting found in most places indoors. The color balance is usually easily matched. An LED video light such as the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor), makes it even easier to change the color balance to your own intent.

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studio photography: low-key lighting – vintage portrait – Randy

Randy has a look reminiscent of Ava Gardner, so I asked her to be a subject for my book on Portrait photography. I wanted to create a portrait of Randy in the Hollywood Glamor style of lighting, similar to the vintage styled boudoir photo session (with Olena). And it looked great! But while I had someone so photogenic and with such dramatic styling, I wanted to take further photos of Randy, and she happily indulged me.

For one of the setups, I wanted to explore again using the Profoto beauty dish (vendor) as a single light source. As mentioned in a previous article - thoughts on using a beauty dish - a beauty dish is best used with a grid to contain the light spill. This does mean a beauty dish has to be used in a specific way – close up to your subject, and with specific posing. Without additional light from other light sources to give fill-light, a beauty dish can be fairly challenging as a single light source.

I wanted a low-key look, so I used a dark grey backdrop, and worked well ahead of it so that the light from the main light (beauty dish) had very little effect. (The Inverse Square Law helps here with the non-linear light fall-off to the background.) But to not have Randy’s dark hair melt away into a black background, it needed a hair-light of some kind. I set up a gridded Profoto RFi 1′×3′ softbox (vendor) behind her light from the back (and above).

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a passion for photography

October 2, 2013

do you have a passion for photography?

Are you truly passionate about photography? Great. But I need to have a quiet word with you about that, because here’s the thing – no one cares. Truly, no one cares that you have a passion for photography. Probably not even your mom by now.

Ever seen a guitarist shred like crazy? A glass-blower carefully creating delicate art pieces? Or a dancer performing gravity-defying moves? Yes? Well, do you think they have passion? Sure they do. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing, at the level they are doing it at. But do they insist on telling you, or do they just live it and act it and be it and show you? Exactly my point.

While this may sound like the start of an irrelevant rant, indulge me for a few minutes. The words, “I have a passion for photography” on your website may actually hurt you with prospective clients!

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on-location flash photography – adding backlighting / rim-light

Once you’re comfortable using a single off-camera light-source, such as a softbox (or un-diffused flash), there’s an easy next step to add a little bit of zing to the image. Rim-lighting!

I most often work with just a single softbox when photographing portraits on location. Having the sun behind your subject, creates a natural rim-lighting. This helps separate your subject from the background. It’s not just the shallow depth-of-field that helps create that near-3D effect where your subjects just pops out from the background – rim-lighting from behind also helps bring more attention to your subjects.

The best part – it is really simple to set up and use.

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