off-camera flash / speed light – overpowering the sun – what are my settings?

Teaching a class on using off-camera flash at the After Dark photography convention, I took a group of attendees outside on the street with two models. Then I stepped them through the thought-process in how to get to your basic, fail-safe, works-everytime camera settings and flash settings.

Regular visitors to the Tangents blog and those who have read my books on flash photography, should know the algorithm off by heart. There’s a specific thought-process that will get you to your basic camera & flash settings when working in bright sunlight, where you have to overpower the sun with a single speed light.

Instead of re-treading this ground myself, and re-stating everything, I thought it would be good to have everyone work through this themselves. It’s a good check to see if you’re familiar with what you need to do. There’s a very specific series of decisions you make that gets you to where you need to be with your camera and flash setting – and then you can concentrate on composition and everything else that is important in taking a photograph.  The camera settings choice should be second nature and should take you a few seconds.

So here’s the challenge - call it homework if you will:
- what are my (typical) camera & flash settings for the photograph at the top?
- how did I arrive at these settings?

Learn more inside…

{ 71 comments }

video clip: behind-the-scenes during photo session w/ Ulorin Vex

I’ve posted some of the images from the recent photo session in my studio, with Ulorin Vex – and here is the behind-the-scenes video clip. The instructional stuff will be in the related articles – this is more of a glimpse of the rhythm of the shoot in the studio.

Learn more inside…

{ 7 comments }

using a really big gridded strip-box / soft-box for portraits

There seems to be a natural progression with photographers exploring off-camera flash and studio photography. After the initial umbrella and softbox, the next purchase is usually a beauty dish, and then other esoterica such as ring-flash.

Personally, I’d suggest that one of the first light modifiers anyone should get, is a small or medium sized gridded strip-box. A strip-box is narrower than the usual soft boxes, and the grid really helps contain the light spread. So you now have the ability to get relatively soft light, but also control it much better than a regular softbox or especially an umbrella. Most of the photos shot for the review of the Profoto B1 portable flash, was shot with a Profoto 1′×3′ gridded softbox (B&H). It was just the right combination of portable & awesome light.

When I added some lighting gear to my studio space to make it attractive as a rental studio space, I decided to get three of these gridded stripboxes …  1×3 and  1×4 and 1×6 seemed liked a good progression. But the Profoto RFi 1′×6′ softbox (B&H) with the 50 degree 1×6 grid (B&H) turned out to be huge. Very tall. Six feet tall. This is the kind of light that you use to light the contours of cars in much larger studios. It’s pretty big.

So the softbox lay dormant in my studio, until this recent photo session with Anita De Bauch, a model from the UK who visited the New York area. And in figuring out a specific way to light her, I had an epiphany. A relegation in how this massive stripbox can be used for portraits. There’s a way the light can be controlled that is quite unique to it, I believe.

(Now, before clicking on the ‘more’ link, be aware that the rest of this post has images with some nudity.)

Learn more inside…

{ 6 comments }

updated review: Manfrotto 1004BAC lightstands

You’d think that light-stands are light-stands. They hold up studio lights or speedlights and any kind of light modifier. But what sets light-stands apart from each other, are the other features – such as portability and ease of use.

I mostly use the Manfrotto 1051BAC  / 1052BAC  and 1004BAC light-stands. My review of the Manfrotto light-stands explains this. What I like most about them, is that they are stackable. They clip together in quite a compact set of light-stands. Easier to carry with one hand. The clipping-together feature also means they don’t rattle as much as other pieces of metal gear banging against each other in the back of your car.

But there’s another feature of the tall Manfrotto 1004BAC  (B&H / Amazon USAUK), that I never quite was aware of. That there’s a certain poking-ability with them. You can extend it and poke stuff with it. Or in this case, lift the bride’s veil out of a tree.

At a wedding this weekend, as the bride and groom were posing outside on the steps of the church, a gust of wind grabbed the veil and wafted it away. It lodged in a tree. The limo drivers were onto it immediately, looking for something to dislodge the veil – and there was my light-stand. Look at the reach! And there was still one section to go. They hadn’t even gotten to the limit of that beast!

So there it is. These light-stands are awesome. They are fairly light-weight, they are very tall, and they stack together – and you can poke and dislodge stuff with it. Neat.

Learn more inside…

{ 5 comments }

podcast interview w/ Full Time Photographer podcast blog

John Rossi who maintains the Full Time Photographer website, interviewed me for the latest podcast on his site. As the name of his website would suggest, the theme of the interview was centered around business advice, and how I got started with my photography career.

When people ask me what kind of photography I do, I find it hard to describe these days exactly what it is that I do. My career as a photographer has moved away from purely shooting weddings and portraits. With the books and workshops as well as the Tangents blog, the photography work has expanded. A year ago I got my studio space, and now I offer it as a rental photo studio to other photographers. Commercial photography, Corporate photography and Headshots have been added to the mix of work that I do. I was even able to sell some of my Time-Lapse clips that I’ve shot. So it’s really a mixed bag at the moment. This diversity of course helps to keep it fresh and non-routine.

And this is part of what I discuss during this long rambling conversation – how I started, and where I am now. It’s been quite a journey. Along with the podcast with Steven Cotterell, this podcast interview takes it further than just a discussion of flash photography and lighting, into something else which is perhaps more informative in its own way.

{ 3 comments }

photography video tutorials by Craftsy

In conjunction with the team at Craftsy, I’ve presented four video tutorials – two on flash photography, and two on wedding photography. They’ve received very good feedback from those who enrolled so far.

These are ideal for photographers who want to learn more but whose time is restricted, and also can’t make it out to New York for a photography workshop. A video tutorial is a great way then to see the material. This is often easier to understand than just reading text. So while it isn’t quite in-person one-on-one tutoring, it is close to that with Craftsy’s interactive platform and well-structered video tutorials. It’s an online workshop on photography!

In addition to the four classes I presented on video, other photographers have also presented online video tutorials on various subjects. These are the other classes that are available at this time. Check them out!

 

Commercial Photography: Taking Product Photos That Sell
with Christopher Grey

Learn the business and techniques of product photography, guided by industry expert Chris Grey. Discover invaluable tips for successfully finding clients and collaborating with art directors, and create a dynamic portfolio with Chris’ step-by-step guidance through product shot setups. Master a range of strategic lighting designs, and showcase and accentuate the texture, form and detail of flagship products. Use subtle adjustments in modifiers and product position to take a shot from basic to blockbuster, and learn how to shoot reflective products for images that stand out from the pack. Plus, find out how to use post-processing techniques to improve your shots and create the polished, professional look clients want.

Learn more inside…

{ 0 comments }

bounce flash photography – adjusting the black foamie thing to be a snoot

During the day, as I photograph a wedding, I am continually mixing up the lighting, adapting and adjusting. It’s part of the process of giving my clients as much variety as possible, and also just being flexible in adapting to the demands of the various locations. It’s therefore a varied approach in using all kinds of light sources: off-camera flash, on-camera flash, video light and available light. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge of being a wedding photographer – thinking on your feet. Of course there’s extra pressure on you as photographer when you’re flown to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding!

The morning after Peiwen and Eric’s wedding, they had the Tea Ceremony with the parents, and Peiwen was in traditional dress. I just had to get more portraits of the two of them, and with Peiwen in this striking red dress.

In the elevator lobby on their floor, there were these seats and mirrors and wood paneling that looked like it would make an elegant setting for some portraits of the couple. But the light there was uneven, and not very bright. I needed to add some light, but only had a video light with me, and on-camera flash. With that large mirror, someone holding up a video light would’ve involved a lot of Photoshop work. So the next option – bounce flash. But again, that large mirror there was a challenge.

Learn more inside…

{ 15 comments }

working with harder light sources in the studio – flash & continuous light  (model: Ulorin Vex)

With the recent photo session with Ulorin Vex in the studio, I played with variations of using harder light and using shadow as part of the image’s composition. The first setup was similar to a previous photo session in the studio with Anelisa:  smaller light = dramatic light. Ulorin Vex easily fell into poses well suited to this idea of using the shadow as part of the image’s design.

For this final image, I used a textured overlay to enhance the sun-drenched look. I also wanted to hide the texture of the wall a bit by cloaking it with the Photoshop texture. I used a warm colored texture, to echo the color of her hair, and which then also was a complement to the blue dress. The color also took away some of the starkness of the image.

Learn more inside…

{ 2 comments }

photographing a wedding in Melbourne, Australia

Learn more inside…

{ 13 comments }

wedding photography: dealing with the DJ’s lights

As wedding reception venues and DJs are becoming more sophisticated in their lighting, there’s now the added challenge of spotlights and lasers and other lighting effects that compete with the simplicity of just using flash.

So how do you deal with this? You just deal with this. One way or another.

You can either embrace the colors (as in the example above),
or you can use flash to neutralize some of the wild color casts.
Just how do you do that? Well, there’s a little bit of homework at the end of this.

Very often, I shoot towards the DJ’s booth, so that the wild colors become splashes of color, whether I add (on-camera bounce) flash, or not. This way I don’t have to directly compete with the lights, but they become an enhancement of the image.

With lasers skimming around – my advice is to shoot a lot to make sure you have enough images, in case some were spoiled by bright green dots. Also, learn to love photoshop and the Healing Brush.

With up-lighting that becomes quite prominent – well, there’s the little bit of homework to do at the end!

And if anyone advises you to use specific settings such as (for example):  1/60 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO to cover every situation, they are fools who are misleading you. There are too many variables for generic camera settings. Scenarios and situations change. You need to adapt.

You’re not a passenger of your camera’s settings. You control them to allow more ambient light in, or less. And if you allow less ambient light in, you need to add additional light, whether flash or video light.

Learn more inside…

{ 18 comments }

12345...10...83