when you need extreme bounce flash to photograph the wedding processional

As mentioned in the article on photographing the wedding processional, in my opinion, the wedding processional in the church is likely the most challenging part of the day in terms of our technique. People are moving towards you – admittedly at slow pace, unless the bridesmaids are nervous. Then they can easily just zip right up to the front! The light levels are low, and the light is most likely uneven. Adding flash to this is a reliable way to get clean open light on your subjects, but bounce flash can be a bit of a challenge.

As an example, with this wedding in Temple Israel of Lawrence, in New York, the light was really low. Not just that, the temple itself was cavernously huge. Yet, a few test shots showed that I could get the kind of light that I like, using just on-camera bounce flash.

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Planet Neil

April 3, 2013

Planet Neil gets a make-over

A few years back, I moved the Tangents blog over from the PlanetNeil domain to the new domain, neilvn, to keep it in line with rebranding my site and my photography. I know, PlanetNeil is a quirky name and memorable, but it also sounds like something a 12-yr old would’ve come up with. That says a lot about my general state of mind perhaps. Perhaps.

Since that time, the PlanetNeil domain lingered as just a splash page with a link through to the Tangents blog. But I also noticed that a huge number of people seem to have still kept it as a bookmark, and enter the Tangents blog via that link. With that, I thought it might be cool to update the PlanetNeil intro page into something less bland.

So there it is, PlanetNeil had a make-over, with more images and a list of the most recent blog entries. A bit of window-dressing for the long time followers of this website. Thank you for having stayed on for this journey!


review: Fuji X100s

April 1, 2013

review: Fuji X100s

One of the most compelling cameras in recent years, was the Fuji X100. It had a slick retro look, solid build, and some interesting features such as the hybrid optical viewfinder. The camera looked quite sexy slung over your shoulder, and felt great in your hands. But it had a few flaws. Sluggish handling at times, and more crucially, erratic auto-focus. It tended to grab the background when focusing in low-contrast light. I loved my Fuji X100, but eventually sold it because of these frustrations.

Well, the Fuji X100 was updated with the Fuji X100s (vendor).
To sum it up: the Fuji X100s is what the original Fuji X100 should’ve been!

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studio lighting: smaller light source = harder light = more dramatic light

When I first started exploring bounce flash, and then off-camera flash and then progressing towards studio photography, my tendency was also instinctively towards softer light. A large light source gives you softer light, and it is more forgiving in terms of how you position your subject and yourself in relation to the light. A large light source is easy to work with. Soft light is flattering. It is a forgiving light source. But it soon became obvious that I was missing out on that dramatic element that attracted me to other images, and what I saw in movies. While soft light is flattering, it tends not to give dramatic results. (Of course, this depends on how you position your light.)

Working with video light in photography, I quickly got to love the light fall-off and the way that you only light a specific part of your subject, instead of just flooding your subject with light.

Working with just a speedlight in bright sunlight, we mostly have to get used to working with a harder / smaller light source … and make it look good! As an example, here is the photo of Molly K, taken during an individual workshop in New York, where we worked with direct off-camera flash.

In the studio as well, selectively lighting part of your subject, or just using a smaller harder light source as a single light, gives you more opportunity for different looks than just using one large light source. In photographing Anelisa recently for the promotional video clip for my studio, I used smaller light sources for several of the setups. This image above then, is from one of those setups. Here I used the Profoto 50 degree Magnum Reflector (vendor) to concentrate the light, but still give a wide enough beam.

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video clip: photo session in the studio w/ Anelisa

To promote my studio as a rental photography studio here in New Jersey, I created this video clip. It’s not quite a behind-the-scenes clip since my intention was to show some of the diversity that is possible in the studio. Using different lighting, and different backgrounds and setups, the final photographs look quite different.

gallery of images of photo session with Anelisa, and other models subsequently.

photography studio rental NJ

The specific sequences will appear as distinct articles here on Tangents, as to how the specific looks were created, incl lighting setups and camera settings and the usual stuff. We’ll come back to this!

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What if you need more light from your bounce flash?

Because I so often use on-camera bounce flash, one of the questions I’m regularly asked is, what if there is nothing to bounce your flash off? There is also the variant – what if there isn’t enough light from the bounced flash?

In both cases, the answer is the same – you improvise!
Not only that, but you need to be prepared to improvise.

The photograph above is from a recent Bat Mitzvah, showing the big group shot of the kids. If you’ve photographed Bar / Bat Mitzvahs before, you know this is coming up, and you have to be prepared for it.

You’re prepared for it by:
– having a ladder handy to stand on
– a wide enough lens and enough space to move back into
– enough light!

You can not just be passive and go … oh, oops! You need to be prepared and have done some homework before any event you photograph. (It seems such an obvious thing to even need stating like that!)

This particular venue has a really awkwardly shaped ceiling, and it has a bronze color in places. So it makes bounce flash photography a bit of a challenge, but I was able to get pretty good results by pushing the ISO higher. Using a camera like the Nikon D4 is an obvious boost here!

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Anelisa in the studio for a photo session

To create a promotional video clip for my studio, I had Anelisa stop by today so we could do a variety of looks. We used available light, continuous light, and studio lighting. It is also the first time we saw each other since the release of my new book – Direction of Light – so I was able to give her her copies. (In case anyone missed it, Anelisa is on the cover.)

As we reminisced a while about the number of times we had workshops and photo sessions, I realized that today was exactly three years, to the day, since the first time we worked together. The photos from that individual workshop resulted in one of the key articles on Tangents – effective on-location portraits. So yes, it’s been a long working relationship with Anelisa, my favorite model.

More images from this photo session, as well as the video clip, will be up in the coming days. But in the meantime, here is the pull-back shot of this image at the top …

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studio lighting: ringflash as a single light-source

I have a confession to make about ring-flash, especially when it is used as a single light-source. I’ve never been a fan. I’ve never liked the stark over-lit look that it produces. Even in images that are supposed to be edgy and trendy.

I’ve seen some incredible examples where the ringflash is part of a multi-light setup, with the ring-flash doing a just little bit of the work. But I haven’t yet seen an image where the ring-flash was the only light source (or dominant light source), where the photo has set my world ablaze.

I’ve taken flack on some of the photography forums for that view – it’s as if I am attacking someone’s religion by offering a non-conforming viewpoint. But I really don’t like ringflash. But, you know, as the saying goes – don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. So when I met up with Morgan Joyce, I thought her heavily tattooed appearance would make her a good subject for this style of lighting – something modern and … well, edgy and trendy. (Check her Model Mayhem page.)

For these images, I used the Profoto Acute 2 Ring-Flash (vendor),
attached to the the Profoto Acute B2 600 W/s powerpack (vendor).

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boudoir photo session w/ Westcott Spiderlite TD6 and TD5 (model – Morgan)

When Morgan contacted me, I knew I wanted her tattoos to feature. (Check her Model Mayhem portfolio.) We met up in my studio for the shoot to try several ideas.

First, I tried ring-flash, but as usual, disliked the look of ring-flash. I just can’t get into it.  A funny thing about style – I like soft light – so I went Westcott Spiderlites (continuous lights) and a large softbox on Morgan, and a Profoto flash head to light up the white paper backdrop. It looked pretty cool.

Then, for the final part of the photo session, I continued working with the Westcott Spiderlites, veering more towards a boudoir photo session. Moving the couch to the middle of the carpeted area of my studio, I set up the lights to give a nice flood of light on her. The pull-back shot shows how they were set up …

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Las Vegas photo session with a model, using video light – model: Taylor B

While in Las Vegas recently, I met up with Taylor B, who is a photographer and model … and also follows the Tangents blog. For a photo session, I decided I would like the glamor and glitz of one of the lobby areas of one of the big Vegas hotels. Taylor’s outfit certainly matched the glitz. Shooting inside the hotel lobby though, I also knew we’d get kicked out immediately if security spotted us. So I took it as a challenge to see if we could surreptitiously shoot without getting shunted out.

Still loving the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor) that I showed in the recent review, I decided it might just be the right lighting tool for the job. My friends Nick & Deb graciously tagged along to help, and also provide a bit of cover, while we hung out as a group and mingled.

Instead of working with a light-stand or a monopod, I simply had Nick hand-hold the light as soon as Taylor and I were ready to shoot.

Learn more inside…