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.

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your photographs are wonderful – you must have a really nice camera

There is an amusing anecdote doing the rounds as a graphic on Facebook and elsewhere – it’s a quote ascribed to Sam Haskins. Now, if you consider the number of quotes that get propagated on Facebook that are ascribed to Morgan Freeman, I’m surprised Sam Haskins even got a mention. But I digress.

The quote relates a story where a photographer smacks down a socialite in New York for some comment about the photographer’s camera. Well, here it is, and it kinda rankles me …

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Optimum Online & spam popup adverts

“We are not responsible for content on the internet” was the blunt line that I was deflected with when I spoke to tech support at Optimum Online / CableVision. My counterpoint is that I get these pop-ups only when logged on with my new Optimum WiFi account, and even when I browsed my own site.

Optimum tech support refused to acknowledge this, and refused to (initially) escalate this as a valid complaint. It took a 40+ minute heated phone call before the lady on the other side of the phone would even budge from that blunt refusal that there is a problem.


Due to this experience with Optimum Online, and really bad experiences with their tech support, I’ve decided to go with Verizon FIOS instead for my internet connection in the studio, and close my account with Optimum Online.

My experience with Optimum Online has me wondering just how badly they must be bleeding customers to their competitors.


Back to the original story:

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review: Litepanels Croma LED video light

For one of the mini-workshops in Las Vegas, I used a Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor). This photo of our model, Gwen, shows the typically dramatic light from a video light. The pronounced light fall off can work to our advantage.

What sets this hand-held / on-camera LED video light apart from most, is that you can vary the color temperature. I have, and still use, the Litepanels MicroPro (vendor). I prefer the MicroPro over many of the cheaper LED lights that I have seen because the WB is daylight, without a nasty color cast.

Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor), goes even better. You can vary the WB between 3200K and 5600K by dialing a knob. No more need for a gel to be clipped in and out. The gel (or lack of gel) would mean a specific WB with the LitePanels Pro. With the variable adjustment of the Litepanels Croma, you have every color balance setting inbetween. For this photo at the top, we were at 3200K, but I changed the WB to 3300K in post-processing.

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photographic composition, posing, light & lighting – when it all comes together

I just love this photograph of Anastasia Z, and want to share some of the through-process in how it came together.

To test the Canon 6D camera (vendor) and the Canon 24-70mm f/4.0L IS lens (vendor), I met up with Anastasia Z in New York. I scouted this area, while we were waiting for Anastasia who was running a touch late. Just as well I did the scouting earlier on, because it was freezing outside.

I saw the way this building over the Highline in Manhattan was creating this jagged shape with strong lines. I also knew the staggered vertical lines would work well, silhouetted against the winter sky. When we met up with Anastasia, we discussed an approximate plan of where we’d shoot .. including somewhere inside eventually. But I wanted to try this one specific idea first – right here.

So, knowing more or less what I wanted, we walked towards this spot. On our way there, I did try out an idea, but it didn’t quite hang together, and I dropped it to get to this place where I knew the idea would work.

So here’s how this photograph came together with just three test images …

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using the Canon EOS 6D in movie mode

To test the Canon EOS 6D  camera (vendor) and the Canon 24-70mm f4.0L IS lens (vendor), I met up with Anastasia Z in New York. She had such presence and confidence, that while shooting stills of her earlier in the day, I had an idea of a video sequence we could do. And with that, here is an overview of how well the Canon 6D fares as a video camera.

So when the light levels starting falling this afternoon, we went to Times Square, which is always insanely lit up by the numerous billboards. An ever-changing flood of light from every direction.

This 30 second clip is an edit from about 12 clips I shot of her. We had to work fast since it was freezingly cold, especially with the wind blowing. We’d work out a sequence while she had her warm jacket on, and then she’d hand it over to my friend, Peter Salo, who assisted us. Then we’d shoot a sequence quickly, before she popped the thicker jacket on again, and tried to warm up a little bit again.

Even with having to shoot fast, and only being able to shoot limited sequences, I am very happy with the results. It definitely shows how energetic and sensational our model, Anastasia Z, is. (If you’re a New York photographer, check her out on Model Mayhem.)

More techie info about the video clip, and about the Canon 6D …

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