October 22, 2012
controlling bright sunlight with direct off-camera flash
Working with Molly K as our model during an individual flash photography workshop in New York, we put in action the thought-process when using flash in very bright light. There’s a specific algorithm that gets us to optimal settings.
But, as usual, there’s more to a final image than just the numerical settings on the camera …
September 25, 2012
bounce flash photography
An image from the archives – a jazz trumpet player during a session in a club, lit by on-camera bounce flash. Since it’s a perfect example of how I use on-camera bounce flash so that it looks nothing like on-camera flash, I’d like to use it to illustrate this summary of on-camera bounce flash technique:
The light in this image is nearly all from my flash. The red hue in the background, and spilling onto part of the trumpet and his skin, is from the strong red lights in the night-club. To eliminate this, I under-exposed the ambient light, by choosing my camera settings accordingly. (See the comparison photo below.)
By under-exposing the ambient light, the flash becomes the main source of light … and this allowed me to control the quality of light.
August 25, 2012
direct off-camera flash photography – fill-light
I really like using a medium-sized softbox when photographing portraits. A softbox allows me to get soft, directional light pretty much anywhere. The most recent example I showed here, was Lucia and Alvin’s wedding in Central Park, New York. Of course, I do make it easier for myself when using off-camera flash for photo sessions on location - I pick my battles. I don’t try to make *everything* work. Instead, with a photo session where I can control the light and background and setting for my subjects, I can make it easier for myself by not choosing tough lighting scenarios.
With Amy and Clark’s photo session, I brought along my usual set of gear … but left the Lastolite softbox behind. I brought the Lastolite bracket along, and the radio transmitters. Everything but the actual diffusion box to fit over the speedlight. With that, I had to slightly change how I usually work to still get great results that look like my usual style.
August 15, 2012
wedding photography: using high ISO and flash to retain ambience at the reception
Chatting with other photographers at the recent WPS convention in Chapel Hill, NC, I was again struck by how there are so many different ways of approaching lighting. In this case, lighting at the wedding reception. The one photographer I was chatting to, set up multiple speedlights around the reception room, and then controls which are fired, from his on-camera Master speedlight. Very impressive.
In recent years, the wedding reception venues where I’ve shot on the East Coast of the USA, have moved away from being the dark-hole large rooms, by adding up-lighting, and making the places generally more vibrant and colorful. Coupled with the astonishing high-ISO capability of the last two generations of cameras, I really haven’t felt the need to set up additional lighting to lift the general light levels, like I would have in the past, as described in this article:
- wedding photography: TTL flash with off-camera manual flash
A wedding from earlier this year, at the same venue … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just an on-camera speed light.
- bounce flash photography & the inverse square law
By using a higher ISO, and carefully bouncing my flash, I could get away with a much simpler set-up of a single on-camera speedlight.
Here’s an example of a recent wedding, where the reception was in a glass-house style conservatory. By shooting against the DJ’s lights, I was able to NOT have a dark background, but something colorful instead.
June 21, 2012
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.
June 5, 2012
off-camera flash in low light – choosing your shutter speed
In the article on maximum flash sync speed, a question came up whether this is where we’d be at even in low light.
The answer is, that we’d most likely be at a shutter speed where the ambient light shows up. To remain at max flash sync speed in low light, isn’t the immediate best choice, for the background would usually go too dark. And we would like context. Our photographs usually look best with our subject in surroundings we can recognize, or complements our subject in some way.
Regarding our choice of max flash sync speed, this is the best go-to camera setting when you use flash in bright ambient light. High-speed flash sync kills too much of our flash output, to be our first choice, unless we are specifically chasing the higher shutter speeds or wider apertures. If you use a softbox or umbrella (or some light modifier) with high-speed flash, then you stand the risk of the flash simply not being able to pump out enough light to match the bright light. For this, generally our sweet spot is maximum flash sync speed.
Shutter speed choice when using flash, will vary depending on what we’re photographing, or trying to achieve. In low light, we’re most often dragging the shutter. But we have to be able to adapt what we do, against what we’re trying to achieve with our photos.
As recap example of using flash in low light, let’s have a closer look at the top image:
March 12, 2012
more still about flash photography
I presented another Master-Class this year at WPPI in Las Vegas. I rather audaciously chose the title of my talk to be:
Flash Photography – The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
As a photographer, there are certain inescapable essentials we absolutely have to know before we can progress in understanding light and lighting. In this presentation, Neil barrels through the conflicting advice you’ve received, offering the essential building blocks to help you truly grasp the power of flash and lighting done right.
That does seem rather bold now! Very ambitious. With the presentation I pulled together a number of key concepts which are essential to understanding flash photography. So there wasn’t an overall theme in this case – just ten different concepts which I think are important.
The presentation over-ran by about 45 minutes, with all of the questions that had to be answered. The response to my presentation was very good. One of the emails I received afterwards said: “I took your platform class at the WPPI this year and I have to say, it was my favourite by far!!” And that is so good to hear!
With this, I have decided to add the material to the flagship articles here on flash photography.
elements of flash photography
It is mostly links to the related articles – but all the information is there. Time to explore!
December 4, 2011
gelling your flash for effect
The idea of gelling your flash for effect has been a topic here a few times. I most often use gels on my flash to correct my flash when working with tungsten / incandescent light. There are times though when I gel my flash just for effect, creating a shift between my foreground (lit by gelled flash) and my background.
In the examples shown in the several articles here, there wasn’t the type of background where the effect can clearly be seen on easily recognizable “neutral” background. In the article turning day into night, we turned the sky a dark shade of blue. With the sequence of photos of a model, Bethany, there was a reflective mirrored wall as background that we changed the color of. The effect looks stunning, but the mirrored wall might not be something that makes the color shift obvious to the casual visitor here.
With that, during a recent individual workshop in Manhattan, while working with Anelisa again, I took the opportunity to specifically take this sequence of images. They will hopefully clearly show how we can create a more dramatic effect by shifting the color balance of our flash in relation to the available light …
August 22, 2011
using high-speed flash sync / Auto FP
A fun image taken during an individual workshop today - our model, Aleona caught-mid-air … with a fast shutter speed and flash, to freeze the movement. Even Jessica, my assistant with the ‘tood, was positively elevated with the experience of photographing Aleona today.
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April 12, 2011
New to flash photography? Start here!
In preparing the material for the just-completed webinar, Don’t Fear Your Flash, I had given some thought to where I should start with the material. Flash photography on one level is so simple once you “get it” … but from the outside, it can look intimidating and complex. I feel that flash photography is one of those subjects which start to make sense once you grasp a bunch-of-things simultaneously. But how to explain it all at once so that it makes sense?
So I wondered about where exactly I should start the material for the webinar. What should I start a seminar with when I have a 90 minute time limit? Camera settings? Aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings? Manual flash vs TTL flash? Metering for flash and ambient light?
During a test run with the Clickin Moms team who had arranged and hosted the webinar, I had to check voice levels, and was told to say something. I just started riffing on the idea of starting the webinar … and as I said, “where do we even start?” to the imagined audience, it hit me .. that’s exactly what we need to do. We just have to start. We just have to take those first photos!
We can spend too much time caught up in first trying to understand all the technical aspects and all the nuances of lighting. We can be too intimidated by all that to actually use a flash … when all we need to do as a start, is to actually start using the flash!