flash photography

mixing the white balance of different light sources

While we would do well to gel our flash when working in a very warm or incandescent spectrum, (such as when shooting at a venue bathed in Tungsten light), the last few articles showed how we can use it to our advantage when using different light sources with different color balance. The effect can be quite dramatic.

The examples shown have been varied:

In the first example (with Bethany as our model), we looked at using random found available light as portrait lighting. With the next example, the effect was purposely sought by gelling our flash for effect. A similar contrast in white balance can also be found by using a Tungsten-gelled LED video light in a non-tungsten environment, forcing all the daylight colors to go toward a bold blue tone. The most recent example showed how we could use the modeling light in the studio with additional flash as rim light, to give a punchy image with warm colors.

Those four examples all had entirely different scenarios, but the same idea was used in all  of them to get punchy colorful images – using light sources with different white / color balance.

This image here at the top was shot with a similar set-up as the sequence where we gelled our main flash with 1/2 CTS gels to allow the background to go blue

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finding something to bounce your flash off

One of the frequent questions that come up, is what to do when there is nothing to bounce your flash off.  When working indoors and there are bounce-able surfaces around me, my first instinct is to use on-camera bounce flash. It is easy to use, and the results can look surprisingly good, especially if you consider the minimal effort that went into it. No extra gear to carry around and set up. But when there is nothing to bounce flash off, you have to adapt your technique …

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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!

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on-location headshots that work (w/ Meagan Lee)

This image is from the recent photo session with Meagan Lee, getting headshots for her portfolio. While this specific photograph is perhaps not useable as a headshot, I loved the way the wind whipped her hair around.

An uncomplicated portrait made stronger with a few things working in its favor:
- effective off-camera lighting via a softbox,
- a complementary but non-intrusive background,
- strong diagonal lines created by Meagan’s pose.

With that, this photograph again shows a simple and effective method for great portraits on-location:

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video clip – using the black foamie thing

When bouncing your flash, flagging your on-camera speedlight is a simple way of controlling the direction of light from your flash .. and hence, controlling the quality of light from the on-camera flash. I use a simple piece of black foam – the infamous black foamie thing, to achieve this.

To help explain the use of the Black Foamie Thing (BFT), I met up with Anelisa to create a short video clip.

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using the PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller

This portrait of musician, Josh Adams, was a fairly quick set-up. I deliberately chose an area in a large hotel conference room to shoot this. A bit of a challenge to see how quickly I could get a simple but dramatic portrait out of a ‘nothing’ scenario. Here’s the pull-back shot that will show you the area, as well as the placement of the lights:

The light came from three speedlights, all controlled with the PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceivers. They in turn were controlled via an on-camera FlexTT5 (for Nikon), with an AC3 Zone Controller piggy-backing on the TT5. Using the AC3 Controller made it a breeze to control the output (and mode) of each of the three speedlights. I could switch any of them to manual, or to TTL. I could control the TTL units’ Flash Exposure Compensation from the ACR3.  And I could control the manual output, if I had decided to switch the speedlight to manual mode.  All from my camera …

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adding bounce flash to ambient light

Using images from a past workshop, I want to explain a simple concept with flash photography on location. In workshops and seminars I quite often describe the flash as ‘riding on top of’ the available light exposure. It’s just another way of describing the usual technique of under-exposing the ambient light somewhat, and then using flash to give correct exposure. We can thereby control the final look of the image by controlling the direction of light from our flash.

By using flash like this, we can use the flash to ‘clean up’ the light in the photograph.

This photograph of Crystal, our model at this workshop, was taken during the early evening. We were working outside, using some of the found surfaces to bounce flash off.  The trick here is to find that combination of bounceable surface, a good background, and then to position your model so that the additional light from the flash adds to the final image. What I like about this specific image is how the sign (and the reflection of the sign) outside the hotel creates a halo around Crystal.

Here is the image without flash, and also a pull-back image to see what surface I bounced the flash off ..

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why should you use a higher ISO?

The advice for optimal camera settings for best image quality are usually:
- use the lowest possible ISO:
- at an aperture about 3 stops down from maximum (the widest) aperture;
- at a shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake and unintentional subject movement.

Taking this general advice at face value, means using the camera at its base ISO, which would either be 100 ISO or 200 ISO. However, while this advice is sound in theory, in practice this doesn’t have direct consequence on my decision about my camera settings.

In terms of exposure settings, we obviously want correct exposure, even if ‘correct exposure’ is open to interpretation.  Now if we are using only available light, then we have what we have for that specific scenario. If the ambient light is low, we would need a higher ISO / wider aperture / slower shutter speed.  There’s no wriggle room here.

But if we’re using flash, why not use the flash to give us correct exposure at these optimal settings?  Why would we even go to a higher ISO?

The reason: when using flash on location, I am mostly concerned about balancing my flash with the ambient light. Or somehow taking my ambient light into account to give some context.  It just looks better!

Let’s get back to the photograph at the top:

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comparison between a softbox, a white shoot-through umbrella and a bounce umbrella

I’ve had several requests from readers of the Tangents blog about how the light from a softbox would differ from the light from an umbrella. Spurred on by that, and by my own curiosity, I met up a while ago with my favorite model, Anelisa, specifically to do comparison shots.

And here it is …

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My friend Chuck Arlund is a Fashion Photographer whose elegant photography is something I always admire. Chuck’s previous guest spots here have been well received. His article on  simple on-location lighting techniques using a reflector & flash, was especially popular. Therefore I’m really glad that Chuck is graciously sharing with us how he came to shoot this stunning photograph for Parasuco.

Do check out Chuck’s website and blog for more of his stunning photography.

Fashion photo shoot, using multiple lights

by Chuck Arlund

Hey there everyone!  I have been working with a celebrity stylist and we have shot a few fun projects together. Just for our books. She uses Parasuco a lot for her clients, like Bon Jovi. One of the images we shot was pretty cool of the model wearing some of their jeans. She sent it to them to show what she was doing. They loved it.

A few weeks later the MUA of the original shoot wanted to do some beauty shots. Parasuco had sent some stuff to the stylist for us to shoot and see how it looked. During the beauty shoot we did some shots for Parasuco. After I had processed a few we sent them to the company. They really loved them and ended up purchasing a year license to use this image. It will be a billboard in the airport in Berlin and trade show magazine adverts.

Here is the tutorial explaining the setup for this shot. I used multiple lights …

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