off-camera flash

gelling your flash for the warm light at sunset

Since the light from a speedlight is relatively quite cold, (ie, blue-ish), it can create an unpleasant color cast when you use flash with existing warm ambient light. A typical problem situation would be the Incandescent environment that we often find ourselves in at night. But there are other times when the WB from our speedlights (typically around 5400K) is just too cold (blue) compared to the light we have at sunset. (The Daylight WB preset relates to color of daylight during the middle of the day.) Then we need to do something with our flash to help match those warm hues at sunset. Gelling is the answer.

With this photo session of Lauren and Chris, we were at this breath-taking vantage point overlooking Manhattan. The sun was starting to set and taking on those very warm tones that look so gorgeous. Blue-tinted flash would’ve spoiled this. Since they were in a shaded spot, I had to use additional lighting here. I had to try and make it appear as if they were bathed in the same warm light.

I normally keep 1/2 CTS gel taped to my lens hood, so that I have ready access to gels. The 1/2 CTS is measured for 3700K which would’ve been too warm in this instance. So instead of covering the entire face of the flash-head with the gel, I only partially covered it, by turning the gel sideways. In other words, taping it down vertically instead of horizontally over the flash head … and this was just enough to have the same warm light on the couple, as there was on the city. A much better balance.

Learn more inside…

{ 21 comments }

photo session – Modern Gypsies – golden birds

Another series from the recent publicity photo session with the Modern Gypsies, with two of the girls in costume, as golden birds. With costumes this detailed and complex, I wanted a simpler background. One that didn’t intrude, and somehow complemented the subjects. Classic architecture!

Here are the behind-the-scenes images to how we came to some killer photographs for them …

Learn more inside…

{ 9 comments }

off-camera flash with a small softbox

Most of the images shot as part of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG lens review, were with available light only. But for one sequence, I used off-camera flash. I didn’t intend carrying a lot of equipment, so I stripped it down to the minimum. That meant forgoing my usual softbox, the Lastolite Ezybox (24″x24″) (B&H). Instead, I opted for the much smaller  Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H). And instead of a light-stand, Nicole’s friend, Andrew helped out on the day by holding the softbox and slave speedlight.

In getting to the final image, the thought-process was similar to that described in this article: off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama – (model: Olena)

So let’s run through the sequence of images …

Learn more inside…

{ 10 comments }

going for that classic look in a photo – how it all came together (model: Elizabeth)

When I saw the beautiful architecture of the Court House in Denver, CO, I knew that I wanted to use this as a backdrop for part of the mini photography workshop in Denver. In terms of composition, the imposing pillars and leading lines of the steps would simultaneously make a simple and classic background. Our model, Elizabeth, fortunately had this simple, yet elegant black dress as part of her wardrobe. For me, this photo comes together with the way the model (with her own style and styling), and the chosen location, complements each other.

That’s all a long way to say that I really like this image.

So while “having some kind of idea what you want to do” at the start of a photo session, is always a help, the success of any resulting photographs are most often a result of all the other choices coming together as well – posing, composition and lighting.

The composition is fairly straight-forward. But do notice that I shot slightly upwards towards her, to accentuate her legs. Shooting down would’ve created a strange fore-shortening effect. The focal length on the zoom lens was 38mm – wide-ish. If you’re photographing people with a wide lens, it is best to shoot from belly-button height with the camera – exactly where an old twin-lens reflex camera would’ve been held. This way you’re not shooting down, nor shooting up. So spatial distortion is minimized.

Then there’s also that touch of serendipity – yes, that word again – which brings some unexpected magic. In this image, her shadow was what helped pull the image together. Suddenly it isn’t just soft lighting – now it looks like a bit of sunshine sneaking through a thin layer of clouds. And the image pops!

The specific look to this B&W image was done via a recipe I created in Radlab.

To get that dramatic light on her, we used undiffused off camera flash. In other words – hard direct off-camera speedlight. Since this is a small light source, you have to be very specific in posing your subject. Posing “into the light” usually works best. You have to be careful though not to get weird shadows, but to have the light from the bare flash still be flattering.

The way the shadow fell behind her, was an accidental little bonus. I’ll take it when it comes.

More about the lighting and the camera settings ….

Learn more inside…

{ 14 comments }

camera & flash settings: what do you want to achieve?  (model: Ulorin Vex)

In one of the multitude of photography groups on Facebook, I saw a newcomer to off-camera flash say that she bought an Alien-Bee set, but she has no idea what to set it to. My reply was that she needed a light-meter. My thinking is that then she’d know what the specific output of the flash or strobe would be, and then be able to set her camera to it. But then, thinking about it some more, I realized if there is hesitation there or confusion, it is about what specific camera settings (mostly aperture) should be in the first place.

I think this is the baffling part of using off-camera lighting or studio gear on location for the first time – where do you start? What should your camera and flash settings be?

Well, if you shoot on location, your settings are usually decided for you by your available light …

Learn more inside…

{ 10 comments }

finessing photographic composition – and using off-camera flash vs. available light

With this background, I liked the way the dots were repeated in Olena‘s dress in reverse – white dots on black, instead of black dots / holds on silver. I liked the repetition, and decided to work with the composition of this photograph a bit.  For the final sequence of images – of which the image at the top is one – I asked Olena to really exaggerate the curve of her body to create an S-shaped, which in turn contrasted boldly with the rigid pattern of the background.

This article’s original title was going to be:  Off-camera flash vs the snobbery of “available light is always better”. When you look at the available light photo of Olena, you’ll see that the available light was pretty sweet – soft and flattering. But it lacked punch. It needed just that little bit of drama to it. The available light shot just looked a touch too bland. Off-camera lighting to the rescue!

I had the flash in a soft box to create flattering, yet dynamic light on her. I wanted her shadow to be more defined and become part of the composition, but that would’ve meant a harder light source. Holding the Lastolite 24″x24″ Ezybox (B&H) fairly close to her was the compromise. This way her shadow added a subtle element to the composition.

Learn more inside…

{ 11 comments }

New York photo session with Sarah & Mark – off-camera flash

Sarah and Mark were in New York, dressed to the nines, to attend the Rockettes show. And while they were dressed up, and with some time before the show they were attending, we did a photo session. You might remember them as the couple in my book, off-camera flash. I’ve also photographed Sarah on other occasions. I thought that the New York skyline at dusk would work as a perfect backdrop to how stylish they were dressed. (I did ask Mark if he felt like James Bond, all suited up like that in his tux.)

Learn more inside…

{ 18 comments }

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.

Learn more inside…

{ 14 comments }

Photoshop plug-in for a film look – Nik Color Efex Pro 4

For a part of the individual workshop we did yesterday, Anelisa wore this cute outfit with a bit of a retro look to it. I loved her spontaneous pose here as well. In editing the image, I thought that an “old school” film look to it might suit the final photograph very well.

In previous examples shown here with a vintage look to the photograph, I had used the Totally Rad action sets. This time I wanted a specific film look to it, so I went with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (B&H). This Photoshop plug-in has a 55 different filters. And of course, I like things which are easy to use.

Learn more inside…

{ 10 comments }

why I love TTL flash

May 10, 2012

TTL flash for the simplicity and speed

Okay, true strobists might recoil in horror, but I often prefer using TTL flash to sweeten an image when shooting on location. I just get to the final image faster than if I had gone the more methodical route of manual flash.

For some situations, manual flash is the only way to go. For example, when your subject is static in relation to your lights and you have to get consistent lighting, image after image, then manual flash makes the most sense. But for times where you want to shoot faster, and shoot on the run, I find that TTL flash is the easiest and most fun option for me.

This image of Aleona was from a recent individual photography workshop in New York. As a starting point in explaining how to balance flash and ambient light, we initially work with an easy scenario where the available light isn’t harsh, but also not all that exciting. Now we can easily finesse it with a bit of flash from a softbox …

Learn more inside…

{ 18 comments }