off-camera flash

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.)

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lighting in photography – it does not have to be complicated to start

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 to be effective or solve a problem.

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. Tall of 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.

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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.

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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 and consistent exposures, 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 …

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getting the most power from your flash / speedlite / speedlight

This might be obvious, but the most power (or light) that you’re going to get from your flash, is at full output in manual. Then the flash dumps everything it has. Full power. You could of course zoom your flash-head a little tighter and get more power / range, but essentially, you’re at the limit.

This is useful to know when you’re balancing flash with bright sunlight. With this portrait of Shawna, out on the Las Vegas strip, I wanted that sun-flare look … but I also wanted to balance the super-bright background with flash.

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off-camera flash photography tip – find your background, then your settings

With flash photography on location, we nearly always start off by figuring out what we want to do in relation to our available light. We might just need fill-flash, or or flash might need to do the “heavy lifting” and expose correctly for our subject in relation to the available light.

When we have our subject in (relative) shade, and need to figure out our flash exposure, we also need to decide exactly what our background is. It usually works best to be specific about our background … and how we position ourselves and our subject in relation to that.

So let’s run through that thought-process, using the image at the top.  Alex was our delightful model today during an individual workshop in Manhattan.

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photography inspiration: Film Noir Fight Scene

The Hudson Valley Click is a group of photographers in New York who arrange photo shoots for photographers who are interested in learning more or who would like to build their portfolios. I’ve mentioned them a few times in the past – photo shoot / haunted fashion / pin-up photography. With these photo sessions, they arrange for models and hair stylists and make-up artists, and for a small entry fee, you get to play. They are also pretty cool bunch of people to hang out with.

At the most recent shoot-out, the one organizer, Nuby DeLeon, showed me an image that he had set up, and my jaw dropped. With great pre-visualization of the intended shot, Nuby had set this dramatic scene up. Even the color image on the back of his camera looked perfect! Nuby was gracious enough to allow me to share this with everyone, including the lighting diagram …

setting up the photo shoot: Film Noir Fight Scene

a guest post by Nuby DeLeon,
portrait, wedding & commercial photographer – New York

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to explore dramatic lighting when Hudson Valley Click did their monthly themed shoot at Mountain View Manor in Glen Spey, NY. The theme for the month was Film Noir so having a beautiful Victorian mansion to shoot in was a treat. There were a number of models, all dressed in period costume.

My inspiration for the shot is Frank Miller. I wanted to match the dramatic lighting with some dramatic, almost over the top action.

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flash photography technique – turning day into night

During the photo session with a couple, Laura & Todd, I wanted to add some variety to the images from the urban setting we were in. The sky had been overcast, but started to clear later on, leaving wispy clouds. Just perfect for a dramatic sky as the background. Of course, it is impossible to get your subject AND a bright sky equally well exposed without resorting to graduated filters or additional lighting, ie, flash. The technique with off-camera flash is quite straight-forward …

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example: direct off-camera flash vs softbox (model: Ulorin Vex)

Ulorin Vex posing for us during part of the on-location session of the flash photography workshops which I presented in San Francisco earlier this year. Ulorin Vex is of course absolutely stunning, as always. While I often direct models how they should pose, this one is all her doing . Not even I can improve on that.

The image here at the top was shot with an off-camera softbox – my usual preferred Lastolite Ezybox softbox. The direction of the light here should immediately reveal the approximate position where the light was positioned. Just as comparison, we removed the two baffles of the Lastolite, to see how direct off-camera flash would compare. We kept the softbox hull in place, so it did help contain the spread of light a bit. As you’d expect, the results look more dramatic.

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off-camera flash for dramatic light

During this engagement photo session with a couple, Ashley and Michael, we roamed around the campus grounds of the university where they had met. In the one part of the grounds, there was this clump of trees, planted in a small rectangle with two seats. Since it was so dark there under the trees, they wondered who’d ever go and sit there. It just didn’t look appetizing. Then I though … hmmm, with some off-camera flash from behind, we can really make this place look like something.

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