Free resource for learning how to use off-camera flash and studio lighting.
I received this e-mail from a photographer today and it shows how there are things you can use to improve your photographs everywhere. This is an ingenious use of a makeshift reflector.
Photographer: Mark Davis
Great work Mark!
I noticed some interesting light coming into my kitchen on Sunday and decided to shoot a garlic bulb on the kitchen counter. Since one side was too dark, and remembering that you said anything could serve as a reflector, I quickly found a cash register receipt and . . . voila!
You are a good teacher!
This has more to do with your work than you think:
Much of the portraiture done a hundred years ago stands up today because of its lighting, composition and technical excellence. The example above was obviously done professionally and there is a lot we can learn by examining it.
One thing that is amazing is how little equipment was typically used back then. Most likely the main light was a large window with a reflector on the left to lighten up the shadows slightly. If artificial light was used, it was probably a single large beauty dish and the same reflector on the left. That's it. The tone of the background was controlled by either using a gobo (something to block the light) or with the distance between the subject and the background, or a combination of both. This basic one-light setup was set up to create a Rembrandt lighting pattern which is characterized by the triangular shadow on the shadow side of the subject's cheek. There is more information on Rembrandt lighting elsewhere on this blog. Since the subject has a triangular face, the photographer decided on broad lighting, which is the lit side of the nose closest to, or facing the camera. Narrow lighting is the opposite, the shadow side of the nose faces the camera. Learn more about broad and narrow lighting here.
To create this image with artificial light today, you could use a beauty dish, soft bow or umbrella as a main light, a reflector for fill light and some kind of gobo to control how much light hits the background.
If you're looking for inspiration, look back to the masters.
Most camera sensors are a 2:3 ratio which fits some paper perfectly and others, not so much. Here's a breakdown of how it works with all the popular size prints:
So, the sizes that match your sensor and require no cropping are:
All the other require some cropping to fit, so when you're shooting give yourself a little extra room around the edges.
Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Kristy Neuenschwander. Assistant: Pat McGlinchey
Fill flash does one thing; it lightens up shadows. By using fill flash, you can control the exposure of the background and the subject separately. Below is a photo taken with the sky the way I wanted it to appear. The problem is that it leaves the subject way too dark, and if I expose the subject properly the sky will be too light. Here's where the fill flash comes in.
1: Get the background exposed the way you want it.
2: Add enough light on the subject to expose it the way you want.
Most cameras can't sync with an off-camera flash at more than 1/200 of a second. That means the shutter speed must stay below the sync speed no matter what. To make that happen, you may need to adjust the aperture and/or ISO. Also remember that like everything else in photography, there are always limits to what is possible.
So, getting back to the example, the first shot is 1/60 of a second at f-8 and ISO 100. The second shot is the same, except a flash was added. The way I do it is to set the flash at 1/4 power and either use a flash meter to determine the exposure or take a test shot and then adjust from there. Remember, you already have the background set, so all that we need to do is adjust the light on the subject. There are two ways to control the light on the subject; flash power and aperture. The shutter speed controls the ambient light (background). In this case, I increased the flash power to 1/2 power and it was perfect. Increasing the aperture to f-5.6 would have produced the same result if I left the flash power at 1/4 power. Open up the aperture or increase the flash power. Both are effective ways of making the exposure of the subject lighter.
The setup is simple. One off-camera flash.
The best way to master fill flash is to get out and use it, so get out and experiment! You'll master it in no time at all.
Photogenic ION PURE SINE WAVE INVERTER LITHIUM-ION 8.8AH 120WH
Eliminate your large noisy gas generators and old fashioned humongous inverters. The all new Photogenic lithium-ion battery powered ION pure sine wave inverter takes your studio flash units on location the easy way. The ION is a powerful, lightweight, get outta town AC power supply that features two AC outlets for two monolights. Weighing in at only 3.5 lbs with a compact 7.5" x 4.4" x 3.3" profile, ION is the perfect lighting travel companion. Pack the ION and a couple of extra batteries with your lights and head out to your next shoot. It doesn't matter if your destination is the top of Mount Everest, the middle of the Kalahari or your sister in-law's wedding, this powerful combination will give you over 3,500 flashes (about 1200 per battery) at an amazing 320 watt seconds. While on your way to the next job, use ION's built-in USB port to power-up your phone or other electronic devices. Charge time to 100% for the lithium-ion battery is 3-4 hours. A glance at the LED battery meter on ION's control panel verifies the battery power level.
100 ISO, 1/3 second at f-8. Focal Length: 29mm.
Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Art Director: Michael Wilkinson. Models: Mirela Aldea and Rafael Hamis.
The best solution is usually the simplest and it took just three battery powered flashes to get exactly what the client wanted. The key to success was prior planning and getting there early enough to get everything all set up and do some tests before the models arrived. Once they arrived, all that was needed was simple tweaking and we were ready to go. Since the exposure was long, one third of a second, it was important to instruct the models to hold their position until the exposure was finished or there would most likely be a small halo around them. Each shot was done the way I thought looked best and also one stop lighter. That way, I would have more to work with back on the computer if needed. As it turned out it wasn't, but I'm not one to leave anything to luck.
Keeping it simple does two things; it minimizes the variables and the chances for failures and by doing so it reduces your stress and workload which allows you to focus your attention on the details of the shot. Attention to details is frequently the difference between success and mediocrity. How do you keep it simple? Please share your ideas in the comments :)