Friday, August 5, 2011

Shots from class for on-location, off-camera flash photography

The woman you see in this series is Sarah, who modeled last week for students in a photography class aimed at people seeking more experience using off-camera, on-location flash in their photography. Some of the shots you see here were taken with one light (flash), some with two (like the one above) and some were with available light, which I squeezed in as other students took their turns using Sarah for their poses with flash systems. The one-flash shots were taken fired into a white umbrella mounted on a light stand; with two flashes, the second unit was usually hand-held by our teacher, Dustin Allison, and without any modification. It was used as an accent light, usually to highlight either Sarah's hair or a dark side of her face and usually set at about half the intensity of the main light.

I've been very pleased with the class; I think it's just what I needed to get past the discomfort I'd previously encountered when it came to artful, productive use of artificial light with my subjects. Throughout the four sessions, we used simple, manual-only wireless triggers and receivers -- Cactus Vs transceivers, to be specific -- obtained through Gadget Infinity in Hong Kong. If you're in a position where you cannot afford the very functional, and versatile, Pocket Wizards (considered by many pros as the standard wireless system in the industry), I can recommend the Cactus Vs.

Pocket Wizards will cost you $500+ for the combination of a one transmitter and one receiver. You can get two Cactus V transceivers -- a transceiver is a sort of unisex unit; a flip of a switch on the side of the unit allows it to serve as either transmitter or receiver -- for $60. I bought two sets (for $120) because I hope to integrate two lights into many of my shots, which means I need a minimum of three units. Just be aware that the Cactus Vs can be used only in Manual mode; the Pocket Wizards' versatility enables you to use your flash in either Manual or TTL (through the lens) modes.

For those unfamiliar, Manual mode is a simple (and recommended) way to learn off-camera flash using a wireless system. Your exposure will be consistent as long as your settings remain the same; that means you have to worry only about where to place the light and how to pose your subject. The rest will boil down to camera settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), which are easily adjustable. Whereas with TTL, which automatically calculates flash lighting exposure for you, lighting could change from one shot to the next. And I suppose that could be a good or bad thing. But with either option, there is always something you can do to adjust the lighting on your subject if you don't like what you see.

Sarah has modeled for other Indy Photo Coach classes, so she was a natural. She would vary poses without prompting ... and was happy to follow directions when the photographers asked for specific adjustments. Basically, she was a dream model. So Sarah, if you ever read this, thank you for that. The photo at the top, as I mentioned previously, features two lights -- my Speedlite 580 EXII as the main light, firing into an umbrella about 5 feet from Sarah and 45 degrees camera right. It was set at 1/16 intensity. Dustin was aiming the second Speedlight 580 EXII, set at 1/32 intensity, from about 130 degrees camera left, at the right side of Sarah's face to highlight both the face and hair. All of the shots using flash were shot, by the way, with a 0.25 orange gel on the flash.

Here then are some other shots from my shoot of Sarah that day.

Above and below: Two more two-light shots, with Dustin holding the accent light off to the left and behind Sarah.

Above and next four below: One-light shots, with the light position and Sarah's face in relation to that light the only things varying.

Above and the remainder below: These were taken with available light -- no artiticial light -- in between poses Sarah was giving to others in the class. Sarah was such a natural that I thought I should exploit as much "pose" time as possible when there were any lulls.

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