lighting Tag

Hot shoe lighting has its moments, good and bad. There is no denying the convenience and mobility of speedlites over studio strobes, especially when a photographer spends the bulk of their shooting time on-location. Ditching the strobes and running with speedlites for a shoot literally empties out what is usually a gear-packed car. I can actually see out my back window! Hot shoe lighting is significantly smaller in size, lighter in weight, faster to setup and teardown, and usually translates to a quicker shoot. These are the things I love about speedlites. The other side of the coin are the dislikes, the things that can drive me nuts. Lack of power, misfires, and slow recycle times can get downright ugly at times when you start asking these lights to start doing some real work. My mentality on this may be a bit distorted, as I was spoiled by having the opportunity to start my lighting journey with studio strobes. I used AlienBees for years before ever even feeling the desire to want to use speedlites for my shoots. It was always a "go big or go home" situation for me. I wanted the power the strobes could give me if I needed it. This meant a car stuffed with 200 lbs of lights, cables, power packs, stands, and big light modifiers. It was a game of Tetris to get everything to fit in my car, literally. Big power came with the price of numerous trips back and fourth to the car to fetch bulky, heavy gear, cables running all over the place on-location, gear bags everywhere, and all of that had to be done in the reverse order when it came time to pack it all back up. It sucks, but it's worth it. In fact, it's "worth it" to still continue the same song and dance with all the strobe downsides to use them for 80% of my shoots. Ironically, even though I use my strobes on most location shoots, I call all of my strobe gear my "studio gear" and I call my speedlite gear my "mobile gear." So when I ask Alice, my amazing assistant, for a mobile light, it's kind of like a moment where I know she goes, "oh crap, he needs to pump out a photograph super quick," and urgency is automatically applied to the situation. It's funny but true, as most of my speedlite setups are very much run and gun. Seriously... most of the time when using hot shoes we don't even take the time to put the light on a stand, and Alice hand-holds as we continually move and reposition.

Reflectors and diffusers are typically the first modifiers photographers buy when they start experimenting with light manipulation. It's a great thing... you've taken the step to start playing with light, rather than just throwing your arms up in defeat when you can't seem to achieve favorable light conditions in a given shooting situation. A reflector/diffuser combo is a very wise choice, regardless of your existing gear status, as they are useful all the time and in combination with other lighting tools. I think that at times people feel that "controlling light" translates to blasting a flash in someone's face and calling it a day. Adding flash lighting or redirecting ambient light with a reflector is a way more delicate process than you might think. It doesn't have to be a huge, dramatic change in the overall exposure. Just adding a little of spark to your main light, or filling-in shadows to bring some more detail into the composition can make a night and day difference. It's not a game of miles or even feet, we are talking about inches. Small increments of addition/subtraction of light to make all the world of difference in your portrait work. Here are a couple thoughts, more of a checklist, to keep in-mind when you go out to make this purchase.

A question I posed to Facebook users back in October - How many lights were used in the photograph above? Extra bonus points for taking a stab at light modifiers used on said number of lights. I created this photo strictly as a visual aid for an article I wrote back in October as well (click here for that post). Taking the little side project further, I was curious to see if anyone following me on Facebook would get close to the light setup used to make the photo. I would have to say Justin was the closest guess, as he went into some pretty good detail on lighting position. Reproduction of the "real" world is a funny thing in the photo and video field. I guess we have commercial photography and the movie industry to thank for our completely unrealistic view on reality nowadays. What I mean by that, is that artificially lighting most setups as if it were 100% replicating a natural occurrence flat-out looks bad in a final photograph. Walking around in real life, we see things, accept them as beautiful, and we appreciate them and go on with life. However... when it comes to looking at a photograph that was done well, in respect to holding true to artificially re-creating only natural forms of light found in the world, we get REALLY picky. "Oh, I don't like how that person's head isn't edged-out by backlighting and cannot be made-out from the background, " or "the shadows are not filled-in enough for me." We don't know what "natural" even looks like anymore. It's true, and a comment on the Facebook photo proves it, with a user guessing that only light from the computer screen is lighting this entire photo (not their fault, this is the general public's view of light and what they are exposed to with every photo and video professional produced). And with today's overstimulating, commercialized, uber marketing online world, we demand to see the "real world" in a not-so-real situation with perfect beauty lighting on faces, proper rim lighting, and fans blowing a models hair back... now that's REAL life (I kid)! Every once in a while, we photographers can get away with a "natural" lighting approach, and get away with a people pleasing photo, but not often. We usually have to cleverly light it to ensure all of the visuals in a composition are well-lit for proper attention and detail.

Here is a video Q & A for those of you photogs who want to start flirting with off-camera flash. This isn't a video about how to use lighting and everything that goes with it. It's a simple recommendation on the starting block gear to acquire to start your lighting journey. The good news is that TTL will help you ease into this journey (if you are using hot shoe lights), so you don't have to be an absolute lighting wizard to pull of simple lighting execution.

matty_6.24.10_ 133 Beautiful Taylor, pictured above, recently joined with a model agency. She was in need of some photos with emphasis on just her to use for her portfolio. Nothing distracting, simple, nice head/model shots. Originally she wanted to do this on white seamless. Seamless is great and all, but... it's nothing special, everyone does it. In my mind, if I were marketing myself as a model in a sea of "talent," I would wanna standout a bit. I talked Taylor into doing some location stuff that would keep the backgrounds simple, add a little spice, yet keep her as the focus. She said that was cool. I selected a location with cement walls, ivy... just something with a touch of character to add that little something to the photo. It's not as simple as white seamless, and it's not like the 4th of July going off in the background. Calm, subtle, different.