My must-have. My preciousssss….

I actually have many “preciousssses”. But this one is among the most precious. My lightstand/bracket/umbrella combo. This here:

This kit, which is just about glued to me, consists of:

  • A light stand.
  • On it, a bracket for mounting flash and umbrella.
  • A pocketwizard. (Plus one on the camera).
  • Cable from pocketwizard to flash (from Pocketwizard or from
  • A small flash, e.g. a 430EX/SB710, or any other flash. Any brand will do if I use “manual”. As long as you cam disable the timeout and set the power level manually.
  • Umbrella. Shoot through as well as shoot into (i.e. removable cover).

It folds into a very small package, and often, it’s all I need. Since I know how to mix ambient and flash, that umbrella allows me to do so much. Including this:

Oh, and a student spotted me and took this photo, of the exact flash stand used for that shot:



Want to learn? I do remote training over the Internet, using Google Hangouts, so you can now do my courses wherever you are in the world. Better still, for a limited time, it’s cheaper than here, in person. See to order now.



Aperture (the “f-number”) controls several things in a photo. One is light (the lower the “f-number”, the more light), and the other is depth of field (“DOF”). Low f-numbers mean shallow DOF.

But DOF is also determined by proximity (the closer you are, the shallower); and lens focal length (the longer the lens, the shallower).

So this is f/1.4:

I was walking to my class last week at Sheridan College Oakville.

f/1.4 and sharp? Huh??

Well… read above. I am not close. I am using a 35mm lens. I am printing a small image, not a large image where every detail is visible. So while I have a low f-number, I am doing everything else to get enough DOF.

So yes, you can get enough DOF even at a large aperture (low f-number). Which I wanted to avoid high ISOs.  This was 1600 ISO at 1/60 sec. Handheld.


The difference is…

Question: What is the difference between two photos? Why?

Hint: I used a 16mm lens.


Can you see that the flash is concentrated in a small circle in photo 1?

Well… you know that when you zoom, or change lenses, the flash changes its zoom, right?  But the widest zoom is 24mm, and I shot at 16mm. That is the top picture. The zoom circle is too small for the picture.

In the bottom picture, I pulled out the plastic “wide angle adapter”, the transparent plastic square you can pull out to cover the front (not the white sheet). This is not a softener; it is merely the 14mm adapter”. The zoom device for wider than 24mm. It makes the beam wider, see picture 2.

That’s all: when you zoom wider than 24mm, pull out the wide angle adapter.


I remember as a child I made drawings with red and yellow flames: red, surrounded by a yellow aura, and I was impressed by how much that looked like flames.

So tonight in the studio, remembering that, I decided to add yellow hair to a red background, like so:

…and I am happy to see that it works just as well as it did when I was a child.

A beauty dish lit the face; a softbox on the right provided a little fill; the background was lit with a speedlight with a red gel; and then the yellow was from a gridded speedlight with an egg yolk yellow gel. 100 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/8. I used Bowens studio strobes, and speedlights with Honl photo modifiers (gels, grids). I set off the lights with Pocketwizards (and the light cell, in the case of one of the studio flashes).

The moral of the story: you should play. Children know how to do that; adults forget. To get new ideas, to be creative, it is important that you play. Try new stuff. Try odd combinations of things. That helps you create: in big ways, but also in little ways like in today’s shoot.

Now, back to authoring my new e-book, “Powerful Portrait Photography”. ISBN 978-0-9918636-5-5. Almost done: watch this space and


Shadow avoidance

One reason we bounce our flash off the ceiling (behind us) is to avoid those nasty drop shadows, especially the side shadows.

But what if we can’t? If there is no ceiling, perhaps. Or that ceiling is bright red. Or it does not reflect enough light, because it is pitch black. or it is a very high ceiling. What then?

Then we can use many other means, like reflectors. Or off camera flash, with modifiers. Or a ring flash. Or we simply ask the subject to move to where it is possible (d’oh!).

There is one more option, one I have not discussed before: we use a bracket to move the flash away from the camera and keep it above. Like this Cameron V-H Flip bracket (marketed under various names):

It has some pretty good features:

  • It moves the flashes away from the camera, see the extending pole. Up to 28″ above, and this means that there will be less shadow and no red-eye.
  • It keeps the flash(es) directly above the lens, so any remaining shadows will not be side shadows.
  • It can fit two or even three flashes.
  • It swivels, to keep the flash where it is while the camera turns 90 degrees (but note, it turns the wrong way, which is awkward. I would not want to use this bracket for a lot of vertical shots).
  • And unexpectedly, this bracket can use a small umbrella. You’ll look funny, but oh boy, the light you will get!

While bouncing, or off-camera flash with modifiers, is generally still better, this solution can work well:

Best of all, it can hold two (or even three) flashes:

Now we get extra light, plus the light from one flash can almost eliminate the shadow from the other.

That doesn’t look like a “direct flash:” photo, does it? And beauty pictures, with a small modifier, seem another obvious candidate (“butterfly lighting”).

The moral of today’s post: There are many ways to use flash, and there are many ways to use it well. A bracket is one of those ways. Not the be-all and end-all of flash; just one more cool tool that can sometimes lead to fabulous pictures.



Footnote: Have you considered really learning flash? Worth every hour—and dollar—that you invest in it. See for a good option. And don’t forget to order the flash manual now. You’ll know the secrets the great pros know; and more importantly, you’ll be able to use them.