Take direction.

I took a few photos today of talented photographer Lisa Mininni, to demonstrate flash direction to her when bouncing; and I thought I would share them with you here.

I often see people, even pros, walk into parties bouncing their flash straight up, at 180 degrees. Here:

Not good: dark eyes. Because of the straight-up bounce, the light comes from straight above. So the eye sockets fill with, well, with darkness.

Next, I see people all the time with their flashes aimed 45 degrees up, forward.

What’s happening here is that the light lights up the subject’s forehead, and the ceiling above and behind them. As we go down, it progressively lights less.

Now, we use a reflector. I have seen those in use many times before. I get:

Not bad. But.. a little harsh. The light could be better.

And when I see “better”, I mean bouncing 45 degrees behind me. Provided there is a roof, cekling, wall, somwethign to bounce back light, you can do this. Even with high ceilings, as in the studio I made these in, where I would estimate they were at least 13 ft high:

Perfect. To really see the difference, view them large and download to your computer.

Now, keep in mind:

  • 45 degrees behind is merely a starting point. And a good one. But the real way to do it is to start with the subject’s face. From there, mentally draw a dotted line to “where the umbrella would be” if you were in a studio. Now continue that line, and where it hits a wall or ceiling, that’s where you aim.
  • What I am talking about here works—usually. But each situation is unique, so “never say never”. Sometimes, “straight up” or “forward” are the way to go.
  • I am mixing with ambient light. A good starting point for that, as regular readers know, is the “Willems 400-40-4 rule”: 400 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4.
  • Watch your power. If the ceilings are too high, or if you need to use a small aperture like f/8, you may have to go to higher ISO values.

Using a flash is easy once you know how. Learn, and see how amazing the options are that are now open to you.

 


TIP: My courses and books will help: see http://learning.photography—special Christmas pricing applies. Joining the Facebook Speedlighters Forum on https://www.facebook.com/groups/SpeedlightersForum/ will also help: many people will help you learn.

 

Evolution of a shot

How do we set up a shot with both ambient and flash light? Let’s look at one.

Let’s start like this:

That’s the studio setting: 1/125 sec, f/8, 200 ISO. Ambient light plays no role. That is the definition of the studio settings.

Is that what we want here? I would say no. We want to see the lamp!

So now, let’s mix in ambient light, shall we? We aim for –2 stops on the light meter. Here’s 400-40-4, which gets me very close:

That’s 400-40-4 (i.e. 400 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4): the “party setting”.

Much better, if we want that mix.

Now let’s open that curtain and take a look. Fortunately., the outside light and the lamp are in the same range, so I can set my camera for either of those. 400-40-4 will do it. If I had to choose, I would choose based on the lamp, the most important element.

Because I want no light spill from the flash into the rest of the room, I do not use an umbrella. Instead, I use a small Honl photo Traveller 8 softbox, held close to the subject. Here’s student Arsheen setting it up:

That gives me the final shots:

That mix of warm and flash light: beautiful. But that’s my taste: you can do your own, develop your own style. And that is what flash is all about.

 

Shoot

Last night I photographed a party. Let me take you through that: it is useful to see a real-life shoot as it unfolds.

This was a very quick, rushed shoot: hardly any time at all to set up.

I had two cameras:

  • 1Dx (full frame) with 16-35 lens;
  • 7D (crop camera)  with 24-70 lens.

That means effectively I had 16-35 and 35-105 mm available, i.e. 16-105 in one continuous range. So the lenses were taken care of.

Now the lights. Seeing the need for speed, I quickly set up two speedlights in umbrellas, fired by Pocketwizards. In this example only the one on the left fired:

The final pics look like this:

That’s simple: One umbrella left, one umbrella right. We are looking for competent lighting here, not art. I did not use a meter; just set the lights to 1/4 power and adjusted ny camera settings (ISO, aperture) to that.

Note the mom in the first shot. My shoot was hindered big time by all the moms taking iPhone shots. A trend more than ever before.

Then the rest of the shoot: the 16-35 with one on camera flash bounced against what walls there were.

Easy in some rooms, harder in the ballroom since it had a high, black ceiling. So I started at 400-40-4 modified to 800-40-4: i.e. a camera setting of 800 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4. That extra stop comes in handy when you are bouncing off high or dark ceilings. Like here, in the middle of the ballroom

Sometimes, I switched to mood lighting: simply increase the shutter speed to darken the ambient light, and the aperture smaller (or lower flash compensation, when on TTL) if you also want less flash:

All in all, a competent shoot.

With some fun too: A panning shot., 1/30 sec and I follow:

The ghosting lends it an interesting effect; and the subject is sharp first because I am panning; second because she is lit mainly by my flash, which is 1/1000 second or faster.

I had just enough time to produce prints for the parents, on my little Selphy printer. All good.

And then quick post work an on to the next assignment!

___

Want Michael to shoot your family event? He’ll quote a competitive price and deliver quality work quickly. See www.tolivetolove.com for details.

 

Aha Me A Riddle I Day

Not the Laura Love song, but a real riddle. What happened here?

My face is underexposed totally compared to the rest of the shoot, which was like this:

So there the sides of my face are well exposed. But then the photographer zoomed out, and we got the shot at the top. What gives?

If you do not know, let me give you a hint: we were using TTL.

If you still do not know, allow me to explain:

TTL is like “auto for flash”.

  • Auto flash exposure normally uses evaluative (“Matrix”) metering.
  • I.e. the screen is divided into little squares, dozens or hundreds of them, and each one is metered individually.
  • As soon as any of these little squares are overexposed, even one of them, the camera tries to fix that.
  • It does that by lowering the exposure. But you obviously cannot change just one part of the photo, so the entire exposure is lowered.
  • That’s the reason the picture at the top is underexposed: the flashes are visible, meaning a hot spot or two, and the camera “fixes” that by lowering the entire exposure (by using a lower flash power setting).

The fix: You can go to average metering. Or you can avoid hotspots like reflections or flashes.

That’s one of the little facts you learn if you take my flash course.

Are you aware that virtually all my courses are offered online as well? Live, one-on-one courses, like the one I just did today with a long-time reader from Melbourne, Australia:

If you go to this page and check the pull-down menu, you will see that you can even save money by doing it online. So wherever you are in the world, I would be delighted to do a one-on-one with you.

 

Big News!

OAKVILLE, 24 November 2014—After many months of preparation, Michael Willems has tonight released his sixth and latest e-book, “Powerful Portrait Photography: Making Portraits That Tell 1001 Words”.

This book is available for immediate download now from http://learning.photography.

If you, like most of us, are attached to people, you will find enormous satisfaction in shooting their portraits. But only if you do it well. This all-new e-book takes you through the jungle of terms, shooting techniques, lighting schematics, posing techniques, and types of portrait and for each one, outlines in a logical fashion what it is you need to do to perfect your technique. From equipment to psychology, award-winning photographer and educator Michael Willems leads you through it one step at a time.

This extensive and richly illustrated e-book is $19.95 plus applicable taxes: it comes as a PDF file conveniently optimized for freely viewing on your iPad or other tablets, computer, small cell phones and similar platforms.

The Table of Contents shows that the subjects will teach you everything from technical needs and lighting schematics to psychology and special tools and techniques:

The book is available for immediate order and download.

But Wait! There’s More! The set of all six of Michael’s books is now also available at $79.95, a $40 discount over the regular price of $120. What better Christmas present for yourself or a loved one? Or even better: get them now so you can shoot great portraits during the upcoming festive season.  Head to http://learning.photography/ now to order your downloads or DVDs.