Available light

Yes, available light rocks! Beautiful, colourful, soft, and so on. But when a photographer says “I am an available light photographer” or “I am a natural light photographer”, that usually means “I don’t know flash”.

Because it is often in the mixing of available light and flash light that things get interesting. Certainly in daylight.

Also–hiring a pro pays. Yes, you can get it done cheaper by Uncle Fred, but would you get pictures like these, from yesterday’s family shoot? (Hint: “no”.) A few hundred dollars and you have memories for life:

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If you can see these pictures, there’s plenty of available light. But had I not had my assistant hold the flash off the side near the subjects, they would have been silhouettes! Or I could have exposed for the subjects – in that case, a very bright, blown out background–with very little colour.

So you hire a pro for this. Right equipment (that super sharp lens); Right technique:

You have heard this from me before:

  1. Use the magic outdoors formula, and only vary f-number.
  2. Use long(-ish) lens (85mm prime in this case).
  3. Subjects away from the sun: means no squinting and the sun becomes hair-light.
  4. Fill with flash, off to the side for modelling.avoiding “flat” look.
  5. Flash fired in this case with radio triggers (Pocketwizards), and on manual, 1/8 power, with Honlphoto 12″ softbox (click on the small ad on the right to order, and use code word “willems” to get an additional 10% off).

BUT THERE IS MORE. If I print, I ensure that the print is perfect. Permanent photo paper. Pigment printing (not dye, which can fade). If a face is too pale, I selectively increase colour saturation in the face. And so on. That takes time, and it is exactly what Walmart et al do not do.

All this is what I teach in my live or online workshops: contact me to learn more, or see http://learning.photography .

And take some fall pictures, or have me do it!

 

 

Today’s pics

I was hired to take some fall pictures of a woman and her dog today.

Like these:

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In pictures like this one challenge is that the dog is the same colours as the background. That’s where (off-camera) flash comes to the rescue. That allows me to make the subjects brighter, and the background dark. And the sun is the hair-light. (all that is what I teach in my courses and books).

Lenses: 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200 f/2.8. Camera Settings: 100 ISO, f/3.2, and 1/250 to 1/400 sec.

1/400 sec? Impossible. That’s beyond the camera’s “sync speed”. But actually: very possible; you just don’t get the entire picture being lit. Which is sometimes fine.

And finally: a no flash/flash comparison:

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Remember Willems’s Dictum: Bright Pixels are Sharp Pixels.

 

Flash-flash-flash…

A tip today about something rather simple, which can be a lot of fun

A modern flash like a Canon 600EX or Nikon SB-900 can do “stroboscopic flash”.

To use it, simply:

  1. Set the flash’s mode to stroboscopic (“Multi” on my Canon flashes);
  2. On the flash, select frequency and duration and power level; see below for the settings I used yesterday;
  3. On the camera, which is probably on a tripod, select a shutter speed at least equal to the duration above;
  4. Make sure it is dark enough so that this shutter speed does not light up everything;
  5. Have a black background
  6. Move and shoot!

The flash:

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In this case, 1/128 is the power level; — is the duration (so I set it to one second in my case); 1 Hz is the frequency (10 Hz in my case).

The result, set to the settings above:

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The flash was set to:

  • Frequency 10 Hz
  • Duration 1 second
  • Power level 1/32 power.

Camera was set to 1 sec shutter speed. Because it took assistant Rob about a second to move his arm.

You will note that the higher the flash power level, and the shorter the time, the fewer flashes you can do. This is because the flash runs out of power after a few flashes: the higher the power level, the earlier that happens.

Go have some fun!

 

If you like sharp and crisp…

…then use flash. And if you use flash, then use it off camera.

Flash is crisp and sharp. Or rather, using flash leads to crisp photos because:

  • Contrast is perceived as crisp sharpness.
  • Flash lasts 1/1000 sec or less, and that means your effective shutter speed is 1/1000 sec or less.

Like this:

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Alternately…

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Maybe better: close to the ground to get a ‘cat’s eye view’:

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1/30 sec at f/11, 400 ISO. Meaning, the ambient light basically disappears. The photo is crisp because although the shutter is slow, ambient light does basically nothing and the flash speed (1/16,000 sec, because the flash is set to 1/16 power) is the effective shutter speed.

…all of which is made like this:

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The flashes are on the right: three flashes fired by one pocket wizard.  Note that in this last image, I used a very slow shutter speed (several seconds, if I recall correctly) in order to show some of the ambient scene.

Anyway: can you see how much more lively and “real” these images look than a simple “even lighting” image, such as a “natural light” image that some photographers proudly boast is their only source of light?

One more thing to note: I am using three flashes connected via a three-flash mount (see yesterday’s post). With no softening modifier such as an umbrella or a softbox. The take-away lesson from this: When using off-camera flash, a softening modifier is not always needed.  

Near London? Come see me 6 Oct 2016

Do you live west of Toronto? Anywhere near London, Ontario?

Then see www.londoncameraclub.ca – you can hear me talk about flash tomorrow night (or tonight, depending on when you read this), Thursday Oct 6, 2016. Come hear some advanced tips and tricks and come meet me. 7:30pm; $10 charge for non-members of the club.

Also keep in mind, 23 October, another small (5 people max, some spaces left) hands-on Flash workshop. See the meetup.com web site.

Now back to my presentation.No rest for the wicked.