Warm day

It was a warm-ish day today, so I went and took some car photos.

Since the sun was out, it is no surprise that I found available light a little boring:

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So.. I added a flash, on a light stand. But as you will have guessed one flash was, of course, not enough to light a big subject like a car…:

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…so I added two flashes. Left flash: half power manual 600EX, aimed direct at the car starboard side (zoom=50mm). Right flash: half power manual 430EX, aimed direct at the car front (zoom=50mm).

And that gave me this photo:

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Desaturated slightly; otherwise this is the way I shot it.

But… say what—Two light stands? Fired by pocketwizards? Isn’t that complicated?

Yes, yes, and no, respectively. It is not complicated. And the results, as you see, get you immediately beyond the “snapshot”. And that is satisfying.

Michael teaches flash and other photography subjects; at Sheridan College and privately; and at his own school. If you want to know more, come to one of my regular courses (see www.cameraworkshops.ca).

An Essential Tool

If you take your photography seriously, you need to avoid one thing in particular: running out of battery power just when you need it. (Have you noticed, batteries never fail at a convenient time?)

The solution is simple. Buy a battery tester, and use it before you go and shoot.

A battery tester, which sells for about $7–10 in your hardware store, is a meter with a “battery” mode. That mode does not just measure voltage; instead, it measures voltage under load.

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You recognize it by its mention of batteries (like “AA”, as in this example).

Before every shoot, measure your batteries, and if in any doubt, replace them. That takes away one big drawback of battery-powered equipment.

  • Where do you use rechargeables? A: In gear that you use intensively and often: namely, in your flashes.
  • Where do you use Alkalines? A: In equipment that uses little current and that lasts many months between battery changes. Namely, in your PocketWizards and similar radio triggers.

One more note: if you use rechargeable batteries, make sure that you use an appropriate meter. NiMH batteries have a lower voltage than Alkaline batteries, so you cannot measure NiMH batteries with a meter intended for Alkalines (or vice versa).

 

Time and space

Sign up now: there’s time and space to learn all about flash. A model and make-up artist will be supplied for the workshop I am teaching on January 28 in Toronto. In this workshop, from knowing “nothing”, you will learn creative flash in half a day.

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Recent single flash shot. Studio settings; manual; off-camera; 1/8″ grid.

And this includes:

  • Setting up your camera for flash.
  • Why use flash when it’s bright outside?
  • TTL or manual flash: Why go manual, and when?
  • Speedlights or studio strobes?
  • What are the limits to using speedlights?
  • Modifiers: gels
  • Modifiers: grids and snoots
  • Modifiers: softboxes and umbrellas.
  • “Magic recipes”: shortcuts for outdoors, indoors, and studio flash.
  • Common mistakes – and avoiding them.
  • Off-camera flash: How? Why?
  • Using radio triggers (which ones?)
  • Secrets of creative lighting – examples with model and make-up artist.

You will leave with a few great portfolio shots, but also with an understanding of, and “quick start” recipes for, handling each flash situation that you will come across.

This course is intended for everyone from beginner to pro. What you have in common is that you have an SLR camera, you know little about flash, and you want to learn all about it. Bring your camera! If you have a flash, bring it; if not, no worries: everything is supplied.

There are spots left but space is limited, so sign up now.

Blurrrr.

“How do I get a blurry background?”, asks a student.

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OK… so if you want a blurred background, as in a portrait:

  • Focus accurately (using one focus point?) on what should be sharp. The eye of your subject, for example.

Then, use some combination of:

  • Get close to your subject.
  • Zoom in on your subject.
  • Use a longer rather than wider lens.
  • Use a lens with a large maximum aperture, i.e. a low minimum “f-number”. (Most prime lenses and most pro lenses are like this).
  • Use a low f-number
  • Use “portrait mode” (which uses… a low f-number!).
  • Have a distant background

And that’s how you do that. As my students at Sheridan College are learning this semester.

 

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from The Speedlighter! 

As for your 2017 resolutions, how about this one: Make this the time you finally perfect those skills you always wanted to hone! Skills that allow you to quickly and easily do pictures like the ones I took over the last couple of weeks. These include a few animal (and animal-plus-owner) pictures:

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All those were made with the 85mm f/1.2 lens, and used a single speedlight in an umbrella.

But I also did an executive portrait, just yesterday:

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Do you see the difference between the two above? For the first one, I did not want to show the outside (boring, homes). Easy, so the picture,like almost all my pictufes, was stright out of the camera.

For the second one, however, I did want to show the blue sky. So I exposed that one less (using the magic Outdoors Recipe–one of the things you will learn if you turn up). Both used flash, of course; fired by Pocketwizards and with their power set manually. The second one used much more flash power because I was using low ISO and small aperture to kill the outside light. I also had to, therefore, brighten the Apple logo in post-production.

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I would almost call that last one an environmental portrait.

The next ones are certainly environmental portraits:

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The one above used a 24-70mm lens and a speedlight with a Honl Photo 1/8″ grid. The one below, a 16-35mm wide angle lens and a speedlight with an umbrella:

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What do they all have in common? Simplicity, good exposure, and a thorough knowledge of the technical necessities.

You can learn this too. Why not do it? I have several great opportunities coming up!

All of these are excellent learning opportunities, and will broaden and deepen your knowledge significantly. Hope to see you there and then.