Monday, August 3, 2015

Basics: off camera flash

Photography with flash gives you a wealth of possibilities. Bear in mind though, the light is nothing to be incredibly enthusiastic about, if you don't do anything with it. You might want to try to bounce the light on the wall or the ceiling. But believe me when I tell you that you should take the flashlight off your camera and put it on a light stand, in order to create even better results with your flash photography.

Before you jump into flashphotography and spend loads on new equipment: make sure you come to grips with how light works first, what light can do in your pictures. Don't over-complicate it and start out simple. There is a ton of stuff on the market. Start with one flash on a light stand.  If you shoot your subject in different angles, you can create lovely images. Next step is to attach an umbrella. If you're still very much into flashphotography, I'd say that's the moment to check out what's more to buy for further enhancing your flashphotography.

So let's take a look at the flash on the light stand:
It's real easy of you've got a Swivel adapter. Mount the adapter on your light stand and then attach your flashlight.

Next up: the communication between your flashlight and camera. There are several options:

1. Use Cord. Attach the cord between your flash and camera and you're ready to go. You can even use more flashes. For example the Speedlite flashes from Canon can communicate with each other (Master/Slave).

2. Use a radio trigger and receiver. Like with the aforementioned, there are several options here too. From expensive like the Pocket wizards  (very good quality) to the more affordable Cactus or Yongnuo.

3. The latest generation flashlights has a built-in receiver. So in this case you only need a transmitter. For example the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT.

It can be triggered by using the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter.

Nearly every brand has its own system of transmitters. Yongnuo (Chinese) is the more affordable alternative to Canon. It's pretty good, but not Canon quality. the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT is the Chinese answer to the Canon ST-E3-RT) transmitter. 
It's compatible with the Speedlite 600EX-RT flash but also with the cheaper alternative from Yongnuo (Yongnuo Speedlight YN568EX II). This flash can also communicate with the Canon flashes (Master/Slave).With the transmitters from Canon/Yongnuo can you trigger 1 up to 15 flashes and control them all (in groups). 

When shooting with flash, it's possible to shoot in ETTL and manual. For example, you can set group A in ETTL and B in manual.

Let me short describe what ETTL and manual is. 

ETTL mode
This is when the camera dictates the power. The flash measures the amount of light that is needed. You, as a photographer, can use flash compensation. This works best for fill and flash shoots where the subject-to-flash distance is variable. Take for example athletes in action. 

Manual mode
This is where the photographer dictates the power. When you shoot in manual, you control all the light of all the flashes used for the shoot. This works best for consistency and shoots where the subject-to-flash distance is fixed. 

So now you know how to fix your flash on a light stand and how to trigger your flash. This is the moment to start shooting in ETTL and/or manual mode. But, don't forget to use the ambient light too in your shoot (ambient means the light that is already near when your flash is off). 

When you use flash, don't forget your zoom functionality. It makes a big diffence using 24 mm or 105 mm. Using 24 mm is for example great to light your background.

It's also possible have more than one flashlight, to combine several flashes to have more power. Check out this video of Dave Black. He shoots with 3 flashes in a softbox and makes the most amazing pictures.

Last but certainly not least, there are several modifiers for your flash. Modifiers are used to modify the light (on your subject and/or background). Let me take you through a few of them: 

Cheap and gives very soft light. You can use different colors (white, black, silver, gold)
A softbox diffuses the light into a pleasing soft and even light. When used properly, it reduces harsh shadows. Westcott has a great product range with softboxes. Depending on the model (and the color inside) the light bounces off differently, which creates a different atmosphere. 

You can use a grit to control the light of your softbox
Start with one flash and if you like it you can use a second or even a third flash. Remember that you can create wonderful images with just one light. 

SnootIt is nothing more than a sort of tunnel for the light to go through. It gives you great control over where to aim your light. It can be combined with a grid.

A great product that can be used for this is the Flashbender. It can be used as snoot but also in many other ways, depending how you bend your flashbender.

GelsWith gels you can give your light different colors. That gives you lot of options to be creative.

As with nearly all the topics in my photography tutorials, there's so much more information available out there on the net. So if you'd like to dive into flashphotography a little more, do check out Zac Arias. If you ask me, I consider him to be one of the best there is in single light flashphotography. He's got a really interesting blog and this Youtube Movie is so worth watching. Besides Zach, I also like the videos of Tyler Stableford and Bob Davis.  

Myself, I'm shooting with Canon and I also learned a lot from Syl Arena. This guy has a great blog.

Finally, an example of a picture I shot with just one Speedlite. Now go out there and have fun! 

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