Tag Archives: Off Camera Flash

On-camera flash… advice for taming the beast

Taming on-camera flash

• Taming on-camera flash •
Left: harsh light and highlights are so unflattering!
Right: properly controlled you get proper skin tones and no highlights.
•••••||•••••
On camera flash can be a pretty tough nut to crack – learn how.
(Images taken from the video)

On-camera flash is pretty harsh…

In fact it’s often the source of ruined pictures from otherwise great dinner parties and family events. Dealing with with these little beasts takes a little work. You can make them do you bidding, you just need to know how.

A small powerful light source

The power of the little flash on your camera is misleading. For such a small light it puts out a lot of power. The learner is often caught off-guard. A great scene can be ruined by very unpleasant light, colour leached from faces, shiny reflections on faces and really hard-edged shadows. The whole thing is pretty ugly.

Here is some news. There are ways to control these little beasts and make them do your bidding.

Two of the most useful techniques for dealing with the problems are explained more fully in: Find out more about diffusing your on-camera flash. The other way is to help your flash work better in the room. Use the room itself as a way to bounce light around. Point your flash at a wall or ceiling so the light is reflected everywhere. It will make harsh flash into soft light – make it a more wrap-around light. This is always more flattering and shows the gentle curves of the face much better. It also means the light works its way around the back of the subject reducing harsh shadows cast onto the wall.

Practical use of the on-camera flash

For those quiet evenings where you are chatting with your friends and family here are some easy techniques. You can use your on-camera flash to good effect without the harsh shadows. You can escape the electric shock faces and startled expressions too. Have a look at the video and follow the sage advice of Mike Browne at a dinner party…

Using on-camera Flash Indoors – With Mike Browne


Mike Browne  External link - opens new tab/page

Using the proper tools is best

Let’s face it. On-camera flash is always going to be a bit difficult. As good as it looks in the video controlled results are always going to be difficult from such a little light source. Here is what Mike himself has to say about on-camera flash…

I’d suggest a speedlight is better because you can fit a diffuser and better still, turn the flash head in any direction and bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling.
Mike Browne  External link - opens new tab/page.

Have a look at some off-camera ideas. These are probably the most flexible options for moving your photography forward, especially for small intimate surroundings. Check out these options…

Off camera flash units

Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash Unit – a great branded flash for general use  External link - opens new tab/page

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight – a great quality mid-range Nikon flash unit  External link - opens new tab/page

Special pick…

This high quality own-brand flash unit performs like branded units but is much more affordable. The unit provides a range of functions as well as being compact, light and robust. Great value for your money. YN560 III 2.4Ghz Wireless Flash Speedlite Support RF-602/603 YN560-III For Canon Nikon Pentax Olympus  External link - opens new tab/page

 
All these units will fire as normal when mounted on the camera. They will require an off-camera flash cord or wireless radio triggers for off-camera flash units  External link - opens new tab/page to connect to the camera when shooting off-camera.

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Umbrellas and softboxes

umbrellas and softboxes

• Softbox Vs. Umbrella •
Umbrellas and softboxes seem to have similar characteristics… or do they?

What IS the difference?

Photographers learning to use lights find it difficult to understand the difference between a softbox and umbrella set-up. It is important to understand if you want to have control of light.

The nature of soft and hard light

Hard light is not some mutated form of ordinary light. It is a type of light that is focussed and which shows a hard transition from bright to dark. The shadow line is a sharp contrast. On the other hand, soft light wraps itself around curves and has a soft transition from light to dark.

The definitions of hard and soft light tell us much about the characteristics of the light but not how the light is formed. Well, it turns out that the light source, its shape, size and focus or diffusion as well as distance from the subject all have an impact on the characteristics of light.

Photographic umbrellas and softboxes

In the video Mark Cleghorn examines the characteristics of photographic umbrellas and softboxes. He does some great shots with both. Pay attention to the way he uses the lights and what characteristics he points out. Distance and size of the sources play an essential role in the formation of the softness and hardness of the light. His experiments are interesting and show you how the nearness of a large light source can create softness. It seems counter intuitive, but it is correct.

The first half of this video is very useful and you will learn a lot about Umbrellas and softboxes as light sources. The second half showcases advanced features of Photoshop. This is a less useful section if you are only interested in the practical issues for umbrellas and softboxes. You can safely skip it.

Lastolite Umbrella Versus Softbox from Lastolite on Vimeo  External link - opens new tab/page.

Types of lights

There are many types of light source that can generate light for umbrellas and softboxes. For most situations it is best to use off-camera flash units. The more expensive studio flash units are more for professional use. If you are just starting out they will be more powerful than required for most general purpose needs. Off camera flash helps give you flexible use. It is also easily controlled. You can work with both umbrellas and softboxes with an off camera flash.

Fortunately, most umbrellas and softboxes units designed for off-camera flash will mount most types of flash units. When looking to purchase lights think about what you want to achieve. Then buy the flash unit needed to meet your need.

Below is an example of a photographic umbrella set…

DynaSun W968S Professional Kit with Holder, Umbrella, Stand and Bag for Cold Shoe Mount Flash Gun Flashgun  External link - opens new tab/page
This is a high quality but affordable photographic umbrella unit. The complete package includes everything you need except the off-camera flash unit. The inclusion of the small carrying bag makes the whole thing neat and well presented.

When it comes to the purchase of a soft box these too have the universal fittings for off camera flash units (although studio units are also available). Here is an example softbox…

24″ 60cm x 60cm EZ-Fold Studio Softbox Kit with 2 x Diffusers and Ballhead Bracket for Portable Flash and Speedlite  External link - opens new tab/page
This is a high quality, well produced softbox with easily adjustable fittings and a variety of ways to set up light diffusion within the unit.

Of course both these units are among many others in the field. You can see the various types of each on these search pages…
Photographic umbrella – Search page on Amazon  External link - opens new tab/page

Softboxes – search page on Amazon

These various examples include studio light units, always on bulb mountings and fittings for off-camera flash. Check for what you want before you buy. The most flexible is for off-camera flash when you are starting out.

No removable flash? Read this: Off-camera flash. It’s a great introduction and recommends an affordable flash unit.

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A quick and simple method to make brilliant water droplet images

water droplet

• Water Splashes •
The most beautiful scenes in the world include water. Here you can make your own water droplet.
(Image taken from the video)

The close-up world of the water droplet – endlessly fascinating

The captivating thing about water is that it is ever changing and creates a sense of magic in every scene. When you get in close some simple techniques make wonderful images.

How to photograph water droplet impacts

Ever enthusiastic Gavin Hoey takes us through the simple process of creating wonderful water droplet photos. Colour, light/shade and magic water droplet sculptures are the result.

The best bit about this is that you can make these wonderful photos yourself. It is very easy and great fun. When I first did this I spent hours of time on it and got lost in a world of wonderful colours and effects. There are three things to remember that will help you make this a personal and effective shoot…

  • The more shots you take the more great effects you will see.
  • Background colour should be varied. I’ve used wrapping paper to brighten colours.
  • The angle of the camera can affect your shot (not mentioned in the video).
  • Try different camera heights with respect to the water.

After yesterdays blog, the way you see it is about your style. Don’t look for “new”, look for you!

This is a short video (six minutes 50secs), but one that will give you hours of fun and excellent images.
Gavin Hoey  External link - opens new tab/page

No removable flash? Read this: Off-camera flash. It’s a great introduction and recommends an affordable flash unit.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Simple portrait lighting for anyone to try (pt.1)

The basic portrait lighting set up

The basic portrait lighting set up
The umbrella represents the key light, the round reflector represents a fill light.

To do a basic light set up is easy.

Portraiture is a pursuit for photographers at all levels. Sometimes beginners shy away from anything but pop-up flash shots. They feel that they have an inadequate grasp of lighting techniques. Actually, the basic lighting for a portrait is very simple.

The essentials

In the diagram above there are four main components of the set-up plus the subject. There are…

  • The backdrop, represented by the roll of paper mounted on the wall, down to the ground and under the subjects feet.
  • The light, represented by the flash unit behind a photographic umbrella which diffuses the light.
  • The reflector, the upright round object to the right of the camera.
  • The camera itself, representing the position at which the photographer stands.
The light

In any photographic scene we refer to the main light as the “key light”. This is the main light source that brightens the scene and the subject. In most cases the basic set up will be using an off-camera flash. However, this type of flash is a very small light source. As such it tends to generate a very hard light. That is very unflattering light on the face. Hard, harsh shadows tend to create angular shadows. This is unflattering except in a dramatic mood or a shot emphasising maleness. To ensure that the light is more diffused the photographic umbrella is placed in front of the flash. This creates a soft light which is more flattering.

As you can see from the scene in the diagram the key light is angled on one side of the subject. Your portrait sitter will then be more strongly illuminated from one side. This leaves the other side of their face in shadow. You can fill out this shadow by using the reflector. It back-reflects the light from the flash. The reflected light will be more diffused and of a lower intensity than the flash-side of the face.

Alex Broad Light 01 by Photo Geek, on Flickr

• Alex Broad Light 01 •
The light on the camera-side of the face is from a key light. The other side of the face is a lower intensity light.
• Alex Broad Light 01 • by Photo Geek, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

The diffused flash on one side of the face and the slight shadow (filled by the reflector) on the other, creates a nice contrast. The difference in light across the face helps to create depth and structure. This is what photographers are looking for. We want to see nicely rounded features defined by the light-shadow relationship created by the gradient across the face.

In the diagram the angle of the key light and the reflector is a relatively shallow angle to the face. However, the angle can be varied. That variation will bring out the basic portrait lighting angles. You can read more about those in “Simple positions for classic portrait work”.

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Lighting variations on a theme

This basic set up can be done even if you do not have off-camera flash or any kind of photographic light. The idea of a “key light” is that it is the main “light source”. In a studio that light could be a studio strobe light. In a house you might use the light coming in through the lounge window. An off-camera flash like above is another option or you could use some other form of lighting. In the outdoors the sun could be the key light.

In the case of the reflector you can use secondary sources of light instead. If you have a bright key light like flash or other light source you could use the lounge window as your secondary lower intensity light. I have seen fill done with a candle – lovely soft glow. Light from a reflector is only one way to create fill light.

The effect is all in the angles of the light relative to the face, and the gradient of light-to-shadow across the face. What you use to create the light is more about the way you take the photograph and the amount of light the camera needs to get a proper exposure. The motto is be creative with the way you create the light, and with the way you vary the angle of the key light and secondary light relative to the face.

Simplicity

The aim of this article has been to show how simple it is to set up a single light and a secondary source of light to create pleasing portraits. It is not difficult and it can be great fun if you have a good relationship with your portrait subject.

To get the most out of this tutorial you should also see: Simple portrait lighting for anyone to try (pt.2)

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Sidelight – How to capture great texture in your photographs

Rippled Sand • Sidelight creates a lovely texture

• Rippled Sand •
Beautiful soft sidelight from bottom left creates lovely shadows after each ripple. Had the shot been taken with flash from above, the ripples would have been near invisible.
Rippled sand by Seldom Scene Photography, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

The capture of texture depends on the angle of light.

It is that simple. The lower you get your light to the side of your subject the more you will create shadows that stand out. Photographers have long recognised the benefit of long shadows for their definition in landscapes. Beside the great colours of sunset, the long shadows from sidelight provide character and definition to the landscape.

The same idea can be applied to the much smaller scale. Still life, studio set-ups and even drying paint can all be enhanced by sidelight. When working with smaller subjects, “get in tight and sidelight” is great advice.

Vintage Store Photo Challenge

This is the best video I have seen on working with smaller objects and side lighting. Gavin Hoey explains with an off-camera flash how to bring out texture and detail in still life photos. This is a very simple lesson. After seeing it you will want to explore side lighting further.

After the video there are some more resources on the subject…

 

Approaching sidelight with your images

In the video Gavin Hoey used a diffused speedlight, off-camera flash. In the post “Off-camera flash” you can find out all about what they are and the functions they provide.

If you want to improve your off-camera flash working with some sort of diffuser is a great idea. I have worked with a range of off-camera flash diffusers over the years and often been disappointed. I am really enthusiastic about the Rogue Flashbender range of diffusers. I use the Large Rogue Flashbender and the diffuser to go with it for work and my own projects. It is an exceptionally flexible piece of kit and occupies only a tiny space in your kitbag since it rolls up very tightly. The whole Rogue Flashbender range are great products and worth checking out.

One of the great tools I keep within reach when doing table top photography is the little LED light unit below. Designed for camping it has become a great light for my table top product work. It is small, adaptable and very cheap to run as it uses very little battery power.

I have two of these and place them on the table lying down or on end. The light itself is quite white so it will not give you colour casts. If the light is too harsh I just cover the LED panel with tracing paper or ordinary (white) toilet tissue. The tissue-light is gorgeous, soft and easy to use. These are excellent products and inexpensive to buy. They are probably the simplest way to set up a table top sidelight.

Working with people, stronger light gives you more control over freezing your subject. For portrait work a flash helps. To freeze a portrait for a sharp picture use a brighter light and a short exposure. A side-lit portrait is 100% better than a pop-up flash shot where the light is straight on. For this, the off-camera flash is the way to go. You have the flexibility to create a sidelight that creates shadows that define the face. Make the light as soft as possible so the shadows wrap around. Avoid hard or harsh shadow lines on faces. It is not flattering.

At the other end of the scale the low intensity light of the LED panels allows for long exposures when using static subjects. Use a longer shutter time if you want your subject to be lit more brightly. Of course to do that you will need a way of steadying your camera for long exposures. A tripod is probably best in this situation.

The way to go…

In the wilds, or doing table-top studies the best light comes in from a shallow angle as sidelight. It is the shadows that define objects and bring out strong textures. Look for side lighting where ever you can, and create it yourself if the natural light can’t do it for you.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
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We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
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Simple, basic rules of lighting anyone can use

Every time you take a photograph you use light.

It’s no surprise that a few simple rules apply to getting a good understanding of light. Knowing more about how certain light conditions work is a great insight. It’s simple too…

In this great video Ed Verosky looks at the basic ways that light can be understood and used. Using some really simple graphics the video takes us through the basics. Great work Ed… more after the video.

Published on Aug 13, 2012 by Ed Verosky

Of course you can find many other light resources here at Photokonnexion to supplement this video. Here are some ‘must reads’ to go with what you have just seen in the video.

A simple challenge to use your new knowledge…

Take a portrait of someone lying down. Use only the light from one window (daylight). You poser should have feet pointing toward the window, head pointing away. The idea of this is to see how you can vary the light intensity with distance from the window. We want to see how the softness of shadows on curves change along the length of the body.

Now repeat the exercise with your pop-up flash or off-camera flash. See how much harder the light is and how sharp the boundaries between light and dark.

I hope that has proved fun and easy to do. I would love to see the results. So if you can post your shots online and leave a link in the comments below I will comment back on your shots. Have fun!

Simple tips to save you from disaster on your photoshoot!

Am I preaching to the converted?

Ever gone on a shoot and forgotten something? I have. If you’re like me you will have a bag packed ready. But, check the night before. Things may have changed. Here is some help.

Checking

The night before you go is the first time you should check your equipment. That’s the time to realise you need to charge your batteries. Yes, always have more than one – you don’t want to run out. Charge both. If you have an off-camera flash, check they are up to power too. I use rechargeable batteries in my flashes. So I charge them. But you may have standard disposable ones. Have fresh ones on hand.

Check you have a memory card in the camera and at least one spare. A corrupt card is as good as stopping your shoot if you have no spare. Oh, and make sure you downloaded the previous shoot. I turned up to a shoot once with a card nearly full of my previous shoot. I had not had time to post process them. OK, no problem. Ah! Had I downloaded them? Er… I could not remember. Then, eeek! I had no spare card. One full, no spare. It cost me an hour to find a shop for a new card – I was not impressed with the card either, but no choice. How stupid did I feel when I got back and found out I had downloaded the previous shoot. I could have used the card I had. Better safe than sorry.

Lenses

Choose your lenses if you have more than one. Also check they are clean, properly packed and have lens caps. Camera bags are generally made of very harsh material. If the glass rubs against the material it will rub off the coating and may scratch the glass. Look after your lenses and they will last for years. Got clean lens cloths? Make sure you do… you may need to clean up while out. Oh, I have an extender for my 70-200mm. It takes the lens up to 280mm – enough for most long shots. Don’t forget lens accessories. And, if you think you are going to need them, what about filters?

Camera straps?

Check your camera straps for damage. The little slits the straps go through gradually wear the strap. If a strap breaks your pride and joy will crash to the ground! Check the straps and zips on your camera bag are good too.

Got your tripod? Ah, but have you got the quick release plate? I forgot one once and had a day of really hard shots and poor results.

I normally carry three different light modifiers. They are a little honeycomb for focussed, hard light and a strap on diffuser which directs the light in one direction for soft wide focussed light. Finally, a plastic diffuser for popping on top of the flash for all-round bounce light to give wide-spread light. So, check your modifiers. If you don’t have any get some. Flash is too harsh for most shots.

Camera?

Ha ha! I am not joking actually. I once went on a shoot with a great friend. He had a new Canon 7D – proud as punch. He turned up on our shoot with a wonderful camera bag. In it was everything he needed for the shoot – except the camera body. He had left it on the table at home. Fortunately I was able to lend him one of my spares.

Sundry other items may be important too… Torch? Large plastic sack to cover everything in a sudden shower? Map? Tablets? Sandwiches, drinks, money? Well you get the idea. Everyone’s list is personal, so work out what is meaningful for you.

Going on a shoot for a day or more is a complex business. Your day can be ruined or shortened if you are not prepared. So why not make check lists. One for the night before, one for the morning before you go. Go through everything you have an then put it on the list. Then, check it all in complete confidence that you will have a great day.