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Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash
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Understanding light modifier types and their use


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Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash

with Derrick Story

Video: Understanding light modifier types and their use

One of the benefits to moving the flash off the camera is that it's a lot easier to modify the light. So why would we want to do that in the first place? Well, let's get into that. So when you are shooting with your flash, you have this small area right here, a small light source. So the rule in photography is the smaller the light source, and the farther away it is, the harsher the light. Now there may be some instances when you want that, but when you are shooting portraits, that's probably not the case. What you want is a larger light source that's more flattering, and that's what these modifiers allow us to do.

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Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash
49m 48s Intermediate Jul 08, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this installment of our popular Photo Assignment series, Derrick Story shows how to get professional lighting results by using just one or two strobes that are detached from the camera and triggered remotely by Canon or Nikon digital SLRs. Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash covers how to improve the appearance of photos taken indoors, and reduce the appearance of harsh shadows, and get soft, beautiful light that flatters any subject. Along the way, learn lighting fundamentals and how to assemble a kit of equipment essential to any digital photographer who shoots portraits.

Topics include:
  • Comparing off-camera flash to on-camera flash
  • Getting started with equipment
  • Triggering a remote flash
  • Shooting with off-camera lighting
  • Balancing the output from multiple flashes
  • Simplifying exposure with Canon and Nikon flash systems
  • Viewing the results from a shoot
  • Sharing favorite shots on Flickr
Subjects:
Photography Cameras + Gear Flash Photography Lighting
Author:
Derrick Story

Understanding light modifier types and their use

One of the benefits to moving the flash off the camera is that it's a lot easier to modify the light. So why would we want to do that in the first place? Well, let's get into that. So when you are shooting with your flash, you have this small area right here, a small light source. So the rule in photography is the smaller the light source, and the farther away it is, the harsher the light. Now there may be some instances when you want that, but when you are shooting portraits, that's probably not the case. What you want is a larger light source that's more flattering, and that's what these modifiers allow us to do.

By simply mounting the flash here on the stand, rotating it around, and bouncing it off this large umbrella, now we have a nice big light source. Because it's off-camera, we can move it closer to our subject. That makes it even more flattering. Now these umbrellas come in a couple of different sizes. We have a large size here, and then we have a smaller size for when you are shooting in more, kind of, tighter quarters. So you can go either way, and they have all sorts of fancy ones, but I'll tell you, the basic umbrella gets the job done.

They've been around forever, and there's a good reason, because they are very efficient, very useful. You do lose a little bit of light because you are reflecting it off the surface, but because we are using automatic flash system here, our Dedicated system, the camera will take care of that for you. So no worries there, but just be aware; you are losing a little light when you bounce it off that surface. Now, when you are not shooting people and you are shooting products, you may want to use the light box, and these light boxes are also quite handy.

We have one right here; there is a white surface here. The flash goes on the inside, and then you have a reflective surface. This is a small one. They also come in larger sizes, and in fact, they can get quite big. So depending on what you are shooting, you can choose the appropriate light box. They are fairly affordable, and they modify the light very well. So this is another option when you want a little bit more efficiency, and you want a little bit more directional light. Again, I tend to use these for products, and tend to use the umbrellas more for people.

So that's that situation. Now there are times when maybe you can't set up your umbrella or the light box doesn't work, but you still need to modify the light a little bit. So here's one of my little tips from the field. What I've done is I've taken a photo disk here, and these are great reflectors for when you are shooting natural light stuff, and you need to direct the light, I've actually used the gaffers tape. You remember that. Well, this is one of the 1,001 uses, and I've actually just taped it right on here.

I can set this flash on a table or something or if I do have my light stand, I can put it there. Now, I've managed to modify this light; it's a bigger surface area. But yeah, I can do it very quickly, and I don't have to set up umbrellas or mount a light box. Then let's say you can't even do that. You don't even have time to do that. You are at a wedding reception, and you have to shoot on the go. Actually, I have a tip that will help you with that. This is an on-camera tip.

What I have here is a Gary Fong. It's a light modifier just like this. It's actually a dome that goes over the flash head. This is the original one, has all sorts of different ones now. But they all work essentially the same; the light goes up here, bounces off this dome, and radiates out. Now it's very, very handy for when you have to shoot on the go. You can shoot like this. Then if your flash head rotates, as this one does, you can also shoot in portrait mode, like this. Then when you are done, just rotate it back like this.

So you can use this when you have to shoot on the go. So we have you covered, no matter what the circumstance is. When you have time, I really recommend setting up the stands and going for that beautiful, big, flattering light. But life isn't always perfect, so sometimes you have to do things like use the light disk or the Gary Fong. The bottom line is is that when you modify this small light source here and make it bigger and find a way to get it closer to your subject, it's going to be more flattering, and it's definitely worth the effort.

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