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Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash
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Using one flash on one light stand for a simple portrait


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Photo Assignment: Off-Camera Flash

with Derrick Story

Video: Using one flash on one light stand for a simple portrait

Well, we're going to get started now with what I really like to do, which is take pictures. Now, as you look around here, you're going to see, there's not a whole lot on this set. This is our basic one-light setup. We have a flash stand, the flash itself, and an umbrella. We have Katrina, who's going to be helping us out today, and then we have me and the camera. And that's pretty much it. We're going to do all of our work with just a single light. You can take this anywhere. This is a very portable setup.

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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

Using one flash on one light stand for a simple portrait

Well, we're going to get started now with what I really like to do, which is take pictures. Now, as you look around here, you're going to see, there's not a whole lot on this set. This is our basic one-light setup. We have a flash stand, the flash itself, and an umbrella. We have Katrina, who's going to be helping us out today, and then we have me and the camera. And that's pretty much it. We're going to do all of our work with just a single light. You can take this anywhere. This is a very portable setup.

So, this is great for events, weddings, and things like that. Now, let me show you how this works. I have my Canon camera here, and I have a speed light transmitter on top. This transmitter actually talks to the flash itself. Through this little window, it communicates to the flash through its window. Now, not only does it trigger the flash, but it communicates exposure information also. Now, if I were shooting with my Nikon, and let me show you how that works, I'm going to -- hold that, thank you very much -- I'm just going to pop the flash here.

This is a Nikon D300S. What's neat about this, it has Commander mode. What that means is I can disable the flash part itself, but the camera can communicate with a Nikon flash. So, whether we're using the Canon or the Nikon, we have to make sure that we're using the appropriate flash. But they both work pretty much the same way, except the transmitter is actually built into this Nikon D300S, pretty slick. For now though, we're going to shoot with the Canon, so I'm just going to hang this back up.

Thank you Katrina, and take this. The other thing I want to show you is that you notice there is not a whole lot of distance here between the flash stand and Katrina, and that's because I like having the light nice and close. Remember, the closer the light and the bigger the light, the softer the light, and usually, the more flattering the portrait. So I think we're all set up here. Derrick: You're ready to take some shots? Katrina: Sure! Derrick: Let's do that. Derrick: All right! Are you ready to go here? Katrina: I'm ready.

Derrick: Good! So we're going to start out and have you just look right into the camera. Katrina: Okay. Derrick: Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to have this set in Program mode. It's the simplest way to go. So we have automatic flash in Program mode, and you're going to see what kind of shots we get. They are usually pretty good, right out of the gate. So, I'm going to have you look right into the camera there, and let's just take a shot. Very good! All right! Now, let me take a look at this. As I suspected, because we have the light nice and close to her, it's very flattering.

I like just about everything about this shot. I would say the only thing that I would change is that that background is a little dull. We have a white background, but here it's kind of a dull white. Now, the way I can brighten that up, there's actually two ways; one way is to put another light on it. But this is a one flash tutorial here, so we're not going to do that. Another trick though is I'm actually going to move this out of Program mode. I'm going to put it in Manual mode. That allows me to slow down the shutter speed.

We're shooting at 1/60th of a second right now. I'm going to slow it down to 1/30th of a second. Leave the aperture where it is. The shutter speed pretty much controls the ambient light. The aperture pretty much controls the flash. So, the way you can brighten up a background is to slow down that shutter speed a little bit, let a little bit more light in, and we'll see how it looks. So, let's take a few more shots. Now we're at a 30th of a second instead of a 60th, so we've slowed it down basically one stop.

Excellent! Aah! See, just that one change, just going from 1/60th of a second to 1/30th of a second brightened up that background. It's nice and white now. It looks bright. She looks fabulous! I think we have a really good shot here. Actually, I want to show it to you. It's not a bad idea to share the photographs with the model as you're going through. Derrick: It gives her some confidence that you know what you're doing. Katrina: Great! Yeah. It's not bad for just one light. Katrina: Right.

So, very simple setup. One light, one stand, a flash, professional results. It's great! Now, you can start in Program mode. Chances are you'll like what you see. If you need to adjust a little bit, maybe brighten up the background, just move it to Manual mode. Slow down that shutter, maybe go to a 30th of a second, and you're good to go. This is a great setup, give it a try and see what you think.

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