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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.
I love working with the electronics and the hi-tech toys, believe me, but sometimes, it gets down to just good old-fashioned hardware. And that's what we're going to talk about here, because unless you have a legion of helpers to hold flashes and modifiers and so forth, you're going to need some stands and some clamps to work off-camera. So, let me show you some of the stuff that I carry with me. So, we're going to start with the light stand itself. Now, I like something that's light, that's easy to carry, and that folds down, so it doesn't take up a lot of room in the trunk of the car.
However, you also need a stand that extends up above your subject's head. So, l like a stand that goes up seven feet or so. That's really handy! These will last forever. You'll probably need two of them, so you can have some lighting options, but once you buy them, you'll always have them. Now, once you have your stands, you're going to need a way to connect the flash to the stands. That's where these clamps come in handy. Now, I like a clamp that has the hinge here in the middle, and the reason being is that you want to be able to adjust the angle of the light, like this, while you're working, so you can get it exactly the way that you want.
So, if you just had a single post bracket, you're not going to be able to make those adjustments, and it will drive you crazy. Now, most of the good brackets will have a little hole right here, and this is for your modifier. You can see the way that it works right here, where we have the umbrella going through the modifier hole right here, and you can just adjust it accordingly. Very nice! Then the last, of course, we have the actual where you attach the flash itself. Now, I have a bunch of fun little posts and so forth, and basically what you do is you just put the post right here and you clamp it down, and then you can put a little hotshoe foot on here.
It's not really a hotshoe. It's just a little foot to hold your flash. Now, what a lot of people don't know is that when you have a wireless flash, you have a little foot that comes with it. It's a nice little stand, so you can set your flash up on a table or something. But these things also have, right inside here, a little tripod socket. See that right there? So, in a pinch, you can actually use these little feet for your flash mounting hardware, right here. This is what I'm using right here. So, you have the stand itself, the bracket, the light modifier, and then the flash attached.
That's your basic system, and again, you probably want to have two sets of each of these pieces right here. Now, over the years, I've picked up a couple little tricks along the way, things that I carry that I consider invaluable. The first thing are these orange handle clamps. These things are wonderful. They are great! You can buy them at the hardware store. You can buy them at the photo specialty store if you want to pay twice as much. Go to the hardware store and save yourself some money. Now, I use them for all sorts of things.
You can hang things off your light stands with them. You can use them to bunch up the background. You can even use them to pull the model's shirt tight if it's a little loose. They're very handy. I like to have about half a dozen of them on hand. Just pick them up at the hardware store, clamp them together, throw them in your bag. Another little goody that comes in handy, this is this little clamp here. It's a little C-clamp. It has a ball head on it. Now, when you can't carry a light stand with you, or there isn't room to set one up, these things can be a rather clever problem solver.
Basically, you just clamp them onto a table or a chair, that little ball head with the tripod socket. So, you could attach your foot right on that and attach your flash. Or if you want, if you want to start playing with your Erector Set pieces here, you can put an adapter into your clamp here, screw it on like this, and then you can even have a modifier. Once you do that, then you can put this just about anywhere. They're very light. They're very easy to carry around. It's nice to have one or two of these in your kit.
Finally, we talked about saving money on clamps at the hardware store, but one area you don't want to go to the hardware store for is gaffer's tape. This is a photo specialty item. This is not duct tape. This is gaffer's tape. It's much different. It's a cloth tape that's very easy to tear, right? Try doing that with duct tape. The nice thing about it is that it doesn't leave a residue. So, you can take just about anything. You can put it on there really tight, pull it off, and you'll have no residue at all.
You can actually use the same tape during the whole course of the day. It's a little expensive compared to duct tape, but I've had this roll for a couple years, and it lasts a long time. So, these are the essential hardware pieces that I use to hold my very expensive electronic pieces when I'm doing off- camera flash in the studio or in the field.
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