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Harsh, unflattering lighting can ruin a photo—and with flash, it's easy to get harsh, unflattering lighting. But flash is a necessary part of a photographer's toolset—after all, the world doesn't always provide you with the best natural light.
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to get great results from flash, and in this course, photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long details the concepts and techniques behind effective lighting with flash. Ben starts with fundamentals that build on exposure principles taught in other installments of Foundations of Photography—simple techniques that improve the results from a camera's built-in flash. He then focuses on fill flash techniques and on using flash as a key light. The course also explores topics ranging from bouncing and syncing flash to shooting with one or more off-camera flash units.
We're back with Stephen Kent, but now we're in the studio. Stephen, they got to see you play a little bit before, and I think a lot of people don't actually know what a didgeridoo is, and I'm sure they're all sitting there going, wow what's inside that thing that's making that noise? So what's inside that thing that's making that noise? >> Well there's nothing inside it Ben, it's just a hollowed out log. I mean it's. This is a log that's been hollowed out by termites, because it's a traditional aboriginal Australian instrument. >> And this one is actually Australian aboriginal made. >> This one is. >> With the, with traditional iconography on there. >> Yes. Traditional. This is I think these are yams actually.
>> Really. >> In the tradition of the northern aboriginal tribe they come from. >> So how did the aborigines train the termites to hollow out the log? >> It's a natural process. The termites trained the Aborigines to come and find the hollow log. >> Okay. >> because it's you know, this is, they're, they're hollow while the tree is already, I mean, still growing, the tree's still growing. >> Okay. And then they break off a branch and? >> No, they'll go out and like, an experienced didgeridoo maker or hunter will be able to tell the state, by the state of the trees and the environment it's in, whether it's more or less ripe for, for being picked as a didgeridoo.
>> As a didgeridoo. >> Yeah. >> Okay great. And then you are, you're just buzzing your lip into it and it's making this incredible sound. >> Yeah, it's kind of like a, it's sort of more like a trombone really than any other instrument. You're buzzing lips like you would a brass instrument. >> Okay. >> But there is a technique that's important to know about, which is the, the breathing technique where, >> Right. >> whereby you're breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth at the same time, so you continuously, it is a continuous outflow of breath. It's called circular breathing. >> Okay. I'm not just asking Steven these questions to be polite.
I'm actually interested, but more importantly, I want to get a good photo of him in here. And, as with any portraiture, it's a good idea, the more you know about your subject, the more you connect with them, the more ideas you're going to have about them. Steven, now that we're in here first of all it's going to sound a lot cooler. So I want to give them a chance to hear you play. But also while he's playing, I'm going to start looking for my shot. Our idea here is we're in this wonderful cyclorama. Which is just this great limbo white space. So it's really going to let us easy focus on Steven. We're going to need the light him, though, and we're going to use strobes with that. We're going to use multiple strobes.
But before we even get set on flash, I want to have an idea of what it is he's going to do and what kind of shot I'm looking for. So, Stephen, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like you to just play a little bit, and I'm going to poke around here and look for a shot. I'm not using flash at this point. I'm just cranking up the ISO on my camera. Stephen, I know from experience, has a tendency to move a lot while he's playing, so I'm going into a shutter priority mode. Because I want to be sure that I have some good motion-stopping power. And then I'm just going to try and work out a shot while he plays. Steven, that's always amazing. Really fantastic.
Thank you. You've got a lot of recordings and things that, that. >> Yeah. >> And, and your website is? >> stephenkent.net >> stephenkent.net, and you guys have got to check it out. There's, there's more video and footage and stuff up there, also. >> You can get links to my Youtube site. >> Okay, great. So as you saw, I was just moving around, trying a few different things, again shooting without flash, just looking for an angle. Here's some of what I got. I think that probably I'm going to go for a portrait-oriented, although I do like these I do like these landscape shots.
He's it's just great, it's really fun watching you move Steven in, in concert with the instrument. You gave it, you said something interesting earlier about, you've been in a lot of photoshoots, here's a tip if you are a musician and someone wants to shoot you. You had something to say about looking at the camera. You, you find that the pictures are worse when you're actually looking into the lens. >> Well, I feel like if I'm looking at the lens as I'm playing, I don't have a relationship with the instrument. I think for me the important thing about the didgeridoo is the intensity of my intention, really, as I'm playing through the instrument.
So I, you know, I feel like if I'm playing like this, and I'm, I'm looking up there, or looking at the camera, or going like or whatever, it doesn't have the, the intensity that it does when, when I'm playing to the instrument. For me, this is, it's about what's coming through >> And that's also what I've seen when you're on stage. So if I watched you and decided I want to shoot, a shot of you and I come in here and you're looking at the camera, I'm probably going to wonder what's changed. You look different when you're playing and. >> Right.
>> So, you're actually just now doing your whole real thing. You're not presenting for the camera, you are actually engaged in the activity in the way that you really would be. >> Yeah, I think when you play, it's like that takes over, really. >> Yeah. I think that's a good tip for shooting anyone who's engaged in a, in a discipline or an activity. Have them really do it. Because that gives you that extra energy and that extra connection that probably attracted you in the first place. So I've got a pretty good idea of what I want now, and I think Steven stay in this one general area moving around, generally oriented in a particular direction.
So that's what I'm just going to go ahead and start lighting for. Now we're going to work with three different flashes. We've been talking throughout this course about the difference between key and fill. You should know by now that a key light is going to be our main light source. Obviously we've got ambient light in here already, the flashes are not going to be our only light. They're providing just a, a general ambient light, but now we want to start presenting him, lighting him up somehow. So I'm going to start with a key light. As I said we work with three flashes. We don't set them all up and turn them all on at the same time, because that at point there's light going in all directions, it's too hard to figure out which flash is doing what.
So we're going to add them, we're going to build them up slowly over the next few movies. I have a strobe, a flash on a stand over here. I've already set it up. Key light usually, typically want coming from above, because that's where most light sources come from. Usually a 30 to 45 degree angle off axis. What's going to happen is we're going to get a bunch of light coming in on this side of his body. You already know that that's going to create some shadows over here that we'll need to fill. That will be our second flash. But let's start with the key. I've got the flash on a light stand over here. It's taller than I am, so, what's great about these stands is I can very easily raise them up and down.
Now, it's off-camera. We've already talked about off-camera flash. I don't have a cord that's long enough to go here, so I'm using a radio transmitter. So I have a transmitting unit on the top of my camera. I have a receiver on the stand, and the flash is plugged into that. So I've got radio communication from here to this flash. That's not how the other flashes are going to work, but this is giving me an initial, it's basically cable replacement that's going to let the camera control this flash. I don't, with these transmitters, have TTL information. All this does is trigger the flash.
So I've got the flash in a manual mode. This is going to allow me to control power as you've already seen. So, I'm going to, I know I don't want full power because this flash is always too bright full power, so I've dialed into about 130 second power. Actually, it's exactly 130 second power it says right there I don't know why I said about. Anyway, I've got the flash power dialed in. It's pointed at him. I'm going to now raise it back up. It's turned on. Actually, before I raise it back up, I'm going to see if it actually fires, there's a test button here. Steven, I want you to look right here, as tightly as you can, I'm going to fire this flash at you, okay, good.
So now he'll be squinting through the rest of your shoot, that's really not what you want to do with your model. So I'm just going to put that back up there. And now we're going to test and see what that light looks like. So, one thing that's really cool about this, when you have really talented cool people that you are shooting, you get to make them perform for you over and over. So Steven, you have to play some more. Sorry. Now as far as camera settings go, I am going into manual mode here. We know that my flash sync speed with this particular camera system is 1/250th of a second.
So I'm going to just set my shutter speed there because he's moving around a lot and I want to be sure that I freeze him. And because I'm not using TTL metering, I'm not real sure about my aperture yet. I'm going to go ahead and just open it up to F5. I'm setting my ISO at ISO 200, and I'm going to quickly grab a test shot with the flash. And that's awfully dim. So I'm going to now open up my aperture some, whoops, going to actually risk it and slow down my shutter to get a little bit more ambient light, and I'm going to crank my ISO up a little bit.
I don't want to go too high because I want to be sure that I don't have too much noise. So, here's a test exposure, and actually I don't need Steven playing for this right now. And as you can see I've got a key light in here. I've got really hard light on one side of his face. And if you're wondering why I'm just sitting here not saying anything, it's because I'm really going wow, that, that light's really hard, look at those shadows, they're very hard edged shadows that the dig is casting on his body. The highlights are really, really bright. So I've got too much power over there. I can turn it down, but I don't think that this is just about flash power.
This is about the hardness of the light. Look at the shadow that's coming out behind him from his body. This is a point light source. When we talked about bounce flash, we talked about the size of the light source. Because that's a point light source, it's, it's a very small light source. It's giving me hard edge shadows. It's giving me those really pinpoint specular highlights. I need to diffuse this light, so I need to go to a lighting modifier. We've talked about soft boxes now we're going to talk about umbrellas. This is a shoot through umbrella. The idea with this is the flash is going to fire through it.
It's going to light up this whole thing, and this is going to become my light source. It's a very big light source, so it's going to be nice and soft and diffuse. To get this mounted, I have, a special flash mount here that, This is a standard thing, it's got a, a shoe on the top and it can screw onto a lighting sound bottom. And it's got this very handy hole right here in the middle. So I can stick this through here. There are other types of umbrellas that you shoot into, so you would point the flash backwards and shoot into it. That's, nothing wrong with that, that gives you just another type of the diffuse light.
There's a screw on here somewhere that will hold that down. There we go. So, now he's got a giant umbrella pointed out at him. And so now what I get is this. It's a world of difference. Look at, again the shadows behind him. The shadow of the dig on his body. The specular highlights are much softer. Look at the highlight along the edge of the dig itself. So just this one simple addition has made a big change. I've got a little bit less light than I had before, and that's because the diffusion is cutting some of the light. So I think I'm just going to make one last adjustment to my key light here, and that will be to up the power a little bit.
What's cool about this mount is that, because the umbrella is attached to the same thing that's holding the flash, I can just move this whole contraption around. In addition to going up and down, I've got a joint here that lets me tilt if I need it. This is a standard thing. I don't know what you call it. You call it one of those flash things that also holds an umbrella. If you go to B and H, Adorama, any place that sells photo gear, you'll find all sorts of flash stands and flash mounts that will describe what they do. It's not hard to find this gear. Just manually adjusting, I want more flash power.
So I am going to go to other direction from a 30-second to a 16. So that's one stop. So this will now be twice as bright as it was before, but still very diffuse. I could also, if I wanted to get the flash brighter, I could move it closer to him. But I'm worried with the width of the field view that I have that the flash stand would be in the way. So, I think in this case, it is better to go with the output adjustment on the flash. So, thank you Stephen, a nice representative pose there.
Yeah, there we go. I think that's looking better. Well, I picked up a little bit of shadow again. Alright, so I'm going to back it off a, a third of a stop, and then I think we're good. Just one more test. Yeah, that's just a little bit too bright. So let's come down a little bit. Now, if you're thinking, well, gosh, you're going back and forth doing all this experimenting, aren't you supposed to just know? I really promise you, this is just how it works. You've got to just work it until you find the the right levels for your lights. There's nothing wrong with just doing the experimentation and working it out.
This is absolutely a normal part of the process. So if you find yourself doing this kind of stuff a lot, if you are find you are moving your flashes around, that doesn't mean that you are doing something wrong. It's just what it is to get your light levels set properly. Okay that's better. I like that level of brightness. I think that's our key light. We're in good shape now. We're still not ready to take the shot. We've got two more lights to set up. So from here we're going to move onto the fill light.
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