Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Lilly Sessions

"A Star is Born"

How do you feel about flash? I can tell you that up until recently I was not a big fan. Unless you learn, play, read up on, compare and experiment with what you can do to control the light it can often be a disappointing mess of weird shadows, hot spots and that washed out look to everything in it's path. It becomes that dreaded last resort when you need light.

You missed it just now didn't you? Read back. Do you see the key to learning what a powerful tool flash can be in your world of photography? Let me ask you this: when you're out somewhere and you see a scene that speaks to you, and if you are intentional with your exposure, you take what light you have and using a deliberate exposure you control how much light to give the camera's sensor and you take your shot, right? In your camera you've controlled the light.

Wait. What? I thought we were talking about flash? Flash is just another means of controlling the light available to you. This isn't a new concept. So why are we always afraid of it? Why was I afraid of it? I think because we see light as being beyond our control. That flash is just going to go off, blind everyone in the room, and it changes everything I know about my camera... right? And we always assume the light is the big problem, so to make matters worse, we find a way to dial down our flash to non-existent levels and voila, now the subject looks like it should belong on some Halloween set. Do you know how many photographs I've trashed that way? Too many.

Here are some things I learned last year about flash that I think I may do a series of posts on in the next couple weeks. Things that took the mystery out of speed lights for me. (Heck, we could start with the fact that "speed light" is just another word for flash...)

1) The closer the light to your subject, the better chance it has of enveloping your subject properly.

2) Diffusing the light from the flash with a scrim, with a light panel, or with even something as simple as a light sphere will get rid of those hated harsh lines. You know the term "Bathed in light"? Yeah, that.

3) Your flash can override all the light available in the room, or it can accent it. Decide which is more appropriate to your vision, and then expose for it.

4) The flash really does need to come off the camera, to allow you to be the creative photographer you want to be. It's simple, you just want to harness the light that can be available to you. Google YouTube tutorials on triggering your flash... then go for it.

The image today was created with my SB-600, off the camera, sitting to the right of the subject on the same table top, at full power and zoomed out manually to it's largest flash length, triggered by my pop up flash on the camera which was dialed all the way down to non-existent so as not to affect my real flash exposure. I had a simple light sphere attached to the flash to disperse the light evenly, and had two reflectors to bounce light up under the subject, and down into the subject. My exposure in camera was adjusted so that the only light that mattered was my flash. Basically my test shot without the flash was a dark screen. Then I chose my flash exposure according to how I liked the lilly to look in the light. Basically, a few minutes of playing. And this was the result. And the more I do it, the more I get it. It's just another way of controlling the light.

One of my motto's for the new year is "Remaining static is not an option." For too long I've let things that give the impression of being hard hold my photography back from being everything it can be. Not anymore.
Thanks for the ramble, and have a super Wednesday!


  1. Great post and picture but I have a problem. Now that I have read your post here and on FB I am inspired to try some flash work and there lies the problem, I only have an old flash that does not work with my camera, so I can see a purchase coming up.
    Thanks a lot

  2. LOL... umm, sorry and you're welcome ;) I shall do my best later this week to ease into another flash post gently and go from there! Thanks Peter!