Flash On OR Flash Off

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 28800, ƒ/4, 1/250

To flash or not to flash that is the question? In the photo above this was done without a flash.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

Now I have an Alienbees B1600 behind them and one in front. While technically the one with flashes is better I still am not really satisfied with the flash. Due to restrictions on where I could put the flash I just never could get what I would call a natural look.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/4, 1/250

The biggest difference with these two photos is where the minister is standing. The lighting is designed to hit him on the face and not the people on the front row. So here the available light is quite acceptable.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

No question that here I was able to achieve the “natural light look” with the strobes. The major difference between the two photos is the dynamic range appears greater with the strobes.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100–(2) Alienbees B1600s, Pocketwizard TT1 w/ AC-3 and TT5 w/ AC-9

While the photos where the lighting can be made to look natural look best with the flash I find the flash is announcing that I am there shooting. This makes people look at me much more and basically limit the number of natural expressions.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 14400, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

I love the moment here with the little girl during a chapel service. The reason for those who are wondering about the blue light, it is from the stained glass window on the right of the frame.

Nikon D5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

As you can see from these photos it isn’t always easy to choose to use flash or not. With today’s cameras having such high ISO capabilities you can get more acceptable images without a flash than we could just a few years ago.

To flash or not is often up to the photographer and how it fits into their style of photography.

Creating the promotional poster for a theater production

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/50

Just the other week I teased you with some test shots. These are some of the final shots from our shoot.

Editorial Note: Due to the contract signed to put on the play we cannot promote the name of the play until February 23rd. Another theater company is putting it on right now and has rights to PR and Advertising in our market.

Now to give you a feel for the before and after here is a shot my wife took on her phone.

Yes we are shooting during the daylight. So you cannot get this photo with your smart phone or for that matter any camera.

This is about lighting and controlling it.

This is me earlier setting up 3 Alienbees B1600 flashes with CTO gels on the lights. The camera is white balanced for tungsten. This means wherever the flashes orange light hits will be neutral tone and give good skin tones. All the available daylight will now be blue.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/8000

For the individual cast member shots I just used one Flash off to the side about 45º right of the camera and about 45º above the cast members head.

You should notice the the shutter speed is 1/8000. To make this work I am using the PocketWizard TT5 on the flash with an AC-9 adapter plugging into the phone cord connection on the Alienbee B1600. This will let me shoot at any shutter speed. This is call high speed sync.

I have the PocketWizard TT1 transmitter with the AC-3 which lets me control the power of the flashes from the camera remotely. I just turn up or down the power from -3 to +3 in 1/3 increments.

There are three groups A, B, C and two Channels 1 & 2. Each flash was on a different group setting and all were on the same channel to fire at the same time.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/5000

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/7.1, 1/5000

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/8000

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/8000

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/8000

Now we moved the group around in our backyard trying different locations and lighting.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/5, 1/8000

Now the biggest changes from my test shots, which you can see in the earlier blog post was 1) Costumes, 2) Makeup & 3) smoke machine.

As you can see here we had to really work to get the right shot with the smoke. Often it was overpowering the photo.

Here is a view of the photo without the strobes going off.

Now you know how sometimes they film those night time scenes in so many movies.

Working with a recording artist Sydney Rhame

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, AC-9, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

Today I was privileged to work with Sydney Rhame who was on The Voice this year. To get those chairs to turn as she did you have to be comfortable in front of the camera.

Sydney on iTunes.

Here is her Facebook fan page

Sydney needed little direction. I just needed to spend a little time before we started asking what she was looking for in her photos.

This is one of my favorite photos today. I used the high speed sync using he Pocketwizard TTL system with the Alienbees. This let me shoot at 1/640 shutter speed. Here is the lighting diagram.

The trick was to take a few test shots until I was able to get the rich colors in the background balanced with the flashes.

The photo on the left [ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/500] and the right [ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/400]. I also dialed the flash down in power on the right.

This is what I call experimenting to get the look you are wanting.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/640

I also like to have subjects bring a variety of outfits and let us try a few looks.

This is the setup where I have main light on her face and separate light to just add a little kicker in the back.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, AC-9, AC-3, PocketWizard Mini TT1, TT5, Paul Buff Vagabond, Alienbees B1600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

For this photo I took the white umbrella off the light behind Sydney to give a little more kick on the hair.

I also believe you really mix up the backgrounds and looks when you are helping someone with things like model portfolios, PR kits for musicians and actresses.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200–Alienbees and Softboxes

Here is more of a traditional headshot.

Now to give a different look that this I just shot with the available light with the same setup.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

I believe we were getting some variety throughout the photo shoot. As Sydney and I got more comfortable with each other the expressions just got better and better.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160

While backing up and showing more of Sydney gave a different look, my favorites where up close where you can see her eyes.

 

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

When shooting at ƒ/1.8 her eyelashes are not even in focus, just her eyes.

Now shooting at ƒ/4 gave a little bit more depth-of-field.

 

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

While the shallow depth-of-field looks great it is difficult to get all your photos in focus.

Going for “look” can sacrifice great “moments”

Because you choose to want that silky smooth BOKEH means that you will be tossing out photos just because they are not sharp where you need them to be. Therefore you may lose the best “moment” because the “look” is more important to you.

This is one of the reasons I am not shooting at wide open all the time. I prefer to stop down just a bit to get some leeway allowing me to more likely not to toss out the great “moment” because I missed the focus due to such a shallow depth-of-field.

Use flash outside

By using the strobes outside on an overcast day I was able to help the subject pop and not look flat due to the natural light.

Using high speed sync let me shoot at wide apertures and just crank the shutter speed up to control the available light.