Looking to expand your Photography Skills?
This is the time of year when most of us photogs are busy spending all of our time thinking about the upcoming photography season. Here in Denver, it's cold outside and many of our clients are just getting over the Holiday Sticker shock. Many of us are also looking how we can further our photographic skills and expand our knowledge during our 'down season'.
One thing that I've noticed lately is the increasing trend of "Natural Light Photographers" in our industry. It is a wondrous thing to have that amazing, perfect light beaming down from the Heavens at just the right moment during your session. However, more often than not there will not be perfect light. We are all faced with lighting challenges, Photography is after all the art of capturing light! One way to expand your photographic vault of knowledge is to learn how to control your lighting environment by adding off camera lighting.
What is Off Camera Flash?
Off Camera Flash, or OCF, is the practice of using lights that are strategically placed to enhance the outcome of an image. It is a common misconception to think that using any light source that is not "natural" will make your images look a certain way that is undesirable. In fact, learning how to harness light will allow you to create some amazing images and can enhance your ability to differentiate your brand from others.
There are many different tools available to us photographers in terms of off camera flash, from utilizing your speedlights to standing strobes and constant lights. Each photographer will find some tools more useful than others, but try out all your different options!
In Studio Off Camera Flash
For those photogs who shoot regularly in a studio setting, you are probably used to the idea of off camera lighting. Many times, the light coming into the space we've selected for our sessions isn't optimal (or there may be no natural light coming in). To enhance your images indoors, try playing around with standing strobe lights with a modifier to help get images with soft, even lighting.
For example, Brooke Summer of Brooke Summer Photography chose to use an Ailen Bee Strobe for these beautiful boudoir images. The look she achieved is not over "flashed" or unnatural looking but instead very natural and flattering. By pointing her strobe against a white wall and indirectly bouncing the light, she has created a nice, even light in her first image. The same strobe was then used in a different manor with an Octabox modifier (a large softbox in an octagon shape) to achieve a the lighting similar to that of an exterior window.
In a studio setting, understanding modifiers is just as important as the light source being used. A modifier will allow the light to be evenly distributed (such as a soft box) or to be directed in a very specific manor (honeycomb grid). Without modifiers, your light will "spew" out into your work space and is not easily controlled.
Utilizing Off Camera Flash Outdoors
The thought of using additional lighting outdoors is quite foreign to many photographers, a common thought being that your images won't look natural. This outdated theory will only diminish your ability to get the images that you're after! Adding off camera flash outdoors allows us to achieve a multitude of looks and feels. If the lighting situation that you find yourself in is one where the exposure bracket between your subject and background is incomprehensible, add some light!
Shannon of Adore Photography was able to capture a beautiful image that looks very natural with both her subject and background properly exposed. This would not have been possible without the addition of off camera flash. She simply used a small pop of flash from her speedlight off camera to lighten her subjects with some fill light.
Using off camera flash outdoors can be very tricky and time consuming. Shooting by yourself with off camera lighting can prove to be most difficult, but is definitely achievable! Investing in some heavy duty light stands and a form of transmitter/reciever (such as a pocket wizard or popper) will be necessary. In situations where you don't have much set up time, such as a wedding, speedlights are usually the preferred form of off camera flash. There are modifiers available for speedlights as well, so you can manipulate your lights just as with studio strobes.
Night Photography with Off Camera Flash
We've all been stuck in that situation, photographing in the dark! This is an obvious place to use lighting, but many of us have resorted to utilizing just our speedlight attached to our cameras. Venture out into the world of off camera flash for your night/reception photography and you'll be amazed at the results.
Using just your speedlight can be a fine solution when we have a white ceiling to bounce off of, but that is not usually a realistic situation. For example, Rhema with Rhema Faith Photography was in a beautiful setting outdoors for this couple's first dance, but there is no wall to bounce off of and directional light from a flash attached to your camera can make your images look very flat. Rhema used two 600RT speedlights (which are very nice, because you don't need a remote trigger with this specific speedlight model). She had one speedlight on her camera and had an assistant hold the other light on a stand as if it were a boom mic. Using this combination of on and off camera flash, Rhema was able to capture the star-like essence of the lights set up by her bride and groom.
Get out and Practice!!
This is the perfect time of year to perfect your skills! Grab a friend and go out of your comfort zone and experiment with some off camera flash! Keep perfecting your natural light skills, but remember that all photographers can benefit from learning how to harness and control added light.
Are you already a Denver Betty? Then keep on the lookout for an upcoming workshop that involves off camera flash! I can't give away all the details just yet... but there's lots of great stuff on the horizon!
Savannah Chandler Photography