Off-Camera Flash in Daylight  

Whatcha Got?

Perfect lighting

A little to the left

Teamwork

The right light

Ya gotta get wet

Who cares about the water

Lets see

Flash the Cadillac

 

This past weekend I lead another workshop for photographers about using off-camera flash when photographing portraits outside in bright light. As with past lighting workshops my goal was to help participants understand how to use flash in different environments during daylight, and gain techniques that I hoped would help them transform the harsh daylight of outdoor portraits into beautiful light.

I was fortunate to have a great rural location where participants began in the morning photographing our model using a speedlight and a diffusion panel in a bright meadow, then moved to a large, well lit, open barn with two-flash lighting using a shoot-through umbrella and softbox until lunchtime.

After a healthy lunch provided by Versatile Studio we set up by a small tree covered stream, getting both our feet and our model’s feet wet. We finally finished the day photographing the model posing beside an old 1970s Cadillac in a nearby field.

I enjoy guiding serious photographers through their first attempts to use flash as a tool to create better photos, I want them to think of the flash being more than an uncontrollable device perched on top of the camera when it’s too dark in a room to take the photo.

I have been offering off-camera flash courses since the early 1980’s, and still believe they are an important segment of a portrait photographer’s education.

So much has changed in photography, and yet here I am 35 years later, still helping photographers learn how to use off-camera flash. Modern cameras are amazing with sensors that are so much better at capturing light than film was. But just as 30 years ago, serious photographers realize how much more flattering off-camera flash is on someone’s face than just harsh daylight.

Off-camera flash gives a photographer the ability to choose the best direction of light.

There are times when I am forced to photograph a person without using a flash. I think “forced” is the best word, because I will always use flash if I can, and as those that have taken my advice have learned, in most instances using flash for portrait photography indoors or outdoors is better than not using a flash.

Those attending last weekend’s workshop began to get comfortable using flash.

David Hobby, lighting guru and founder of the blog, http://strobist.blogspot.ca, wrote,

“Learning how to light is incremental, creative and fun. There is almost no math involved, nor any difficult technical know-how. In fact, good lighting is less like math and more like cooking. It’s like, you taste the soup and if it needs more salt you add some salt. You’ll see that when we learn to balance a flash with the existing, ambient light.”

“Controlling harsh natural light – one of the most important things to know as a shooter is how to use bad light well. Taking hard, nasty daylight and turning it into beautiful light is actually pretty easy.”

Fifteen Photographers at Open House

fifteen photgraphers & a Model  Creek shooters  Modeling session  Lighting a portrait

Last weekend fifteen dedicated, and I think, pretty excited, photographers attended the Versatile Studio’s photography open house just outside of Kamloops, British Columbia. It is aptly named Versatile Studio because it provides multiple locations for portrait photography inside and out.

The day began with coffee and numerous discussions on portrait photography. At one point I got up to refill my coffee and then stood back, realizing this group of photographers, with their many different styles and approaches was going to make the day interesting, educational, and a lot of fun.

Of course, it immediately began with a hitch, as only one (thank you, Ali) of the four models that promised to appear showed up; nevertheless, these relentless photographers didn’t miss a beat, and decided to split into three informal groups using each other as subjects.

Those that wanted to work with lights in the large studio space chose two of their number with the most experience in studio strobe lighting to lead, and they took turns modeling, moving lights, backgrounds, etc, and making pictures that delved into some interesting experimentation.

Several others picked up reflectors and gathered at the stream with the one model, Ali. The light filtering through the trees was perfect for the large reflectors, and I think wading in the cool running water was also enticing on the hot August day.

A few decided to try out the light-diffusion panels I had set up in the meadow behind the studio, and later made portraits using the portable strobe I had placed in what was once a large farm equipment/hay storage shed.

Small groups interacted, gathering to discuss different techniques and to exchange thoughts on photography, and in my opinion, it was that exchange of personal experience between the photographers that made the day a success.

As I got the chance to peak at the LCD of several photographers’ cameras, I was intrigued at how differently each photographer captured the same subject. As I write I think of some famous quotes, the first by iconic photographer Ansel Adams, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”   His words more than fit what I saw created by those assembled at Versatile Studio that day, and I also like this quote, by author Peter Bunnel, who in his book, “Creative Camera International” writes, “There is no single form or style of portraiture. Portraiture means individualism and as such means diversity, self-expression, private point of view. The most successful images seem to be those which exist on several planes at once and which reflect the fantasy and understanding of many.”

So of course, you can understand why I would include that quote because, indeed, I saw many styles of portraits being made on that day. That’s the interesting and enjoyable thing about getting together with other photographers, especially a collection of photographers as large and diverse in talent and experience as was there; everyone is an individual and creates from their own personal perspective.

Versatile Studio, situated in the small community about fifteen minutes from my shop in Kamloops, hosted this photographer’s event with the help of accomplished photographer, Gary Risdale and myself. Our roles weren’t that of instructors as much as we were there to introduce, demonstrate, and facilitate.

I was so involved with what others were doing that, other than the images I have posted, I didn’t get a chance for anything else.

The studio’s owner, Dave Monsees, commented to me that he liked being around fun people with a true passion for photography and said he enjoyed himself so much that he intends to try to have photographer and model get-togethers like this in his studio on an occasional basis, every month or so.

I enjoyed spending time with those photographers; some were long time friends, and some were new acquaintances; and, I must admit, some of my most favorite times of all, have been either doing photography, or being with people that are doing photography.

It is always great to have your comments, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com