Archivi categoria: speedlight

The Pros and Cons Of Speedlight Flash Photography

Lighting is the most important element of a photograph. It is essentially the only thing that a picture is truly made of. And it’s the quality and type of light that really sets a picture apart from the masses of imagery, or limits a photo’s ability to really captivate an audience.

One convenient means of shooting in low-light, indoor situations—or if you want to add some fill light to an outdoor location shoot—is to employ the use of speedlight flashes. Speedlights really shine (no pun intended) in some instances, but they can also lack in others.

In this article, I want to cover some of the pros and cons of using speedlights as off-camera light sources, as well as the unquestionable limitations of using these types of intermittent photography lights. You’ll also see a series of speedlight-only photos I recently shot, which highlight how you can make these portable light sources work for you.

Cons – A weaker, smaller light source with a narrow beam

In comparison to studio strobes, speedlights have a very low lighting output; even set to full power, they can only produce about 1/4 (or less) of the light emitted by the average studio strobe or monolight.

They also produce a very narrow beam of light. This results in hard edged shadows and a rapid falloff of light that doesn’t gradually taper into a nice, soft gradient. Unlike the more aesthetically pleasing, long shadows of low angle sunlight, the light from speedlights often ends up looking more artificial than larger light sources.

Additionally, the light being output from a speedlight often looks rather stark and displeasing (those narrow beams again). When compared to the softer lighting created by studio strobes, speedlights can make skin and other surfaces appear hard and rough.

Finally, you have to be very precise with your placement and positioning of speedlights to ensure the light ends up in the right place.

Pros – There’s a modifier for that

Based on the above points, speedlights are not the ideal light source for many types of photography; however, because they are so light-weight and portable, many photographers still like to use them, combining them with flash modifiers to try to combat the issues I just explained. These days there are many types of softboxes, umbrellas, and other attachments made specifically for use with speedlights.

The main problem with modifiers is that most of them will reduce the net power output by at least 25%. This can be a problem when you already have very little total light output to start with, so keep that in mind.

Speedlights can also add a lot to a photo as a fill light when shooting with ambient light, or when you’re in a dark or shaded area where the colors are looking a bit drab. This means using the available light as your main or “key” light source, and filling in the shadow with a speedlight to give your photos that extra bit of pop.

Finally, speedlights can also be very useful when you are on a shooting location with limited access to electrical power, or when you’re working in tight spaces where it might be difficult to set up larger strobes.

Make It Work

Despite all the cons mentioned above, the photos you see in this post were shot using only a group of 3 speedlights triggered remotely in a very dimly lit weightlifting gym.

For this shoot I was looking for an edgy, high-contrast light source to give the photos that sort of “hardcore” look. I also didn’t want my light to spread out too much, because I needed to isolate the subject as best I could from the environment. In a situation like this, speedlights are the perfect type of lighting.

I placed three speedlights on lightweight light stands and used a radio trigger to fire them. All the shots seen in this post were shot with a 70-200mm lens at an aperture of f/5.6 with ISO set between 100 and 200.

For my lighting placement on these shots, I positioned two speedlights either alongside or behind the subject. Then I positioned a third light high up on a light stand in front of the subject and pointed downwards to obtain a bit of frontal fill.

And there you have it. Using speedlights as your main light source can be very limiting, especially if you’re used to working with more powerful studio strobes, but it can be done. Just pick your situation and techniques carefully, and keep your limitations in mind.


About the author: Marc Schultz is a travel and commercial photographer who writes a blog about various aspects of photography during his free time. To read more of his writing visit the Marc Schultz Photography Blog. A similar version of this article was published on Marc’s blog.

In Defense Of Flash: 5 Reasons to Move Beyond Natural Light Photography

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Flash is a complicated beast, let’s put it that way.

Say you’ve spent the last few years of your photography journey perfecting natural light, and you know the exposure triangle by heart. Flash comes in to the picture and ruins that perfect triangle, making it more of an exposure square.

Where once you could take on all ambient light challenges, flash messes up your previous knowledge base and confuses you from the start. Now you have a bunch of extra factors to consider: your flash power, intensity, direction, modifiers, ambient-to-flash-ratios, fill ratios, and relative size. Did I say its a square? More like an exposure decagon.

Now would be the perfect time to turn around and walk away, but if you’re still interested to know why I think flash is worth learning, read on.

1. It’s not that hard.

Sure, it takes a while to learn how each modification to your lighting affects your image, but you’ve already learned so much about photography, this is just the next step. Simple trial and error is all it takes to realize how versatile having flash can be.

Have you ever had to spend time in Photoshop lightening a persons face because it wasn’t lit enough? Flash is there to help you. Have you had blurry motion because it was too dark, making you drop down to a slow shutter speed? Flash is there to help you. Just purchasing a flash with off-camera capabilities will open up a whole new world of wonder/terror… and only by learning can you control the beast.

Go from ambient alone, where everything is bathed in an orange glow.
Go from ambient alone, where everything is bathed in an orange glow.
To adding a single flash, camera right. This lets the subjects pop against the warm background.
To adding a single flash, camera right. This lets the subjects pop against the warm background.

2. It’s not that expensive.

Sure, you can pick up some amazing flash units like the £1,600 Profoto B1 heads, but you can also pick up some little Yongnuo YN-560 flashguns for £50.

Unless you’re trying to illuminate large swathes of an outdoor scene, you won’t need those big flashes. I’ve used my cheap Yongnuo flashgun for the past four years commercially and its never let me down. Buy a few of them with triggers and you can start to play around with off-camera flash lighting, which is the holy grail of photographic lighting.

Having multiple flashes illuminating different parts of the scene is much more preferable to having one huge singular flash lighting up everything.

3. You can light so it doesn’t look lit.

This is a technique that’s hard to explain, but easy to show. Unless you’re in a pitch black room at night, there’s going to be some ambient light that your camera can see.

For the first step, dial in a setting so that your camera starts to pick up that ambient light, however weak it may be (think back to the exposure triangle). Now that that’s done, bring your flashgun in on lowest power, and fire off a shot. Next, start ramping up the flashes power (leave those camera settings alone), until the flash blends in with the ambient.

It will blend eventually, and if you want to then bring your ambient down a little bit read on to the next point.

Ambient light is coming through the window, but the shadow areas are looking dark in comparison and needed a boost.
Ambient light is coming through the window, but the shadow areas are looking dark in comparison and needed a boost.
By adding a flash at full power camera left, we get a mix of flash and ambient cross-lighting, illuminating the subjects and giving dramatic shadows.
By adding a flash at full power camera left, we get a mix of flash and ambient cross-lighting, illuminating the subjects and giving dramatic shadows.

4. You can adjust ambient light to taste with one dial.

This is true on every camera ever made that can shoot with flash. Say you’ve gotten to that perfect mix of ambient light and flash, and you’ve fired off a few test shots. Suddenly, the sun comes out from behind a cloud and that ambient you worked so hard for gets brighter, and messes with your exposure. Fear not, a simple technique will fix this: your shutter speed.

Moving the shutter speed settings around will not affect the flash power, or how much flash power is coming in to the camera, it’ll just restrict the amount (or let in more) of the ambient light around.

When I figured this out it blew my mind. There’s a simple dial on my camera I can twizzle that can affect one part of the two piece ambient-flash exposure. Now I can choose how bright I want my wall lights to be in a picture, or how much glow I want from a candle. You think by slowing down the shutter speed will cause your subjects to blur slightly if moving? Not with flash! The flash freezes the subject that its pointing at, so this is really a win-win-win situation.

Use that shutter speed as much as possible to control that ambient, just don’t go above the sync speed for the flash.

The shutter speed was at 1/60, with a flash upstairs and in the kitchen. Daylight was streaming through the door on the right.
The shutter speed was at 1/60, with a flash upstairs and in the kitchen. Daylight was streaming through the door on the right.
Slowing the shutter to 1/30, twice as much ambient light fills the picture, lightening the shadows without the need for post-production.
Slowing the shutter to 1/30, twice as much ambient light fills the picture, lightening the shadows without the need for post-production.

5. It can define a feeling.

I love using flash (can you guess), finding out how different colours, sizes, and directions of flash can give a picture a completely different mood.

By just having a small flashgun in a different room, you can take an image from one dimensional to two. You can now light to accentuate a mood, to highlight certain things. It takes you beyond capturing what’s in front of you; now you can use flash to guide the viewers eye to different parts of the picture.

Yours truly testing the trigger on a small Yongnuo 560 flashgun, before placing in the back room.
Yours truly testing the trigger on a small Yongnuo 560 flashgun, before placing in the back room.
Firing the flash into a blue wall gave the room a cold tone, contrasting with the warm colours of the front room.
Firing the flash into a blue wall gave the room a cold tone, contrasting with the warm colours of the front room.

Give flash a go… you might just like it. And ignore the Internet videos that show you the “right way” to light an image; go it alone, test and test again, find out what works for you and add flash to your gear bag. There is no right way, there is no wrong way. There is only what you think looks good.


About the author: Jon Sparkman is a Cheltenham, UK based fine art photographer. He discovered his love for using flash completely by accident and now centers his work around conveying a message through his photography. You can find his work on his website or by following him on Instagram and Twitter. This article was also published here.

Speedlights vs Studio Strobes: Which is Better and Why?

As beginner’s guides go, this is one of the best we’ve stumbled across. In 10 minutes, Joe Edelman does a fantastic job comparing the standard speedlight to the standard monolight or “studio strobe,” explaining some of the confusing terminology, and helping break down which is better when and why.

The specific models Edelman compares in the video are the Flashpoint 320M 150ws Monolight and LumoPro 180R Speedlight, but that’s totally unimportant. Rather than a straight feature comparison like you might see in a gear review, what Joe does is compare the quality of the light they produce, breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of either.

He also shows how, given the right situation and modifier, you can produce pretty much the exact same photo with either light. Can you tell which portrait below was taken with the speedlight and which was shot with the monolight?

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The comparison may be a bit too basic for some of our readers, but if you don’t find it useful you probably have a friend or budding photographer you know who will. Plus, this is just Part 1. Subscribe to Edelman’s YouTube channel to catch his followup comparisons where he’ll dive even deeper into this “flash battle.”

(via ISO 1200)

How to Mount Your Flash to Any Pole Using a Plastic ‘Dog Bone’

New Zealand-based photographer Chris Cameron has a nice little kit he put together to mount his off-camera flash to any tree or pole. The setup centers around a plastic “dog bone” that you can make for yourself with a 3D printer.

The main ingredients you’ll need are a suitable strap (Cameron uses a Gotcha strap), a clamp, a cold shoe, a ball head, an umbrella adapter (optional), and the “plastic dog bone thing” (you can also download the STL 3D file or find a small alternative object that will do).

components

The basic idea is that you can add a clamp mounting point to any pole by securely fixing the dog bone to it using the strap:

strapsteps

Once the clamp is securely mounted, you can add whatever lighting setup you’d like to it:

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“Traveling to regattas with all the gear needed to do, what I consider, a ‘proper’ job can be a pain in the lower back and the pocket (excess baggage fees),” Cameron writes. “I am always looking at ways to pare down the equipment I travel with. Anything I can do to save weight and space while still keeping my creative options open is a boon for me.”

This trick helped boil his “heavy bulky light stands down to a handful of bits weighing grams rather than kilos.”

“Using this trick, a trestle table standing on it’s end or a stack of chairs becomes a versatile light stand,” Cameron says. There are certainly limitations to this trick, but you can use it as a starting point to build a setup that works with the equipment you use.

(via Chris Cameron via DIYP)


Image credits: Video and still frames by Chris Cameron and used with permission

Remotely Control the Direction and Angle of Your Off-Camera Speedlights with the Panlight

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There are times when having an extra hand while on a shoot would be a huge help, especially when you’re dealing with multiple lights that are mounted high up in a stand. Thankfully, a clever contraption is in the works that will rid you of these troubles, making it easier than ever to adjust your speedlights’ positioning on-the-fly whether or not you have an assistant nearby.

It’s called the Panlight and it’s essentially a remote-controlled pan and tilt head designed to be used specifically with speedlights and third party triggering systems.

Rather than having to walk over to your light stand, lower it, make a change, raise the stand and repeat over and over again until you get it just right, Panlight lets you use a small remote to adjust your speed light with minimal fuss.

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The Panlight mounting platform, which connects to any standard 3.8-inch lightstand, is capable of supporting upwards of 2.2lbs, rotating 360º and tilting just shy of 180º. Additionally, the 100-foot remote range ensures that you’re set regardless of how large of a studio you’re in.

And although it goes against its namesake, the creators also note that the 2.2lb weight limit allows you to use this as a fairly inexpensive pan/tilt head for small, mirrorless cameras and GoPros.

The Kickstarter campaign to make these a reality has already raised roughly 90% of its $36k goal, so with 28 days still to go, it’s very likely Panlight will become a reality. As for the pricing of the devices, you can buy them individually or in a pack of two for $150 and $280, respectively.

To find out more or secure yourself a Panlight, head on over to the Kickstarter campaign by clicking here.