Adventures in Off-Camera Flash | Virginia Wedding and Portrait Photographer
I've been trying to identify my weakest areas when it comes to photography recently and tackle them head-on, first on the list being the dreaded flash. Yep, I can call myself a "natural light photographer" all I want, but the bottom line is that not being able to properly light my portraits well after sunset was a real Achilles heel. So I set off to the almighty internet to get started, scouring the blogs of those I look up to, technical forums, and youtube video reviews of the flashes I had my eye on. I've never felt compelled to do a video review of anything, much less something as obscure as a camera flash, but here's to you, nerdy man reviewing obscure Japanese flashes on youtube; you and your froggy voice really helped with my decision making process. Once I had the basics down (sorta) I set out to purchase my new toys...I mean, uh...equipment. For those interested, here's what I'm using (sorry for the snooze fest for non-photogs):
- Two Yongnuo 565EX flashes
- Two Yongnuo 622c transmitters
- A bunch of Eneloop rechargeable batteries
- A light stand that I wont link to because I'm not all that impressed with it
- A wireless shutter release so I didn't have to run back and forth for selfies. :-)
BOOM. My husband Jarad couldn't have signed up for Amazon prime with more perfect timing. Between ordering all of the flash equipment and tons of other random photography stuff (cleaning kits, extra camera batteries, etc) Amazon prime and I are new BFFs, like, lets have a sleepover and stay up all night building epic pillow forts BFFs. I digress.
I suppose what intimidated me the most about flash was that I had always imagined that using any on-camera flash would always make my photos look like this:
Photo by Like a Dream Photography
Don't get me wrong, this is one of my favorite photos from my wedding day of my pretty mommy and I, but wow...dat flash. It's super harsh, causing unflattering shiny areas on our faces and some pretty epic shadows. This wasn't our photographer's fault, she took the shot while someone else's flash was going off. This shows though, that even with a really great camera (like our photographer was using) and lots of skill, firing a flash directly at someone is going to look kind of rough. So, once I learned that I could implement a few simple techniques to avoid the whole Shiny-McGreaseface look, I got to work.
I've been playing around with bouncing the flash that's attached to my camera either off the ceiling or off a nearby wall (flash tilted at a 45° angle to my right or left, or even behind me depending on the room) to diffuse the harsh light, and coupling that with an off-camera flash that's triggered by a transmitter, usually placed behind me (or my cat haha) to create a cool rim light. The goal was to try to emulate the cool backlit look that I enjoy so much for sunset shots. Obviously, the light from the sun backlighting an object and a flash doing the same are going to look very different, but I hope you can understand what I mean.
I won't go in to a ton a details about the flash settings I've been using because that's likely to bore you and I don't feel confident enough at the moment to be throwing it out there just yet. For now, I'll just say that I have been working both flashes in Manual, just like the camera. I figured I've been learning photography in full manual mode, I might as well do things the hard way with flash as well. :-) I think I've learned more, and faster that way. At some point, once I've had more time to practice, I'll share more about what has and hasn't worked out for me.
I will not be referring to myself as a "natural light photographer" anymore, as I think it is extremely limiting to do so, so there's at least one win for the past couple of weeks. :-) Here's some of my practice shots. Some of them are pretty epic...and by epic I mean stupid. Seriously, sorry about this in advance...it's all in the name of improvement, right? :-)
The FIRST shot I took when I'd just gotten my flashes in the mail, complete with my sweet glare-reducing computer glasses.
I was going for the "hero shot"...not sure if I pulled that one off haha. This was cool because my living room was literally completely dark while I took these next few.
Keyboard cat shirt in all its majestic glory.
Luna decided it had been long enough since the focus was on her.
So I grabbed some treaties for her while my camera continued to fire (had it on continuous-fire timer before I got my wireless shutter release).
And then she was all tuckered out in my "posing area", so I moved the flash behind her chunky self (poor thing has been given too many treaties...we're working on slimming her down now haha).
Another night, when I'd moved the flash to my basement workspace...the flash becomes disorienting after a while, so I was left with this gem. Don't ever say I only post flattering pictures of myself. ;-)
When I could no longer see anything but spots, poor Lynx became my next subject.
*No furry friends were harmed in the making of this blog post, just a human with a very scratched arm.
Sing it. You know you want to.
A few nights later, once I had learned a bit more, I took the party outside on the back porch. I finally had the shutter release by this point, so the selfies got easier. :-)
Then I dragged my endlessly-patient husband out in the cold with me. <3 Thanks, Jarad.
This was my favorite.
I'm getting better! Give me a couple more months, and I think I can rock this whole off camera flash thing at a wedding reception.
Sorry for all the silliness, it was the only way to make it fun through the many hours of frustration figuring out all this stuff. :-) Cheers.
PS: This beauty will be up on the blog later this week! You won't want to miss this one, not only is she gorgeous, but also a really awesome person.