To freeze motion
We would use the flash to freeze our subject instead of just increasing the shutter speed to provide full control of ambient light, freeing up your entire shutter speed range.
This can be useful in two ways you can remove any background whilst maintaining the detail of the subject or allow some ambient light to provide a nice backdrop.
To isolate a subject
Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the subject from the background. The use of a flash in a number of different positions either bounced or off camera, can provide a distinction that easily isolates the subject from the background.
We will go into lighting and positions in a later tutorial.
To increase in-frame light (fill-in)
When shooting portrait, with a backlight or with various uneven lighting conditions we use a ‘fill-in’ flash to brighten the deeper shadowed areas (filling the shadows) providing an even light without a high contrast or heavy shadow.
Used correctly this can provide a sense of depth but using incorrectly will flatten the image.
Be careful with where you add the fill light.
Speedlights & Strobes
There are many different types of flashlights, however, the main two types you’ll hear about are Speedlight, and Strobe. Generally speaking, Speedlights are smaller, mobile devices that fit to the top of your camera via the hot-shoe. They usually require batteries and have a restriction on how many times it can fire before having to wait for it to recharge.
Strobes on the other hand are much larger and use external power sources. Large battery packs are used on location whilst most will also plug directly into the AC power socket for studio work.
Because of their size and build, they are usually much brighter, last longer and fire quicker with far less recycle time between shots (if at all).
The only real downside to a strobe flash is the size, weight and cost (they’re very expensive in comparison).
If you type ‘DIY flash diffuser’ into Google, you’ll come up with nearly 5 million ways to make a flash diffuser. Some are very complicated; some involve just wrapping tissue and a plastic bag around your flash head. So what is a diffuser?
It is just something that softens and distributes the light from your flash over a larger area.
A bounce flash technique is one of the most used types of flash photography because it means you can work by yourself and without having multiple remote flashguns, assistants or ghastly looking reflectors dotted around. You’ll find photographers using it at weddings around clubs and special events.
Bounce flash will be a little trial and error before you get used to your surroundings and how the flash will work, but it can provide some much needed light without the flattening effect of direct light.
Bouncing the flash off the floor is great for Halloween projects
A diffused flash technique is usually used when bouncing a flash is not an option; you can even use the two together however a diffuser is most used in large spaces, outdoors and in areas that do not reflect light too well.
It can also be used to reduce the effect of natural light, such as beach pictures or when shooting with a direct overhead sun, however this would require a lot more power from your flash...
Remote triggers come in many forms (such as the Profoto wireless trigger pictured). Although they may all work in different ways, most will use the same basic theory.
You will have channels and groups. The channel will connect the flash gun(s) to the camera and the group will allow you to set different functions to each flash gun.
For or example, 2 photographers working in the same studio, one will use channel 1 and the other channel 2.
This will stop them from setting off each other’s flash guns. Each photographer wants to use 3 flash guns at different powers, so they’ll set one flash on group A at full power, one on group B at half power and the last on group C with a +1EV stop.
Be very aware, some triggers use a wireless signal, whilst others will use an optical trigger (pre-flash). It is important to know which you use as the flash may need to be within line of sight of the camera.
The subject in these cases will be the only place for concentration and correct lighting will be required to stop it from looking dull, or flat (see “Part 6 - Lighting” below).
Portrait work can be as simple or complex as you like. The usual studio setup will have between 1 and 3 lights and use reflectors to give a softer feel.
Twin Flash / Dual Flash
With two flash guns you are able to control both ambient light and separate any subject from the background or you can get artistic with your creations.
In the picture, you can see examples of how two flash guns can be set up. You’ll notice in all of these there is the use of a reflector to bounce some ambience.
Small flash is above, large at eye level.
This Tutorial was rather long, there was a lot of information to get into it.
It is by no means definitive and there are still so many areas to Flash Photography and lighting that could be covered
Look out for more tutorials coming soon and let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to cover.
Thanks for reading,