Manipulating Light To Get The Shot
There is an old idea experiencing resurgence – wireless flash. A big reason for this is the ability to provide the benefits of flash and still maintain full TTL (through-the-lens) control. In years past, photographers would have to control the flash units manually, leaving the wireless flash realm to the pros. Nikon, Canon and Sony, all offer wireless flash systems that maintain full TTL control through the on-board flash unit. There are many aftermarket manufacturers who make units to help facilitate wireless flash control. One I’ve had particular success with is Phottix, www.phottix.com. Unlike the line of sight control, the on-board flash allows for wireless transmission to you flash unit. Phottix uses 2.4GHz frequency to control and send the TTL signal. Back in my studio days, it would have been a godsend to not have to haul all the cables and power packs around to location shoots.
Since we are discussing wireless flash functions, it seems like a good time to mention some flash modifiers. Modifiers can range from simple dome diffusers, to umbrella or soft boxes. The idea behind flash modifiers is to make the light look different. A straight-on flash can be harsh and unflattering; the use of a modifier can create a more pleasant and appealing light. A simple dome will give me the least amount of diffusion and a soft box will give me the most. The purpose of diffusion is to spread the light out over a broader area to decrease the difference between the brightest area and the darkest area. Every surface reflects light differently; having multiple options for diffusion gives you the best chance to achieve optimal lighting conditions. Back in my studio days, we would cut shapes in foam core and place them in front of the diffusers or lights to create interesting shadows, or to make it look like the light was coming through windowpanes. Every light source creates a distinct reflection in the subject’s eye, called a catch light. The different shapes and intensities are important in drawing attention to the eyes and making the subject come alive. Lighting with strobes is all about manipulating the light to do what you want it to do, and, oh yeah, sometimes no manipulation is the right look.
Manipulating light is not confined to using strobes or flashes; you can also use the existing light. By employing reflectors and scrims, you can bounce light onto a subject or defuse light from a direct light source. Reflectors come in different colors: white, gold, silver and even black, which is called a gobo and is used to block stray or unwanted light. Scrims use semi-opaque material to filter or dim direct light for a more pleasing look with softer shadows. Most reflectors come stretched over a collapsible hoop for easy storage. They range in size from 22” diameter to five or six feet. Remember that light, or the lack of light, is what makes a photograph, and you, as the photographer, are the controller of the light.
There is one more thing that I’d like to bring up as we head into the New Year. The holidays have past and many of you now have new cameras and lots of photographs. This is the time to make sure you have catalogued, backed up and printed the pictures you really want. January is an ideal time to look for those images you want to print, especially since we have no snow for skiing or sledding. I know I sound like a broken record, but your children and grandchildren will thank you in the years to come.
I hope you were able to glean some tidbits of information and inspiration from this newsletter. Now, get out there, take some photographs and print them!