Fun with off camera flashes
There’s a ton of stuff you can do with a strobist setup. I have three (cheap) flashguns, and a set of (relatively expensive) remote triggers. I have some white umbrellas to modify the light, and a selection of backdrops. The entire setup cost me £400, which I think is outstanding value for money, considering how versatile the setup is. Here are some shots I’ve done, some professionally, some for fun!
You just need one off-camera flash, a mirror, and some space. It’s great to show details and create symmetry in the shot. I stopped down the camera to let in as little light as possible, and set the flashgun on a sideways angle to the subject so I didn’t get any unwanted flares in the mirrored surface. More examples in the gallery at the bottom.
Stick the flashgun in the white umbrella and go for a late night walk, and you have yourself a pretty cool abstract shot. This was well worth getting numb fingers for, and it only fell on Dearest Husband’s head once. Ok maybe twice. More examples in the gallery at the bottom.
You can set your flashes up to make a portable studio, with a standard three light setup. Or two if your subject is dinky. I usually shoot with two flashguns behind the backdrop to make sure I get it completely white, and one on a stand at the front, working as the key light. Good for babies and adults and parties and product photography and all kinds. More exmaples… yadda yadda.
I’ve covered strobist portraiture in “Portraiture with Ruth” in the photography section, if you’d like some more info on that.
Great for corporate shots, portraiture, and moody shots. You can use a black background, but with the shot here (of Dearest Patient Husband) I just dragged him into the back garden at night. He uttered the fateful words: “I’ve got a new suit can you take a photo of me to see what I look like?” *tries to hand me an iPhone.* HA. No. Not in THIS house, Mr. This shot is dead simple – just one key light diffused through an umbrella, Rembrandt style (high and to one side, to use a less fancy description)
Skateboarders look sooper cool when you take their photo Stobist-Style. I like to leave the flashgun unfiltered in this setup, to give the shot a more edgy, gritty look. You can see the positioning of the flash in the top right of that shot. Oooo, flares. Flares can sometimes be good. Which leads me to…
I always set up an off-camera flash at wedding receptions. You can get the flash to flare and backlight your subject, or get it to cut through a group of people dancing. The great thing about wedding receptions is you get tons of time to experiment and find out what works best. I usually have the off-camera flash pointing into the dance floor, and an on-camera flash bouncing off the ceiling for some fill light. I ride the settings to taste, usually having the off-camera flash on full, and the on-camera one on its lowest setting. Brides have loved these shots best in the past. Using this technique enables you to keep the mood intact. If you just blow out the scene, then it looks like the lights are on, which isn’t very romantic!
When doing events with more than one photographer, I use my sooper-awesome photography partners (Joe or Martin) as models when I set up my lights. It usually leads to some amusing spontaneous portraits of them. Shame about the umbrella in Joe’s hand in the shot above – I could totally have passed that off as a corporate shot. That shot is metered for the sky, using one flashgun (naked, I guess, coz he’s holding the umbrella?) to camera right.
I went through a phase of just sticking my flashguns in random places. Nowhere rude. Like in piles of junk, in wicker storage boxes, in cupboards. I like playing with the effects you can achieve. Remember, on the whole: naked flashguns for high-detail and high contrast. Umbrella-filtered flashguns for softer, more even light. But of course, as with most things in life, the rules are there to be broken.
Have a mooch below for some more ideas, and if you have any tips, leave them in the comments below!