Improving Flash Technique with a bigger/better flash

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by karl_borowski, Dec 8, 2006.

  1. Hello everyone. I've recently acquired a Metz flashgun, a CT 60.
    I'm used to working with flashes with maybe mid 70s guide numbers (ASA 100 in
    feet), but this one has, I believe, a 177 guide. I'd never used anything other
    than on-camera flash, due to the low power of flashes I've used in the past,
    but now I'm looking to do more artsy/realistic lighting after having figured
    out how to use the thing competently just pointed straight at the subject with
    a diffuser over the flash head.

    I can't really find much advice from the guy I work with. He
    doesn't seem to like the "owl eyes" that are caused by bouncing the flash off
    the ceiling, but from the three or four I took interspersed among the candids
    at a wedding I shot in October, I really like the look it gives, very
    reminiscent of natural light.

    I like dramatic, and artistic lighting, but if I can make it look
    realistic as well, then that is an added bonus. So what I'm after are tips for
    how to use a flash, with a thyristor pointed off the ceiling. How do
    you "bouncers" compensate for it going off the ceiling in terms of rating the
    flash at a different f-stop than you actually are shooting at, and how do you
    guestimate the height of ceilings and how do you test this? I shoot all film,
    but bring Polaroids along to shoot a few tests, but starting guidelines are
    helpful as I've never looked at doing this seriously.


    Having this extra flash, and shooting most weddings with a helper
    now enables me to more seriously venture into multiple lights as well. I like
    having an assistant shooting and alternating shots with me. Is there any way
    that I can rig slaves so that both flashes are slaved interchangeably back and
    forth for certain shots? Another problem I had with slave tests I did at one
    of my early weddings, back in '05, were that the pictures often looked no
    different than had there been no secondary light at all. What's a good
    starting distance for having the assistant stand with the slave flash when
    shooting, and how should the slave be rated compared to the "key" flash in
    terms of ratio? I am shooting with 400 film if that helps.


    Now I, really don't have a problem, nor do my clients, with on-
    camera flash with a diffuser to soften the light up, but they're very obviously
    flash pictures and I, at the very least, want to incorporate bounced and/or
    softened flash for long shots or shots with a wideangle lens to try and better
    illuminate the background elements in addition to the subjects. Is dragging
    the shutter something else that can be incorporated, or is combining this with
    these two other techniques going to be too much or too complicated? Keep in
    mind all formals and "key" shots I am shooting with an RB67 and a C220 as
    backup.

    Thanks for all of your help.



    Regards,


    ~Karl Borowski
     
  2. Regarding ceiling bounce, add a white card behind the flash to kick some light forward. It's enough to fill in the eye sockets. If you use one of the auto modes, there's no need to compensate. If you use a diffuser like an Omni-Bounce, the flash head must be at least 45 degrees up to avoid interfering with the sensor causing under-exposure.

    Regarding multiple flashes, you can use a long cord or slaves (RF or optical) to trigger the second flash. For ratios, set the fill at -1 stop from the key.

    Dragging the shutter is also a very good idea. Adjust your shutter speed until the ambient is at -2 stops from your flash exposure.
     
  3. Michael: Is the shake of such a large mirror in an RB going to be problematic with dragging a shutter, or does shake not really matter since the flash exposure is so brief? A 220 is (arguably) steadier than a 35mm or DSLR when it comes to using it at slow shutter speeds, but an RB can give you shake up as high as 1/125 sec with a 90mm (50mm equiv.) normal-length lens.
     
  4. How do you "bouncers" compensate for it going off the ceiling in terms of rating the flash at a different f-stop than you actually are shooting at, and how do you guestimate the height of ceilings and how do you test this? - It's very difficult to manually calculate light loss when using bounce flash. You are pretty much at the mercy of your ttl or auto-eye exposure system. If things are static you could just meter, but that is rarely the case. To avoid the "owl eyes", use a a small bounce card to kick light directly at your subject giving catch lights and filling in shadows.
    Given your equipment limitations (no ttl), you might consider tripod mounting the Metz pointed at a ceiling/wall to provide fill as you move around the room with on camera flash. You'll have to play around with main/fill ratios to see what you like as it will depend on the film you're shooting and your personal preference.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "rig slaves so that both flashes are slaved interchangeably back and forth". Do you want to be able to change from camera position whether the slave fire or not? If so, use a pocket wizard set and you can turn the sender unit on or off from camera position. If you have multiple slaves that you want to fire at different times set each receiver on different channels and just switch the channel on the sender. For example, if you have a flash in room A set set to channel A and a flash in room B set to channel B just switch channels when you switch rooms.
     
  5. My 'rule of thumb' for bounce is to first estimate the total path length the flash will travel (i.e. 'eight feet up + eight feet down = 16 feet') and then add 'about a stop' for absorption / dispersion for a typical white ceiling. So for a 16 foot path length, I end up with an equivalent of 22 feet.

    In actual practice I let the TTL or other auto sensor do the calculating for me. It's just helpful to have the rule of thumb as you're wrestling with whether it's even worth trying as you evaluate a given setting.
     
  6. Hi Karl,

    to avoid 'owl-eyes' you would need extra light to illuminate the eye 'cavities'. From the
    front, obviously. Doesn't your Metz CT60 have an extra little fill flash source on the front
    below the main you can use for that?

    You didn't mention what SLR you use. If it is one with a pop-up flash, you could use that
    as fill flash while it simultaneously triggers the slaved Metz that is aimed at the ceiling or
    wall. Or while on a separate stand/tripod, well off-camera.

    You can 'cross' slave your system's flash to your second shooter's with optical slaves. But I
    doubt it would be effective/efficient: you'll probably find YOUR flash will be unavailable
    because it's recharging just when you need it because your SS just fired his, and vice versa.

    The juice in them batteries will go down twice fast too, of course.

    What ratio or distance to choose for the SS' flash in a fill role cannot be answered without
    knowing what flashgun he brings to the party. That answer would be moot, however,
    because introducing such lighting subtleties in an on-going fluid wedding situation is
    bound to complicate matters far beyond the practical.
     
  7. I have a Metz 60CT-4, which I've used with my Mamiya C330 and with my Hasselblad. Generally, I rate the flash 2/3-1 stop less than it's stated guide number. This is just to give the film a little "extra" to give good shadow density, since with film, you don't want to underexpose. I used the flash mostly in auto thyristor mode, which is pretty accurate indoors. Outdoors, for fill is another story. But indoors, for bounce, and keeping in mind that one still must compensate the flash for such things as subject lightness/darkness, backlighting, etc. you could just let it do it's thing, never mind measuring the light with a meter or calculating ceiling heights. I used the Flip It (predecessor of the Demb Diffuser) with the flash. I found the small fill-in reflector on the flash inadequate in many cases, and too small a light source.

    If both you and your second shooter have the same transmitter of a proprietary slave system, you could both trigger the off camera flash at will. With the above system, I used a Wein ProSync system. As someone above pointed out, you would have to give the flash time to recycle. This would be most successful if the off camera flash was being used as a "room light" in the reception hall.

    Although it isn't supposed too, using an on-camera and off-camera flash in auto thyristor together works OK, especially if the flashes are both the same. If the off camera is used as the key/main light, the on-camera is compensated a stop or so lower or less. As a room light, though, auto thyristor does not work all that well. Better to set the off camera room light on manual (on-camera on auto), calculated to the center of the dance floor. Also in this configuration, you set the off camera flash for a stop wider (less light) than what you are using on your camera. Don't know what happened with your example above where the pictures looked like there was no secondary light--maybe the off camera was over-reacting to the main flash and shutting down too soon. If set on auto, and the flashes are not the same, this can happen. Distance of your assistant depends on what you want the light to do--what are you shooting when you ask the question above?

    Dragging the shutter can be used with digital and film, with bounced and not bounced light.
     
  8. By the way, the mirror bounce of the RB shouldn't be a factor when dragging the shutter unless your EV is close to the ambient reading. For instance, if there are single point light sources in your background, they will be "jumpy" with the RB, but maybe not with the C220. If the subject moved, though, you would see blur lines with both, worsening as your camera EV gets closer to the ambient.
     
  9. Check out this site, it will help.
    http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/

    This too is very handy:

    http://www.planetneil.com/faq/flash-techniques.html
     
  10. The guide number on a Metz 60CT-1 is actually 197, if that matters Karl, or to anyone else reading this. Since you are using film it is perhaps best to rate the 400 film around 320, if you are using Kodak Portra or Fuji NPH. It is also wise to use a bounce card, even a homemade white one just to pop some light on the eyes so the eye sockets don't go dark when you bounce.

    Dragging the shutter is often a wonderful effect to keep the background from going really black. But you can get into heap of trouble if the shutter speed is too slow. You can pick up movement and weird colors from other lights. I've seen other photographers set the shutter speeds at a 10th or 15th of a second and pick up brown and green light on the brides dress from overhead lights. Needless to say the photographer had to do a lot of retouching. 50 retouching shots can get expensive with film.
     
  11. Hi all, thanks for all of the helpful responses thusfar. Actually, getting colored lights on the brides' dress is what I WANT, just not to the point where they get ugly-looking. I am going after ambiance and atmosphere, haze even, to make my pictures look more realistic.

    As for rating the film at 320, that is/was my normal procedure, but with the new Portra II films out, Kodak says its box speed really is a 400 now. My second shooter will probably be rated at 320 still, but I'm thinking of bumping my ISO up to 400. Does anyone have any opinion on this?
     
  12. The 1/3 stop difference between 320 and 400 is likely less than the variation you'll get between the meters in two camera bodies or flash units (or seperate meters for that matter)or the variation in shutter speeds between two cameras. You need to shoot a few rolls and see what works with your equipment. If you're not metering through the lens you also have to factor in that different lenses transmit different amounts of light unless you get 'em calibrated in "T-Stops" like the movie guys in Hollywood do. T stands for "transmission".
     
  13. Kodak claimed the box speed of 400 was accurate when they introduced Portra 400. And it is true that you don't need to overexpose Portra as much as one used to before to get good shadow density, but Al is right--1/3 stop will probably not make much of a difference. Besides, 1/3 stop is just a safety margin, and not a very big one, either.
     
  14. Nadine: Haha, so does there claiming the same thing again with Portra-II indicate that this claim should continue to be taken with a grain of salt?

    I take it that I should continue to maintain the 2/3 stop safety margin I've been using then.
     
  15. I would...but then, I'd test their claim first, but not on a wedding.
     
  16. This is my best advice for the advanced techniques you ask about. More power is definately a help in overcoming the limitations of the inverse square law.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_13.jpg First you have to be able to 'see' light naturally.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_29.jpg Then you can begin to add it to naturally accentuate what you're trying to achieve.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_36.jpg This is lit by strobe.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_51.jpg You can still have light with character, and subtlty.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_67.jpg To catch the guest's less than subtle rowdyness.
    http://neilcowley.com/weddings/2006/
    fashion_designer/images/fashion_designer_65.jpg This is lit by strobe.
     

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