Odd flash technique I saw today outdoors.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by john_walsh|7, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. Hi,
    I went to the local beauty spot today to watch a steady stream of photographers do formals. I was really surprised at many things I saw but two things stick out and I wondered if they are acceptable or even useful techniques.
    1. On flash camera 580ex or something similar pointed directly at the sky with the little white card pulled out , I assume to throw light forward. Given the photographer was 5 meters from the bride I wondered if his flash was having any impact on the shot at all. The ambient light was very low i measured it at F2.8 & 60sec at ISO 100. This guy was huffing and puffing a lot and apart from that was directing the bride in a fashion that seemed very harsh.
    2. Same thing but what looked to be a Gary Fong light fitting. I didnt get the point of this fitting since it at best makes the light source marginally bigger and seemed to only waste flash power given there was nothing to bounce the light off. It too was pointed at the sky or to one side if the photographer was shooting in portrait orientation.
    Honestly I came away from watching these two guys in particular wondering if they knew what they were at , is that gut feel wrong and why. Very easy to be an armchair judge but my intention is to find one of these guys who looks like they know what they are doing and ask to be a moveable light stand etc.
  2. Did you notice if they left the lens caps on?
  3. Thanks so it is like that then, it seemed to my knowledge which I dont profess to be vast to be useless at best. If guys like this are winning business I have to ask myself is wedding photography a road I want to go down since they are getting picked by brides. From a professionals side of the coin does competing with that lead to loss of hair?
  4. The only plausible reason I can imagine for #1 (or #2) is to put a little bit of catch-light in the eyes and get it a little more off-axis than pointing the flash directly at the subject.
    Okay, that's a stretch. I agree with "dumb & dumber".
  5. From a professionals side of the coin does competing with that lead to loss of hair?​
    No, on the contrary I find it encouraging!
  6. I vote for the catch light in the eye.
  7. The whole "Gary Fong" etc., is like fishing lures. They catch fishermen, not fish.....
  8. At 5 meters or 15 feet away I am having a hard time with the catch lights but Ill be back there tommorrow and Ill give it a whirl and see if I can get a catch light in my girlfriends eyes. I observed this for a while as they moved to different spots at no point in low and flat light was there a hint of any other type of lighting technique.
  9. If guys like this are winning business I have to ask myself is wedding photography a road I want to go down since they are getting picked by brides.​
    I can't comment on the particular photographers.
    But if you imagine the average photographer has 90% of his resources (education, practice, enthusiasm, time) devoted to photography and 10% to business, what you're seeing could very well be someone with 10% of his resources devoted to photography and 90% to business.
    I may be a gourmet cook, but I can't run a restaurant. An executive chef devotes himself to the business of food.
  10. I saw a lady shoot a family when the sun had set....and she put their backs to it, with no flash. Oh, and had them jump, so no dragging the shutter. Can't figure that out, either.
  11. I saw a lady shoot a family when the sun had set....and she put their backs to it, with no flash. Oh, and had them jump, so no dragging the shutter.​
    That sounds like the sort of thing I would do!
  12. I saw a local "photographer" shooting streetscapes with a 580 aimed directly at the sky with a diffuser, maybe they know something we dont?
  13. Well, on a cloudy day, doesn't the flash eventually hit the clouds and come back down..... :cool:
  14. I wouldn't even consider a Gary 'Wrong' indoors, much less outside. Then again, I'm old school and like my parabolic reflector QFlash. Sounds to me like a couple folks that heard that direct flash is bad, bad, bad, never good, no direct flash, etc. and went with it.
  15. How quick you all are to judge! What is that joke about photographers and lightbulbs?
    I've seen people shooting in ways that surprised me, too. And I've been even more surprised at the amazing results!
    To weigh in: I often shoot outdoors with my 580EX and Gary Fong (or similar device) on camera. It provides a more diffused fill than straight flash (either off or on camera), and adds just a slight catch light. I don't typically shoot with a lot of aux. lighting, so I don't want photos to look "lit," most of the time. But sometimes you just need that little "kick," and I've found this to be an easy method of getting it if you're a) strapped for time b) unable to do a proper set-up or c) just wanting very casual, minimal fill.
  16. Elle,
    I have said that already I am not experienced and perhaps I am somewhat influenced in my opinion because I saw how the photographers looked which i can describe as huffy and puffy and anxiously checking the LCD . I shoot film so dont have that luxury or need. The other thing was the subject management which did nothing to help the bride relax and look her best, think of snapping of fingers to get her attention. So perhaps incorrectly I assumed that they did not know what they were at and read on some forum that a fong was what the professionals used.. perhaps. It just struck me as odd to fire a flash into the sky with a tiny percentage of the light being fired forward with the subject quite distant as a technique that was being consistantly used. The Fong at least seemed to throw a little bit more forward but mere physics says the light source size impacts the softness of the light so why not just put the flash on lowest power and fire it at the subject when you are well back from the subject .. thoughts. As for a 3x3 cm piece of white card throwing any light forward at 5 meters .. I have doubts but will do a test tommorrow. This being said it is something you are doing and getting results care to share a little more , conditions as I said were flat lighting , it was overcast f2.8 60sec ISO100. Before I started this thread i was confused by it but in thinking more about it getting results in that setup is something im dubious about but will try cerca the same time tommorrow.
  17. Hey John,
    My comment was meant in jest, so please don't feel slighted.
    Only you know for sure how these dudes were acting, and I can certainly say I've seen my fair share of unprofessional "professionals." You know them when you see them.
    I just wanted to point out to everyone in the thread (many of whom were quite critical of diffused flash outdoors) that every photographer has their own unique ways of getting the shot. I know I've tried to replicate certain techniques I've observed, and failed miserably.
    If it was ME shooting at that scene, I'd probably bump up the ISO so that I could get an ap. of between f4 and f8 (depending on the number of people being photographed). I'd likely only use the diffused flash if there was any form of backlighting. Otherwise, I'd probably just enjoy the overcast day. OR I'd use a lower ISO and very minimal fill flash with the diffuser.
    The reason I don't like to point my flash directly at my subjects, is that I find it too flat.Sometimes it's alright, but others I prefer the diffuser. I don't use a bracket, and the diffuser allows me to control where the light is a bit easier, and it softens it considerably (surprisingly).
    Hope that helps your experiments tomorrow.
  18. Are you sure it was a Canon 580 EX or perhaps Beldar Conehead's camera flash?
  19. I'm with Elle. I shoot outdoors with my 580EX II and a standard Stoffen diffuser all the time. And I do tilt the flash slightly upward, usually about 15% off horizontal. Just adds a nice soft, but fully enveloping light. In fact, I shoot almost all the time, indoor or out, with flash. Just taught myself how to use flash under most conditions, and feel it gives me one more element of control. There are situations when I do recognize the beauty of the natural light, and do take advantage of that also. One thing to also mention is that flash outdoors helps lessen "raccoon eyes" in human subjects. In flower photography, which I am doing most of these days, it softens the sunlight and lessens the contrast. One of these days I will get one of the Gary Fong diffusers. I have been told by many pros I know, including those shooting for the SF Chronicle, that you don't know on camera flash until you use one. They do look a little "gadget freaky" to me, and have to admit that is what's holding me back. Hard to argue with the pros, though.
  20. Theresa, that sounds like the photographer was trying to get silhouette shots of participants airborne, based on your description which if it's the fact, should be quite cool actually.
  21. Wilson I suppose that possibility is a lesson in dont jump to conclusions about what is happening. Daniel the flash was pointed fully upwards there was no forward tilt component.
  22. I was at a wedding once, the photographer had the flash pointing straight up, no card/Fong/etc. I was wondering what the point was, the ceilings were so high I couldn't imagine the flash was doing any good? But surely the pro knew what he was doing....
    I later found out that the photographer was a friend of the groom's, he didn't do weddings, and the bride and groom were very unhappy with the results. So maybe I know more than I realized?
  23. Goofballs or geniuses? Without seeing the photographs we'll never know. ;)
  24. Since this guy was more than 15 feet away with the flash pointed straight up and nothing to bounce the flash off of, the laws of physics will tell you that he couldn't carry the small amount of light that might have been directed forward off the white card to provide any illumination to the subjects. He was certainly wasting battery power throwing all that light to the great big beyond. I might be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and guess that he might have been much closer in some shots that preceded these where he might have garnered some catch-lights and just neglected to adjust the flash head. The fact that he had at least had a flash and that it was on during the outside shots also does elevate him from a few newcomers that never use flash outdoors.
  25. I agree with the last comment, at that distance, (which seems odd to me anyway for a wedding portrait) the best way to get any sort of fill in would be to have it pointed directly at the subjects, with no type of diffuser fitted, you can always use FEL for more accuracy. The stoffen diffusers are designed to be used indoors with something to bounce of and hopefully envolping the subjects in shadowless light, using a diffuser outside, with nothing to bounce of is simply reducing the power of the flash.
  26. Kid on my daughter wedding was doing the same quite often, with Gary Fong light sphere on,
    pictures was very good. My take on it, you got catch light, some diffused light to lift the shadows and last but not list all new flashes has auto focus assist beam which helps a lot.
    And some clients want photographer use professionally looking equipment, because they had seen it on TV or at another wedding and the client always right it is his money after all.
  27. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    pictures was very good​

    Right. It's always better to see how the photos are than to comment on technique. Who knows how people make some things work?
  28. Dumber & Dumber has my vote. While I do agree that we should critique results, if is also a good idea to examine one's technique. One of my instructors use to say that practicing doesn't make perfect unless you are practicing how to do it correctly. I hear a lot of discussion about "softening" the light. You can only soften the light by creating a larger light source. There is no way around the physics of this. Now, by definition, soft light is diffused. However, you can have diffused hard light as well. If you aren't increasing the size of the light source, simply using a modifier (ie a Sto-Fen dome), you are diffusing the light, not softening it. Diffusion and/or softening have nothing to do with direction of light. On camera flash, diffused or not, is still flat lighting. One might like the images they get from certain modifier, but one should also know why they are getting those results.
  29. I've seen this too and often wondered the same thing. My conclusion is that someone told someone that was the best way to use a flash so people just do it without thinking because so and so told them ...
  30. One use of a flash either turned off ... or pointed straight up outside is to use the focus assist light in most dedicated flashes. However at 15 feet it could be of marginal use. I used to turn off my flash when using a Canon 85/1.2 in marginal light and people kept telling me that my flash didn't fire : -)
    Without specific details, dumb and dumber could be smart and smarter ... depending ... but I doubt it ... LOL!
  31. I see both a lot actually and I had the same questions as you but I never actually tried either or if I did, I shot so much, I don't recall which shots were using which technique but the people I asked, they pretty much all said it was for the catchlight.
  32. Another possibility is that the flash was not affecting the images at all, and the photographer knew it. Sometimes, when you are extremely pressed for time, you could just leave the flash on, knowing it isn't really doing anything for the image, just because it is easier not to worry about turning it on/off. Especially if you just came from inside for a brief outdoor session and are going back in a little while. Personally, I'd rathr save my battery power. It doesn't sound like this is the case, but as several people pointed out, you cannot conclude anything unless you see the results.
    Also, it is possible the photographers couldn't get their flash power down enough, using manual flash. This would be a consideration if the flash was older and didn't have the latest flash metering technology. Unlikely, though, in the EV described.
    John, as for using what you observed as a guide to approaching the photographers for work, I'd look for other photographers to approach first.
  33. 2nd hand comment about the "pictures were very good" doesn't mean anything here.....we don't see anyone's photo and I'm doubting that there was any real careful examination on the fill light or lack of fill on the photos. With a lightsphere, If he were much closer to the subjects it could be beneficial especially if using a chrome dome or other custom top that increases the power output to the sides rather than allowing the light to escape out the top. The LS can also be used with a clear dome or amber dome and pointed directly at the subject. The use of an omnibounce outdoors pointed directly at the subject is commonplace among journalists. More than 15 feet away from the subjects, flash head pointed to the sky......no way Jose, unless one is using a nuclear-powered speedlight.
  34. To summarize, there are photographers out there with poor technique making loads of money, and then there are photographers out here with great technique making sarcastic digs at the former group. Yeah, that's life there for you *grin*
  35. I suppose you could add Nish that there are Charlatons doing weddings at 500ish bucks a pop and producing dissapointing rubbish too having posted somebody elses work on their site / hawked themselves on ebay . or perhaps they dont charge at all....but thats a digression from what really is an exploration of whether the technique had any merit at all. Technique is one thing and result is another. I took business cards of the photographers who appeared to be doing a good job and all of them were using some kind of lighting that i felt impacted the scene in very flat lighting conditions.
  36. The fong outdoors with the dome on top pointed forward is arguably a good move. It softens the light and makes the light source larger which is desirable. Fong pointed straight up outdoors doesn't make much sense.
  37. If only a frog had wings, maybe the guys or gals will happen to run across this thread and they can tell us why they were doing what they did.
  38. I just saw someone doing a senior photo shoot this morning with that same type of setup - except I think they were using a Nikon - SB-800 -
    My guess like many others is that they were doing it just to get some catch light in the model's / senior's eyes without dramatically affecting the shot.
  39. "2nd hand comment about the "pictures were very good" doesn't mean anything here....."
    I have 2 hi resolution DVDs from that wedding and they prints really nice on my Epson 4800.
    Sorry can't post other photographer picks.
  40. Well this is a difficult topic, because everyone has a different style of shooting. I strongly believe relying on using a strobe all of the time for outside use is a mistake. I also feel you have to be close, perhaps at the most 8 to 10 feet away, trying to bounce with the flash aiming up is somewhat of a waste, unless you have a powerful strobe. I'm not sure if the SB 900's or the 580's when bouncing can reach the subjects beyond 10 feet. Using a strobe outside is often a must when the sun is at high noon. But even when it's at high noon most of us look for shade. Again, as we all know, you can pick up some really beautiful light in the shade even at high noon, avoiding that harsh flash look. 95 percent of the time my foto partner Craig and I work alone. We hardly ever shoot together, because there are too many weddings to cover except for winter weddings. Craig uses the very powerful Quantum X series strobes that can blast out 400 watts. He also uses an old Norman strobe that is also very powerful. He never shoots direct, it's always bounced. He also uses a fong. I am mainly using the Quantum Trio and I have the Quantum T5dr as a backup, often on a stand. If I'm outside and I know I'm past that 10 foot bounce mark, I will put the T5DR on a stand around the 8 foot mark. I also like using this off camera Quantum for beautiful bridal portraits. The main light would be the Q-T5DR off to the side and the on camera Q- Trio is set to a lower F stop. I hardly ever do this, because I can usually find nice shade where the eyes are lit up. Most of you know from past posts I hate dark eye sockets. It kills that happy mood. Sparkling eyes to me say, "Wow what a beautiful bridal portrait." The below photo a flash was used to balance the bright background. I'm not sure if I used bare bulb or the dome.
  41. I'm not sure why this sometimes happens, but the above image is about a half stop over exposed. It looks a lot different in Photoshop. It's also a tad off with the contrast. not too vibrant. Maybe this is due to the over exposure issue.
  42. We use a Quantum or a 580 with a semi- large bounce card -- great for soft lighting -- need lots of power though for f8 @ ten feet = if key. 400 watt second
  43. The GFLS and reflector cards used without a larger bounce surface do NOT create soft light (unless the subject is smaller that the GFLS or bounce card). The larger the light source relative to your subject, the softer the light. Using a bounce card or GFLS or Sto-Fen diffuser outdoors will still diffuse the light. Diffusing the light is simply scattering the light rays. This does not in and of itself mean softer light. Diffusion will reduce contrast and lower specular highlights, both of which can be beneficial to portrait photography. I know I have said this all before, but I feel it is important that as photographers we pass on the correct information.
  44. Hard to believe the information, and mis-information here.....Fact is that we just don't know enough from the OP to make a real estimate.....
  45. Here's a shot without a flash. Notice how hard it is sometimes to compare natural light with flash. As with the last post the photo is over exposed and the contrast is off. Looks washed out.
  46. Interesting post. the OP measured the light as at 1/60, f/2.8, ISO 100. If either or both the photographers in question had their ISOs up at 800, or were shooting at f/1.4, or wanted a silhouette...
    <p>Basically we don't have enough information to evaluate the intent, or even more importantly, the result. It could be the guy was huffy & puffy because he was unfit, or had just chased down and caught someone trying to steal his gear, or had been held up i traffic and had to run to make it to the venue on time :) Any number of reasons.
    <p>The more I shoot the more I am learning to ermmm... "focus" on my own technique and visualise what I want as my end result. Forget what others are doing. If you really do want to learn, then approach them anyway and say something like "Wow! I'd love to see how that shot came out. You're using an intriguing technique; with flash working from that far off?" or some such language.
    <p>I often shoot without flash these days and often will hear comments like "you forgot to turn your flash on" or conversely, shoot with flash outdoors and hear "You don't need flash outdoors."
    <br>Like the penguins in the animated feature Madagascar, I just "smile & wave..." :)
  47. I must say with respect that I dont understand how adding a card or a fong or whatever to a flash ..outdoors.. softens the light.. the source is bigger yes but only marginally so given the distance to the subject. That is to say the light could only be softer if one was doing macro stuff on a cream cake as far as I understand it. Please do recall though I have posted I am low experienced. John thanks for the explanation of diffusion versus softening .. i guess its one of the things I will have to try in order to see the results as in my mind it sounds a little tough given the GF is so small and the pull out card on a 580 is I think next to useless. CJo Gough is it the case that that flash card is allowing some light upwards to a roof to bounce back down. Mark the technique caught my eye because it seemed from an analytical point of view to serve no purpose other than perhaps to add a catch light as some have pointed out . I must say my instinct in dull overcast conditions is to want to add something to the scene , even if its just a single of camera a little above the ambient and exposed for that fstop perhaps with on camera a stop or two down. I will be the first to admit though that this is an area I am exploring ..with film and is probably best served by me searching as this will have been covered before ill bet.
  48. Adding a card or using a Lightsphere outdoors does not soften the light...appreciably. The white, pull out bounce card is indeed pretty useless outside. Best thing to do is try it all yourself. Make something similar to the Lightsphere (don't buy one) just so you get an idea what it will do. Then you'll know. If you have a digital camera of some kind, use it for testing, as using film for testing can get expensive. The actual figuring of ratios, etc., would be pretty similar, although for film, one normally overexposes slightly for good shadow detail (with negative film).
    For dull, overcast conditions, I tend to either just add some very weak flash fill to lighten racoon eyes, or add directional light as key and use the ambient as fill. The latter is for posed or controlled situations.
  49. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Forget what others are doing. If you really do want to learn, then approach them anyway and say something like "Wow! I'd love to see how that shot came out. You're using an intriguing technique; with flash working from that far off?" or some such language.​
    This is really everything that needs to be said about the original post. Since nobody knows what he was doing or why, it isn't really a very useful thing to disrespect him.
    FWIW, I have gone from indoors to outdoors and completely forgotten that the flash was on. And I sometimes huff and puff from asthma and other breathing difficulties. I was doing a shoot the other day and had to ask my subject to wait on some stairs because I couldn't breathe. Apparently, my physical issues would draw comment from some people here, I'm not sure why they feel it's necessary to ridicule them.
  50. Jeff,
    I think we might see Huffing and puffing differently, im not referring to physical breathing but rather looking under a lot of pressure , flustered , moreso than the bride or nervous subjects and snapping and directing them in a harsh manner at them to boot. But i do agree that what needs to be said about the subject of using that technique has it seems been said, thank you.
  51. John --- Outdoors I bend the card somewhat towards the subject--- but, yes you do only control a percentage. I use it on overcast days and under 7 ft generally. Indoors it is my choice of light : balancing between the ceiling and the card.
  52. Even if it's wrong you don't let them see you sweat !
  53. I always hate it when a someone with his/hers so called knowlegde approach me and tell me what to do. Let him mind his own business. I don't make any remarks when he/she is at work.
  54. He had a fong dong; what else needs to be said?
  55. To John Walsh: If you can do better work than those guys, and it sounds like you can given your dead-on critique, the wedding world needs you.
    A friend of my step-son recently got his wedding pictures back. They were described as "awful."
    They knew I do this work but didn't give me a chance at the business. No one ever describes my work as "awful."

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