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| p.1 #8 · Help: Need some suggestions for lighting gears |
Brian.... Thank you for your unwarranted editorial about my advice. Please note I didn't say it was anything other than it was "not the best" strategy for placing lights precisely off camera. Yes a light on a pole is a possible strategy — there are no rules — but I think few would argue that its the "best" strategy for off camera flash.
Also please note I went on to say that if one wanted to put a light on a pole a conventional light stand would, all things considered, make a better pole. I also provided a link to the Cheetah stand which would be ideal for dual use in conventional and hand-held pole mode.
You and the OP might want to stop and consider the logistics of wrangling a speedlight and modifier on the end of a stick when not using it. The advantage of a light stand is that it is self supporting: when you let go of it, intentionally or by accident you flash will not wind up on the ground in pieces. A stand is also already fitted with a standard 5/8" attachment stud.
The OP doesn't mention that an assistant would be wrangling the pole light. Something to consider if considering wrangling a pole in one hand and a camera in the other is that it greatly increases the odds that either camera or flash will wind up on the floor at some point.
Also you should understand that simply moving a light off center a bit may produce 3D modeling on the faces of your subjects but it may not be a flattering lighting pattern. Given the shape of a human face with recessed eyes and a big sundial nose between them and the mouth there are relatively view strategies which are flattering.
One of the more flattering patterns for full face poses, complementing the symmetry of the facial angle with a symmetrical pattern of light, is "butterfly" where the key light is raised directly above the camera so hit hits the subject's face in line with the nose at a 30-45° downward angle. That would be possible single-handed with a pole light, but all thing considered a flash bracket will do the same job with much simpler logistics and less risk of dropping camera or flash.
One of the most flattering patterns for faces seen obliquely or in profile is a "short" lighting pattern in which the off camera light is placed 45° from the center line of the nose. That means it winds up 90° from the camera axis in an oblique pose and 135° from the camera axis (behind the subject 45° from nose) for a short-lit profile. Both are certainly possible with a light on a pole — if you have a really long pole and strong arms, or an assistant to wrangle it.
Just a few reasons why I don't think a light on a pole is THE BEST off camera lighting strategy, particularly for single-handed shooting.
What I use for candid location shooting is a converted IV stand. It's not an original idea. 40 years ago when I went to work assisting Monte Zucker that's what he used. It's a brilliant solution to logistical problem of trying to use dual flash single-handedly because the OCF can be moved around with one hand. I started using the technique again after finding this IV stand at a thrift store for $5...
It is called a "Pitch It Sr." because it is designed to be thrown out after use. It has five folding legs which make it very stable and rotary locking collars which can be adjusted with one hand (with a foot on the base to hold it). I don't use it all the time, but when I do it greatly simplifies logistics.
When shooting a stationary subject I wheel the light around behind until I can see their face obliquely from behind the light. That puts the light stand 45° from their nose, angled down about 45°, the angle needed for flattering short lighting which puts light in both eyes and causes the nose shadow to cover 1/2 the nose without hanging out and distracting.
Then its just a matter of walking back around the subject with the camera to capture than flattering lighting pattern full face, oblique as seen below, or in a profile view...
As mentioned I put a priority on precise light placement because I find poorly placed light unflattering. YMMV Also something those new to flash don't consider is that when a flash is moved off axis as in the above example a flash needs to remain near the axis as fill, unless of course you prefer harsh unfilled shadow, which is what will occur if single flash is held out sideways on a pole. Yes that's a valid strategy, but not one that will produce results which are as flattering as the ones I was taught and still use.
If subjects are moving around and I can't control the angle of key light to face rather than risking a face turned away from a light to the side half in shadow I switch strategies and put the second flash out of the way in a corner behind the action as rim light, creating the same overall appearance as a subject backlit by the sun.
Backlighting is another strategy for creating the illusion of 3D depth on a 2D photo. The fact the light in back meets the light in front in the middle also eliminates the "shot in a cave" look of a single flash shot. That's a situation where my use of a bracket for my on-camera frontal flash ensures that it produces flattering "butterfly" style downward modeling on the face and clothing without any distracting unfilled shadows.
Yes bounce can be used in situations like that and I will often combine bounced and direct flash when it is advantageous.
For the shot above people surrounding the birthday boy were blocking direct use of my off camera flash so I just put it behind them and bounced the light off the ceiling over their heads knowing the flash on the bracket with my DIY diffuser would take care of lighting the front in a flattering way.
I agree with Brian there are "no one size fits all solutions" and often give the same advice. What I use isn't a one size fits all solution, its a set of portable, logistically simple tools which can be used in a variety of ways, directly, bounced and direct, both lights bounced, with small portable DIY diffusers, or with a larger modifier such as a white or silver umbrella on my key light. A variety of solutions which all fit in and attached to this shoulder bag that sits by the door ready to tackle a wide variety of lighting tasks:
50D, 10-22mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm
Two 580ex flashes
DIY diffusers (sit on top of gear)
Camera flip bracket and OC-E3 cord (attaches to top handle)
Umbrella (attaches to bottom loops on bag)
IV or conventional 8' light stand (as task dictates).
It works for me....
Isn't the best strategy for what? Under some circumstances it's exactly the right strategy. Many pros have been using "light sticks" for years for wedding and event photography.
One-size-fits-all photographic "strategies" are like one-size-fits-all clothes; they never fit most people perfectly.