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Archive 2012 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, w...
  
 
jrs5fg
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p.1 #1 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


What are some strategies to use off-camera flash on the go? Do mobile photographers usually get someone else to hold the flash for them? I have not yet tried OCF yet, but I do social photography (for my friends and organisations) and I have to be fairly mobile -- I don't want to be carrying tripods, etc. and would like to take portraits in 15-60 seconds (plus some room for trial and error).

I am aware you can use bounce flash but it has its limitations and you can't really use it outdoors.



Jul 20, 2012 at 04:02 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #2 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


If "arm's length" isn't enough, and if mounting flashes in the corners of rooms and such isn't an option, then yes -- having an assistant with a flash on a "light stick" is just about the most flexible and mobile solution.

If you're operating solo, then having a flash on a tall bracket is the next best thing, and even outdoors can give a look much different than the usual "flash on the camera" look.



Jul 20, 2012 at 04:18 AM
swoop
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p.1 #3 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


My first job was at this nightlife magazine and I spent like 4 nights a week photographing in bars and clubs. Bringing a lightstand became a big issue early on with a lot of managers hesitant to let me set one up in the corner due to insurance reasons. Then I discovered this thing.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/349147-REG/Manfrotto_175F_1_175F_Justin_Spring_Clamp.html

It's a clamp that allows you to attach your flash to damn near anything. I usually keep one attached to the strap of my camera bag when I'm on assignment. This with a hot shoes flash and an omnibounce makes a great single light source that creates some options when you want to keep it minimal and still be able to deal with bad light.



Jul 20, 2012 at 04:39 AM
alohadave
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p.1 #4 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


jrs5fg wrote:
What are some strategies to use off-camera flash on the go? Do mobile photographers usually get someone else to hold the flash for them? I have not yet tried OCF yet, but I do social photography (for my friends and organisations) and I have to be fairly mobile -- I don't want to be carrying tripods, etc. and would like to take portraits in 15-60 seconds (plus some room for trial and error).

I am aware you can use bounce flash but it has its limitations and you can't really use it outdoors.


Monopods work great for this.



Jul 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #5 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


The simplest way to make "on the go" lighting more flattering on faces is to move it up off the camera, away from the lens axis with a flash bracket.

A bracket does two things. The obvious one is raise the flash and make it's angle relative to the faces downward and more like the modeling on faces in natural light. The second benefit is the cast cast behind the subject which is so distracting in hotshoe shots taken in portait model disappears from view. Combined the two make flash-on-bracket much more flattering that flash in the hotshoe wherever you move with the camera.

That's not to say you shouldn't also use an off-camera flash. I've used two for 40 years now, learning the technique as a second shooter / assistant for Monte Zucker. Something you'll quickly realize if you move a single flash off axis sideways in a dark club is the shadows on the faces will be very dark and flattering. The solution? The off-axis flash to create the illusion of 3D shape with the highlights and the flash you are carrying around on the bracket for the near-axis fill. You get the same modeling as you would with just moving one light off axis, plus controi over the lighting ratio and tone of the shadows just as you would with studio lighting.

As for positioning? You can put the off axis key light at any angle there are no rules but if after trying all those angles you'll probably conclude some make a face more attractive than others. Make a list of the criteria you think make lighting flattering. My short list includes seeing light and a sparkle of catchlights in the eyes, no dark unfilled "hard" looking shadows, and natural overhead modeling.

For full face, looking at camera, individual or group shots the single flash raised vertically on the bracket creates flattering, natural modeling on faces because the lighting pattern matches the symmetrical view of the face looking straight at the camera. Most of the front of the face, both eyes and the mouth is highlighted and the nose shadow, if seen at all, falls straight down hiding the nostrils.

When you start moving the flash around to the side of the face the nose and smile lines starts to cast shadows. Where do clues about the 3D shape of the nose and other features come from in a 2D photo? The size, shape, angle and tone of the shadow the nose and other features cast.

Due to the geometry of a human face what happens when the key light gets to 45 above the eyes is that the brow starts to shade the eye sockets. if it gets much below 30 the shadow clues don't look natural. So the range of 30-45 vertically winds up being more flattering and natural because the eyes are well lit and the shadow clues look "right" vs. "fake" as when flash is lower.

As you move the off camera key light sideways the nose shadow which was neatly hidden under the nose in the centered strategy starts to hang out. If you move it in a equidistant arc from 0 center to 90 pointing at the ear of the subject you'll find that when the key light is around 45 and 45 above the eyes the nose shadow covers 1/2 the nose and doesn't hang out much. In other words it models the 3D shape of the nose (and the rest of the face) ideally.

While it's the shadows that get noticed the most (especially if dark and unfilled) the other important part of what creates the illusion of 3D is where the highlights fall on the face. Think about what makes a on-camera flash shot looks fake. There aren't many shadow clues and in hotshoe puts its refections much lower on the cheeks than natural or overhead indoor lighting. It looks fake because it's not what you normally see. So while you might not even notice or appreciate it, part of what makes the bracket and 45/45 strategies work is that they put the highlights in the "right" places on the face where you expect to see them.

One of the reasons holding a single flash off camera at "arms length" is that the angle winds up to shallow and you just get distracting sideways nose shadows on the face which vary if you don't hold your arm consistently. That leaves you holding the camera in one hand, increasing the odds you'll drop it or the flash at some point.

But even when the flash is posiitioned ideally 45/45 sideways shots in dynamic situations the problem is that if the face moves you look the flattering pattern on the face. If the subject turns to the left and the light is on the right most of the face winds up in shadow. That's why when shooting candids with dual flash I only use the off-camera flash to the side if photographing someone who is standing or sitting still and looking in one consistent direction long enough to move the light around 45 from where they are looking and get back around to shoot from the opposite 45 facial angle. Not posed, just predictable situations where you set the light 90 from camera positiion and wait for the subject to turn 45 from both camera and key light like these candid shots::

















What I do most of the time with dual flash at parties is park the off camera flash behind the action in a corner as rim light. Rim lighting also creates the illusion of 3D but unlike the frontal key light it mostly creates the illusion of 3D depth. But combined with the raised centered flash on the bracket I get the illusion of 3D space from the rim light and predictable, flattering light on the face and front of the subjects.

This shot shows where I placed the off camera flash it a the birthday party of a 5 year-old:





It was in the same place for these shots I took moving around with the flash on the bracket:
















That same rim + frontal bracket lighting strategy would work well in a club setting if you mounted off camera flashes up out of the reach of the patrons using a clamp mount. Used without the flash in front you'd get dark shadows. Without raising the flash in front on the bracket you wouldn't get the flattering modeling on the front side.

Why the long-winded explanation? Most starting in flash tend to throw money and equipment at the problems before they fully understand the problem or the cause and effect of what winds up making lighting look flattering. That's the goal of the exercise isn't it, to make the people you photograph look good? That's all a matter of the angle of the key light relative to the face and controlling the tone of the shadows with fill via the lighting ratio, what the equipment and strategies above will make simple.






Jul 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM
jrs5fg
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p.1 #6 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


I've thought of an "arm extender" where I have the flash mounted onto some sort of pole (collapsible maybe?) allowing the flash to be held out maybe 6-9 feet away from me. Can anybody suggest how I can modify existing equipment to do the job?


Jul 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #7 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


jrs5fg wrote:
I've thought of an "arm extender" where I have the flash mounted onto some sort of pole (collapsible maybe?) allowing the flash to be held out maybe 6-9 feet away from me. Can anybody suggest how I can modify existing equipment to do the job?


A monopod will work for shorter distances. A painter's extension pole (for rolling paint on ceilings) is an inexpensive DIY solution for longer ones.

But consider the logistics of wrangling it while shooting and parking it when not using it. Also it's rather difficult to aim a light on a pole predictably even if an assitant holds it.


Edited on Jul 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM · View previous versions



Jul 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #8 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


Painters extension pole with adapter.

A 6 or 8 footer would collapse down to 3-4 feet, fairly manageable.



Jul 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
 

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jrs5fg
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p.1 #9 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


How would the adapter/attachment work on a painting pole? Would I have to duct-tape the thing?

Also is there a pole that would collapse to two feet? (I guess not?) I'd like to be able to fit it in my backpack.



Jul 20, 2012 at 01:15 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


jrs5fg wrote:
How would the adapter/attachment work on a painting pole? Would I have to duct-tape the thing?

Also is there a pole that would collapse to two feet? (I guess not?) I'd like to be able to fit it in my backpack.


For the painter pole you'd need to modify by adding a bolt to attach a cold shoe flash holder. Tripods/ shoes use 1/4" -20 pitch threads. You can find that size at a hardware store. Look for one that has a pointy wood screw on one end (screw into pole) and 1/4"-20 machine bolt threads on the other end (to attach the cold shoe. If you can't find one of those or a threaded stud then just cut the head off a regular bolt and epoxy it into a hole drilled in the end of the pole. This adapter from B&H to convert from 5/8" lightstand stud to 1/4"-20 looks like it also might work on the threaded end of a painter pole:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/48953-REG/Smith_Victor_401973_1_4_20_Screw_to_5_8.html

For something that will collapse to 2ft. the likely candidates would be a monopod or a compact light stand which you could use with the legs retracted. Check out "Cheetah" stands. They are designed to automatically extend and retract the legs when planted and picked-up.

Also, when looking for the cold shoe get one that has a hole for the retractable locking pin on the foot of the flash. It's the pin, not friction, that holds the flash securely in the shoe. The flash can slip out of a shoe that doesn't have a hole that mates with the pin. Look at the foot that came with the flash to see what I'm describing.




Jul 20, 2012 at 01:51 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #11 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


http://www.kaceyenterprises.com/?page_id=871

Kacey makes a couple different adapters. Having a ball head for going vertical is nice. It is easier to balance a pole vertically, with the ball tilted on the end, than it is to hold a long pole steady at an angle.

For most things, I use my tall tripod with legs extended (folded together) and colum extended which easily adds over 7 feet for me. Chucks recommendation @ Cheetah stands (legs retracted) is likely a good one. I also use a background light stand with legs collapsed for interior work so I can put a light up into the corner of a room and bounce ... and if I need to can break out the 10' light stands as well.

You've got some options, but for your "club" application ... the Cheetah's sound like a reasonable way to go.




Jul 20, 2012 at 02:11 PM
jrs5fg
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p.1 #12 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


This adapter -- http://www.ebay.com/itm/Speedlite-Cold-Shoe-Hotshoe-1-4-Screw-Flash-Hot-Shoe-Mount-Adapter-/360459040686#vi-content -- has the appropriate locking hole, right? It's serving as the 1/4 screw hole too so I am a little puzzled.

The Cheetah mini does sound like a good option because I can use it as both a portable light stand and as a pole ...



Jul 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #13 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


jrs5fg wrote:
This adapter -- http://www.ebay.com/itm/Speedlite-Cold-Shoe-Hotshoe-1-4-Screw-Flash-Hot-Shoe-Mount-Adapter-/360459040686#vi-content -- has the appropriate locking hole, right? It's serving as the 1/4 screw hole too so I am a little puzzled.


No. That's a knock off of the Stroboframe bracket shoe.







I bought several of them (seen above) but discovered the flash slipped out of them and the sharp edge of the clamp chewed up the base of the flash.

This is what you need...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/540457-REG/Crane_CCSLS_SLSC_Locking_Shoe_Mount.html



Jul 20, 2012 at 07:57 PM
omarlyn
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p.1 #14 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


cgardner wrote:
This is what you need...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/540457-REG/Crane_CCSLS_SLSC_Locking_Shoe_Mount.html


I have a few Crane shoes as linked above...they are a bit pricey but are VERY good. I also have a Strobo shoe as a back-up but the Cranes are superior.

Omar




Jul 20, 2012 at 08:09 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #15 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


jrs5fg wrote:
This adapter has the appropriate locking hole, right? It's serving as the 1/4 screw hole too so I am a little puzzled.


As mentioned above, the inexpensive (and some more expensive) shoes like the one you linked to only have one hole, the threaded hole for attaching the shoe to the stand or pole. The locking pin as well as the contact pins on the flash just float in space on those. (Or, the pins might contact the shoe, which can cause electrical problems if it's a metal shoe.)

The better shoes, like the Crane, have the mounting hole, and then forward of that is a smaller hole for the locking pin to drop into. The Crane shoe is also made of non-conductive material.

Another thing to consider when using a bracket, light stick, or other off-camera flash method is how you'll be triggering the flash.



Jul 20, 2012 at 08:30 PM
pokemanyz
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p.1 #16 · social off-camera flash on the go (parties, nightclubs, waterfronts etc.)


Nice write up. I appreciate you taking the time to do that.


Jul 21, 2012 at 08:19 PM





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