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| p.2 #3 · A Fruit Juice Container Flash Defusser, laugh if you like! |
The trouble is most of my flash shots now are just family gatherings and with equipment so automated I get lazy and just aim and shoot paparazzi style.
I often shoot the same way at parties and family gatherings with the "no-thinking required" strategy of parking my off-camera slave the far corner, direct or bounced up off the ceiling, with the frontal lighting / modeling coming from the flash+scoop diffuser on my Stroboframe camera-flip bracket.
Shooting in ETTL A:B ratio mode the only adjustment I need to make while moving around shooting is FEC adjustments on the Master flash in the bracket (as required to keep highlights under clipping), which I do with the wheel on the flash rather than the more cumbersome camera button. The resulting shots have nice flattering modeling in front via the bracket and diffuser without needing to stop and think how to bounce the light.
The light in back will be "rim" or "key" light depending on how it hits the subjects:
In the shot above the foreground subject is modeled with the "key" vector coming from the diffuser on the bracket in front with "rim" lighting from the slave in the corner. The face is "Broad" lit because she's turned away from the "key" light source hitting the face, but because the key source is centered and raised it's not creating any objectionable dark unfilled shadows on the face. The bracket hides the nose shadow from view behind the nose. No fill is really needed because most everything is in the key light. That's the basic concept behind the bracket: if you can hide the shadows you really don't need to modify a direct source is much as when the key light is to the side creating shadows.
On the figures in the background the slave is what is creating the highlight modeling on the faces, which per the naming convention for the role of light sources make it the "key" light on them rather than "rim" light. Due to the difference in angle of face to the lighting the girl furthest back winds up with "split" lighting on coincidentally perfect oblique facial angle. The girl in the middle wound up with nose pointing 45 degrees to the light in the corner and 90 to the camera, the formula for a dramatic "short" lit profile. Note the tone of the shadows on the faces. The one in middle has very light shadows because the "key" component on the foreground subject is acting as "fill" on the shaded side of her face, and the flash in the corner is bouncing off the sequin dress on her shoulder. The girl further back has darker shadows on the face because she's further from the "fill" vector coming from the camera and less is reflecting off the sequins.
Did I plan any of that? No, other than knowing I'd get nice 3D lighting with that strategy and the light in front meeting the light from the corner and windows behind would light the space evenly. Here are other shots taken with the same off camera light parked in the corner:
Here the problem was the crowd around the birthday boy blocking the direct path of the slave I wanted to 45 degrees from the nose to "key" light his face. The solution? Take the diffuser off, zoom the flash to 105mm (max zoom) put the stand behind the crowd and bounce a small "key" light spot off the ceiling over their heads...
As always I didn't need to think about how to fill because the fill on the bracket is a no-brainer.
These examples show why two flashes and a bracket are better than one flash with a diffuser and how it doesn't need to be any more difficult logistically in a situation like a birthday party.
I found the lighting mood swings very interesting, I wonder if that's why my wife sometimes says NO.
I warn hobbyists thinking about spending $$$ on studio that the novelty of the new toys wears off very quickly on the in-house subjects. I set my studio lights by putting white and black towels on a stand where the face will be, adjusting fill for shadow detail in the black one and key and rim light for clipping in the white one as shown in this tutorial: http://photo.nova.org/WhiteBackground/ Then I call the subject(s) in who and we are able to immediately capture full range, optimally exposed shots.
With the wife it's "Are we done yet" after about the third frame so that set-up strategy has paid dividends. With other subjects they are more relaxed and so am I because I can focus 100% of my attention on them rather than futzing with the gear.
After exhausting all the possibilities of one lighting set-up I have the subjects chill out on the couch in the next room and repeat the set-up with towels on stand for the next lighting pattern. I usually start sessions with a centered "butterfly" pattern with key over the camera and fill centered about chin level. It allows the subject to move around without there being any odd shadows on the face (similar to shooting with speedlight on a bracket) and creates a symmetrical light pattern on full face views which makes it easy to see in the resulting photos whether or not their face is naturally symmetrical.
If a face isn't naturally symmetrical (most aren't to some degree) I know from experience a "short" lit oblique view will usually be more flattering because it hides the asymmetry with an optical illusion that tricks the brain into only focusing attention on the highlighted front "mask" the key light create on the face.
This all sounds complicated, but once you consciously understand the cause and effect it becomes instinctive to look for ambient "key" lighting from above on faces and in the eyes that creates the "mask" pattern and when you don't see it plan flash strategies that will put it there.
On 3D shape come from highlight placement on the object. On black objects most of the clues come from the highlights:
Which looks more "normal"? For me it's the one with the downward 45/45 key vector. The same is true of light objects where the shadow direction / gradient clues also influence perception of shape in a 2D photo:
The cause and effect is the same on faces. They look more "naturally" 3D when the light hits from 45/45 relative to the top of the nose...
Because that's the angle of the mid-day sun...
I did the snow head as a training exercise, predicting where the sun would be in the sun at mid-afternoon when I finished it and aligning it facing west so the light would hit it at a 45 degrees vertically and from the side. One a face is lit from that angle it produces the naturally flattering full, oblique and profile views by simply changing the angle of camera axis to key light from 45, 90 and 135 degrees.
When you develop similar situational awareness of lighting on faces you can move to the spot in the room where the ambient light is 45, 90 or 135 degrees and then wait for a moving subject to turn into it full, oblique, or profile. Or alternately you position a light stand or bounce the light so the "key" vector hits the subject at 45/45 then change your position relative to the face so the camera captures full, oblique or profile views.
The results are more a factor of the positioning of the key and amount of fill than how diffuse the light is. Here the lighting was stage spotlights from front and behind on Barry Black, Chaplin of the US Senate who was guest preaching at our church...
But from the other side, shooting into the shadows the light produced better 3D modeling so I moved to where I was standing 90 degrees front the "key" light on his face and waited until he turned 45 to the camera to capture an oblique view in that lighting. This was a near miss...
The lighting is nice but the he's turned too far away and the far side of the face has disappeared and the "key" light is spilling past the front of the face. Here's the same key-to-camera angle of 90 degrees with a more precise 45 degree facial angle. It is more flattering because it doesn't distort the appearance of the face and the key light only hit the front of the face making it look less wide compared to the first "broad" lit shot and second where it was wrapping around to the side.
There the lighting is ambient for the key and rim lighting from narrow, collimated "hard" sources. I added flash gelled to match the stage with 1/2 CTO from the bracket in the camera as fill to make the tone of the shadows normal contrast and to overpower and eliminate the magenta color cast in the shadows from the stage fill in the shadows of his face. You can see the magenta bias in the shadows the flash didn't reach.