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Archive 2013 · Need flash advice for dark reception
  
 
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need flash advice for dark reception


My next assignment is to shoot an award event. The event has the following sections:
1. Walk in, people drink coffee/tea (30 minutes)
2. Presentations by the candidates and official award giving (90 minutes)
3. Informal reception (60 minutes)

The award giving moments need to be captured well, handshake, award, both faces visible.

My gear:
Cameras: Canon 5DII and 5Dclassic,
Lenses: 35/1.4, 70-200/2.8mkII, 16-35/2.8mkII, 24-105/4
Flashes: 580EXII, 430EXII, Remote controls for dual flash setup (all manual), 1 omnibounce

The walk in and informal reception I will manage well without flash. It's the formal award giving moments that bug me a bit. I don't have flash experience other than my studio (multi flash setups with both camera flashes and studio flashes with soft boxes etc. If light is really low, I need a backup plan involving flashes.

I am looking for straight advice on the best way to do this with the equipment listed. I want to avoid frontal flashed 2-dimensional dull formals, so I'm looking for ways to add some sense of space, call it 3D or plasticity or whatever. I might be able to position the second flash above the scene for hair light but I don't have control over the background.

Any advice or even links to good read on this is highly appreciated.

Thanks!

Ralph



Apr 29, 2013 at 09:03 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need flash advice for dark reception


The first advice which applies for all flash shooting is to get a camera bracket. Portrait mode flash from the hot shoe puts the flash head level with the lens and to the side creating an unnatural sideways and up pattern to the shadows.

What makes lighting seem natural or not is the direction relative to how things are seen in ambient light. Natural light comes from above and is most flattering at a 45 downward angle because most of the day sun is than high or higher in the sky and we see faces lit at that angle. Above 45 and the brow shades the eyes, below about 30 and the lighting will look unnatural because the shadow clues created by the nose, etc. fall differently.

Simply raising the flash 12-18" directly above the lens will give any full face photo like "grip and grin" presentations more natural looking, flattering lighting. Beyond that if you have the time to set-up the slave and the space to position it, put it behind and to the side of the subjects as form defining "rim" lighting. Rim lighting will help to separate them from the dark background and will create a sense of 3D depth / space with the lighting clues.

Don't put the "key" light to the side in a situation like that because it will put uneven lighting and different pattens on the faces, especially if one or both subjects wind up turning away from the side you put the light on.

A few more logistic tips:

Speak with the presenter before the presentation. Ask the presenter to pause, tilt the award up at an angle if flat ( so as not to create glare) and coach the person getting the award to look at the camera not each other. That coordination will make the task much easier. Leaders who do a lot of presentations usually know the drill and do it automatically.

Spotting and taking the time to correct things like open suit jackets, collars, ties, straps on women's dresses out of place, etc. that will make the person look bad in the resulting photo might seem like an imposition if you aren't used to dealing with people in situations like that but they are appreciated when the results are seen and when shooting will make you appear more "professional" because the pros spot and fix things like that versus getting tunnel vision on the faces.

A technical shortcoming of a SLR is the mirror blocks the viewfinder during the actual capture and you can't see if the subjects have blinked. Rather than 'chimping' after every shot what I do is frame the shot and focus then look at the subjects directly as I fire the shot. The flash will freeze the action so it's easy to spot the blinks and reshoot.

Change camera / flash batteries and CF card before shooting the presentation so you don't need to pause for "technical difficulties" of wait for dying batteries to recycle the flash.



Apr 29, 2013 at 01:10 PM
John Skinner
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need flash advice for dark reception


When I have had to shoot events/awards/receptions/awards. This is the typical setup that I use, and have great results with it.

The lights in the corners can be a linked speedlight system, Quantums open bulbs with half reflectors, or any system you can link to for i-TTL type shooting. I've even hidden these with fake trees....

The bands and X's on the floor are either duck tape/masking tape with a PER-MEASURED f/ stop marked on them. Whilst shooting, you merely look down at the floor when moving throughout the room to know what your stop will be. Of course, the linked shooting with mean you can use a 1/64 or about there... fill flash on body to get full even filled shots. Keep in mind these bands I've drawn are merely as a guide, and the only thing people would see on the floor is a 2" X 3" tape with (eg) 8 or 16 on it.

A PRIOR CUSTOM white balance is mandatory due to wall/ceiling colors etc...

The stage or dais, I usually set up an umbrella off stage (out of plain site) and balance that with on camera fill... I place a duck tape on the floor with an " X " so the recipients know where to hand off the hardware..

KEY POINTS : Measure prior to people arriving. Custom White balance. FILL FLASH IS A MUST. Be accurate with you're flash meter in marking the tape f/ stop markers. Sorry for the ' kids ' type diagram.. I shoot better than I draw.








Apr 29, 2013 at 06:09 PM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need flash advice for dark reception


Wow I love this forum and thank you guys for your excellent tips! John you're a great drawer, really. I fully understand both of your input and there's lots to learn for me. I have only two flashes, they can both go off camera and fired using manual flash. So I'm not sure if I can pull off John's setup. I could do some test shots with the two flash setup, although I'm not sure how I'm going to get the on camera flash up 12-18 inches, unless I just hold it in the air with my hand.
I've got a lot to chew on here so thank you again!



Apr 29, 2013 at 10:12 PM
BigIronCruiser
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need flash advice for dark reception


rabbitmountain wrote:
I could do some test shots with the two flash setup, although I'm not sure how I'm going to get the on camera flash up 12-18 inches, unless I just hold it in the air with my hand.
I've got a lot to chew on here so thank you again!

If you have time, buy a flash bracket. There are inexpensive brackets available if this is a one-time thing. If you plan to do things like this in the future, however, do yourself a favor by purchasing something like this.



Apr 30, 2013 at 03:39 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need flash advice for dark reception


I use a Stroboframe camera flip bracket. Mine is on it's fourth camera, not bad for an accessory which still sells for $50 at B&H.

Trying to hand-hold is a recipe for sooner-or-later dropping flash or camera. The advantage of the camera-flip bracket is the light on camera is always well placed both for centered "butterfly" lighting of single flash full-face shots like awards; centered frontal lighting on the faces when the slave is used as rim light as I suggested, and; even centered fill when the slave is used in front of the subject as "key" light. See: http://photo.nova.org/CanonPracticalUsage/

I've never found lighting up the entire room as John suggests necessary. Instead I utilize the inherent fall off of the flash like stage lighting to put the "stars of the show" in the spotlight of the flash. To deal with the color temp difference between the 6000 K flash and >3000K dimmed tungsten typical at events I gel the flashes with 1/2 CTO gel and set Custom WB with gray card off the gelled flash.

Setting Custom WB off the 1/2 CTO orange gelled flash makes anything in the range of the flash. 1/2 CTO isn't an exact match to the ambient background and gives it a slight warm look that matches the perception of "normal" looking faces on the people you focus on in an overall warm ambience room.

Because the color temp of flash and ambient are a close match the ISO of the camera can be increased to utilize more of the ambient intensity without the undesireable orange bias you'd get in a high ISO shot with ungelled flash. You can find the gel in sheets at B&H for a couple bucks. The Rosco Cinegel filter sample kit it sells for a couple bucks is also large enough to fit a speedlight and will give you one a wide range of gels and diffusion material Rosco sells with specifications telling how much they change color temp and exposure.




Apr 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM
BigIronCruiser
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need flash advice for dark reception


If you go with the Stroboframe, keep in mind that you won't be able to easily mount the camera to a tripod while the bracket is attached. The Stroboframe is also subject to twisting, although they might offer some type of camera-specific anti-twist plate. The Promediagear Boomerang comes with a built-in Arca-Swiss compatible plate; it won't twist, and you can also add an optional L-Bracket. When you don't need the flash bracket, the rotating arm that holds the flash can be removed in about 10 seconds with a thumbscrew. There are, of course, other brackets that offer similar features.


Apr 30, 2013 at 02:01 PM
jefferies1
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need flash advice for dark reception


I shoot conventions every few weeks. I would suggest a flash for the people/reception photos. Just use a bounce card to avoid that flat over flashed look. Adjust to allow room light into the shot. First step is a slower shutter for that look.
The awards shots can be a bit complicated. Not from a photography stand point but because few will stand in the correct spot, few will look at you, many will do the football handoff and never stop moving. I love those as you have to group them all up after the event for a good photo.They usually scatter like mice but if the contract says they want the shot you figure out how to stage it again. One reason an assistant can be useful.

I find the simple way, and I am all about simple is when I have stage lights that are really bright and well done I use my flash as fill. That is about 10% of the time. Most of the time I keep my flash on camera and balance the stage lights and flash so the award winners are bight and the background is ambiant light looking in the photo exactly the same as you see it in person. No blocking of people by light stands or things for people to trip over in a dark room. Fast to adjust when one does not move to the correct spot on stage. Thsi is very common. You have about 1.5-2 seconds to get the first shot and hopefully a 2nd.No time to waste. People on stage get nervous and forget any rehersal suggestions.

I no longer use a bracket. A large bounce card gives me the look I want. Sometimes raising that flash higher will cause red eye ( just what it should prevent) as you are shooting subjects up a few feet high. If you happen to get that eye reflection from the flash being even with the subject you are in for a lot of post processing.



May 02, 2013 at 10:41 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need flash advice for dark reception


rabbitmountain wrote:
...The award giving moments need to be captured well, handshake, award, both faces visible. ...The walk in and informal reception I will manage well without flash. It's the formal award giving moments that bug me a bit. ...I am looking for straight advice on the best way to do this with the equipment listed. I want to avoid frontal flashed 2-dimensional dull formals, so I'm looking for ways to add some sense of space, call it 3D or plasticity or whatever. I might be able to position the second flash above the scene for hair light but I don't
...Show more

I wouldn't worry about a hair light for this kind of shoot; more important is to get some modeling on the faces to avoid the "deer-in-the-headlight" flash look.

The way to get modeling shadows is to get the key light far enough from the lens axis to cast shadows from the subjects' noses and chins.

A camera-flash bracket is a start, but you may need something taller if the camera-to-subject distance is substantial; I suggest a light-weight light stand.

The fill flash can be closer to the lens axis, so either on-camera or -- better still -- on-bracket flash is fine for that.

The Omni Bounce may not be useful if the room the ceremony is in is a large one; with no nearby surfaces to bounce the light from you'll just be wasting output and draining batteries.



May 03, 2013 at 03:21 AM
 

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alohadave
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need flash advice for dark reception


BigIronCruiser wrote:
If you go with the Stroboframe, keep in mind that you won't be able to easily mount the camera to a tripod while the bracket is attached.


Yes he will. There is a standard 1/4-20 hole on the bottom of the bracket.



May 03, 2013 at 03:01 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need flash advice for dark reception


FYI - The Stroboframe Camera flip is pre-drilled for mounting an Arca-Swiss style QR bracket. I use a Wimberley on mine, but in retrospect the RRS lever model would have been a better choice (I had to swap knobs on the Wimberley).

Stroboframe also sells a pretty decent QR.

As Dave mentioned the Strobframe does have a 1/4-20 tripod mount on the bottom plate but it does flex a lot when a heavy lens is mounted. Flex isn't a problem shooting hand-held because my left hand is underneath supporting camera and bracket. I rarely use the handle on the side, even for carrying. It balances better for carrying when grabbed by the top bar near the base of the flash.

My camera has a RRS L bracket and tripod an A-S QR so I just slip camera out of the QR on the bracket, into the QR on the tripod and put the flash on a stand.




May 03, 2013 at 11:48 PM
BigIronCruiser
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need flash advice for dark reception


My Stroboframe was the QuickFlip 350 version. It had several 1/4-20 pre-tapped holes that could be used for attaching a tripod plate, but it also had a big thumbscrew sticking out the bottom that was used to secure the bracket to the camera. The protruding thumbscrew meant that the tripod plate had to be attached off-center, which obviously caused the camera to be off-center when sitting on a tripod or monopod. Twisting was a more serious issue to which I never found a solution since (a) Tiffen didn't offer an anti-twist plate for my camera, and (b) the "universal" anti-twist plate turned out to be not so universal.

I was in the same position as the OP several years ago, and opted to go cheap. In retrospect, I would have saved money (and aggravation) in the long-run by finding a better solution (there are many) from the very beginning. My $.02.



May 04, 2013 at 02:16 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need flash advice for dark reception


The Quick-Release eliminates the thumb screw (and the need for three hands) to attach the camera to the bracket. The mating plate on the camera eliminates the twisting problem, especially if one opts for an L bracket as I did.

My Strobframe is now being used on my forth digital camera and is one of the better $40 gear investments I've made. Not perfect, but it performs the task it was designed for; hand held candid shooting.



May 04, 2013 at 02:47 AM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Need flash advice for dark reception


Thanks guys, I'm on the road so I don't have time to write anything sensible in reply to your input, which is highly appreciated. As soon as I get back in internet country I will respond!

Stay good,

Ralph



May 06, 2013 at 08:20 AM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Need flash advice for dark reception


The event took place yesterday. I was armed with two flashes, stands and a remote trigger set but I didn't need to use them. The location was an old museum-like medieval building. The room where the awards were given was square-shaped and lit by many windows. From behind my back it was all windows left to right and also one window on each side around the corner, making for evenly lit, but a bit dull frontal lighting. Then from the front were two windows, one on each side of the presentation area. The presenters were often standing in front of one of those windows, allowing me to get some decent shots with lighting both from the front and the rear.

The formals, the ones where the awards were given, were all between the two front windows so the light was a bit dull, but still very decent and the client is very happy with the shots. In hindsight, I could have positioned a hair light in the presentation area to add some life but, well, that is hindsight.

There was one thing that got me worried a bit after 4 out of 6 prize winners were done: a very dark cloud came over the location which made me stretch my 5DmkII to its ISO limits (and break them). I started with ISO3200, a 35/1.4 @f/4 and 1/100s. Eventually I ended up shooting the 6th person with ISO6400, f/3.5 and 1/50, more than two stops difference. And this image was even underexposed by 2/3 stop so you can imagine it looked horrible at pixel level. I still decided not to revert to flash (I could have done that, I did put them up behind me on each side of the room) because I knew this client didn't require large prints. I managed to get that file decent using Lightroom and a dedicated Noise Removal program, that also took care of quite noticeable banding. This was the first occasion in years where I would have liked to have a better ISO performance, but still I'm not sold on a 5DmkIII or D800. This will be the exception (I hope).

So in the end all of this turned out well. I wish to thank all of you for your input, you gave me lots of home work and I intend to work out a scheme that will work best for my needs, using elements of what you use. If anyone cares to see how the images turned out please let me know.

Stay good,

Ralph




May 14, 2013 at 03:53 PM
John Skinner
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Need flash advice for dark reception


Good Deal Ralph.

I'd like to see a sampler ! These things are very exciting the first time you do it. I can't remember the year exactly, but I know I was doing the pee pee dance before, during, and after the film hit the tank. Once the contacts were printed, I knew I'd be invited back.

Look forward to these images



May 15, 2013 at 07:24 AM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Need flash advice for dark reception


Hi John,

Thank you for your interest in my images. I am on the road again today so I'll put some of them up tonight when I get back home. Thank you for your patience.

Stay good,

Ralph



May 15, 2013 at 08:47 AM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Need flash advice for dark reception


Hi Folks, here are the images. Just to make absolutely clear: no flash used, all images available light only. 5DmkII and 5D, 70-200/2.8mkII (1,2,3,5) and 35/1.4 (4,6) used. ISO3200 (5D), ISO3200~6400 (5DmkII), f/2.0~f/4, 1/125~1/40. This was not like dracula's crypt, but very dark nonetheless.

1: 1-3 are backlit by the left front window:
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17457_zps61bcaf3c.jpg

2
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17494_zps7efd46b0.jpg

3
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17376_zpsc8e1ca42.jpg

4: One of the formal shots. +1 stop in post, no noise treatment on this one yet.
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17590_zps6e60f538.jpg

5: This woman was standing right in front of the projector screen, so all lit from behind me
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17451_zps1c01bb10.jpg

6: Reception
http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg597/rabbitmountain/DarkReception/IMG17709_zpsbb148620.jpg



May 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM





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