Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get the Goods: Meetup helps me get over my fear of using flash in manual


Last Friday's "sunset workshop meetup" with Bill Murphy was incredible! Not only did I get some amazing shots, but I learned some new techniques that I know I have the ability to duplicate when working on my own. If a photography class is overflowing with students, it's easy to just coast along and pretend to know that you understand what the instructor is saying. You just mimic what others are doing and you get the shots you need. But it takes some time and perseverance to actually digest and then be able to replicate what happened, and I'm excited because in this case, I really think I can. Now I can REALLY get my flash off camera (and not just on a flash bracket), by placing it on a stand, camera left or right

Up until now, I've only used my Canon flash on ETTL. Last month's Kelby Training with Joe McNally sorta had me revved up to try using flash in manual, but I wasn't quite there yet. Switching to manual on your flash is like taking your camera settings off automatic for the first time. The fear is real, but so is the excitement. When Bill said, "put your flash on manual," my heart stopped. Not only did I not know how to do that, but I was terrified of messing up. I mean, there's this great looking model freezing her butt off waiting for me shoot. I didn't want to look like a fool in front of her or take up her time.


But by the end of class, I was operating my flash like....well, like a PRO who actually KNEW what she was doing! Imagine that!


I can manually dial the power up or down on the flash to get the results I want. I'm still a little shaky about the zoom feature, but I'm sure it will come. The absolute control you have when you take your flash to manual far outweighs that initial insecurity. Then the magic began. Bill took all of us through the steps of metering for the bright setting sun and balancing that natural ambient light with the flash. And what a balancing act it is! You've got to combine your ISO and aperture in just the right formula to keep enough light in the background while using your flash to light up your subject in the foreground. Meter for the sky exposure first, with your ISO at about 200 and a starting point of about f 5.6 or f 8. Once you get that exposure set, tinker with your flash starting with the lowest setting (about 1/32 of power) and working your way up (or opening up or closing your aperture depending on how much ambient you want in the photo) to balance out the light until you achieve the look you want.


Oh yeah, easier said than done. But it was so much fun, kinda like a wizard trying to find the right ingredients for a spell. And I definitely think the beauty of these photos is something akin to magic. Models Lexee and Meaghan, along with stylings of makeup artist Jett Middleton rocked this session. They were troopers because true to Colorado form, the weather changed and got cooler as the sun set, and the models tuffed it out to get these unforgettable shots. Join Bill's lighting basics Meetup Group and take a class with him! For only $25, you get about two hours of shoot time with his instruction with models. I've taken his model posing class, as well as a high key and low key lighting workshop.

Turns out the above photo of Lexee was Bill's favorite of the night. Here's why:

"Yes... so if I were to break it down... the blue saturation is almost HDR like in that it is so vivid. Your composition was perfect for this shot.. with the upper half of the image showing the skies ( epic like wouldn't you say) ? Then we have Lexee sitting there in a beautiful pose. The light from the setting sun is drawing our eyes to her, where our eyes follow up to her face, then our eyes follow down around her legs and through the rock and around and around again.. if you look at the image.. it will keep your eyes in the image.. you are drawn to it.. you just keep wanting to explore all the nooks and crannies of the image... Plus you just plain nailed the exposure by making her just a bit brighter than the skies so that again ... we keep coming back to her..."

So cool! Considering how many excellent photogs we had shooting with us that night, this is definitely an honor I will treasure. Bill, we've all said it before. You ROCK!

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