The intermediate / advanced workshop - a couple of questions

What level do we have to be at and what sort of thing will we be learning to do with the off camera lighting that I can't do with my on camera flash?

I've had these questions asked a couple of times regarding the workshop.

Firstly regarding level - for the advanced workshops you should be comfortable using your camera on manual mode however regarding lighting we'll begin with the basics. There will be an introduction to using flash on manual mode, we'll speak about kit etc but progress extremely quickly. The images we'll be making are headshots and 3/4 length portraits. This allows us to concentrate on the quality of light and pay attention to sculpting light and shadow to create a more interesting image. The morning is spent in the courtyard shooting subjects on a simple grey backdrop so we have nothing but the light to worry about. The afternoon we step it up another notch as we head into the city with some models to shoot on location.

Basically I want people to go away from the course with an understanding and confidence on how to get the best out of a single light. Throughout the day you'll also pick up some tips on working with people as a subject and return home with some images you're proud of.

Of course everything we'll learn with small strobes is equally relevant to working with bigger lights. If we've time I may also go through some of the advantages of adding a second light and explore some of the opportunities that can open up.

Regarding the second question - what sort of thing will we be learning to do with the off camera lighting that I can't do with my on camera flash?

I hope the images posted below help answer this one. Whilst over in the States someone wanted me to do a 'different' family portrait. They wanted their newborn baby in it and the husband was adamant that his beloved motor bike was also included. Tina wanted to wear her little mini dress & boots that she was wearing the night they met and he wanted to be in his biking jacket, mmmmm, interesting! Location, mood, lighting etc left in my court.

First job was to choose a location not too far away. New born baby's aren't known for their patience so a long travel time was a no, no. Off I shot in the car to suss something out, leaving the family at the house getting ready and made-up.

I always enjoy location scouting, particularly somewhere completely new to me. The majoriy of my shoots are urban but this was totally out in the countryside. Luckily my assistant for the day, Mr David Taylor brought along his $800 cowboy boots (yes $800 for cowboy boots) to protect me from evil snakes, nettles and other countryside dangers.

Check out those boots - they've got stars on them and everything!

Ok, enough about boots, back to location scouting. I found this big puddle, think we could use this! I'm also liking the sun setting behind us. I should be able to use the sun to add a little colour and interest in the sky. You can already see here that it's impossible to have me correctly exposed whilst at the same time keeping detail in the sky.

The family moves into position, Jeffrey, who was styling makes some last minute adjustments to hair and make-up whilst I concentrate on setting up the lighting. Note the bare flash on the stand to the left of the puddle.

Here's a set-up shot. I'm beginning to create the mood I want. Subject is pretty well exposed although I want the mood to be a little darker.

I dial down the ambient light further and bring in an additional light behind the subject to add some separation between subject and background. It's a simple set-up. One snooted light to the camera left, another light (also with snoot) placed directly behind the subject.

The final result below. You can view a larger version of the image if you click here.

So I hope that's answered the second question. The ambient light hadn't really changed very much from the first snapshot of me finding the location to the final finished image. The whole mood was created using just a couple of small off camera strobes. I'd never have been able to get this type of shot using on camera flash for a multitude of reasons. This whole shoot took around 30 minutes from me finding the location to getting the shot. It simply needs an understanding of using your flash in manual mode and taking back control from those expensive little computers manufacturers put into their flash units to hold photographers hands (TTL, ETTL or whatever they're called). Exactly the type of thing I'll be teaching you in the workshops.

Any further questions regarding this post or the workshops? Don't hesitate to leave a comment.