Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Pixapro CITI600 TTL on location

The first time I took my Pixapro CITI600 TTL portable battery flash on location, in typical English fashion the sun disappeared behind cloud and rain so I didn't bother testing the high-speed sync facility as planned.



This Ed Nugent; Ed is one of life's nice guys, a nurseryman, grower & plantsman who's worked with plants since leaving school, including exhibiting at the internationally renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London. He and his wife Josie have just established a new plant nursery Garden Sage not too far from the studio I work from in Burgess Hill. I popped in to a) see what was in offer & b) buy some herbs plants - as you do, we got talking as Ed was on hand to welcome the customers, a great touch and testament to his desire for the nursery to succeed. He even agreed to be photographed for my Sussex Photographer blog!

As I said at the beginning, they day became very grey thick cloud & rain making for a a very cool look to the images which didn't really give the look I wanted. To compensate for this I added ½ CTB (Colour Temperature Blue) gel - LEE Filters 202 ½ CT Blue, took a grey balance reference close to Ed's face to correct in post-processing. This gave me the warmer background area not lit by the flash.


The Pixapro CITI600 TTL battery mono bloc flash head was mounted to a 20" sliding leg Kupo Grip C-stand with a 40" boom - I find this a very stable & versatile configuration for most lights from Speedlites through to bulky mains powered studio heads. It's essential to remember that when rigging any light stand that one of the legs MUST bender the load of the light & boom for optimum stability.

The soft box is the Pixapro 60cm portable beauty dish (silver inside) with the front diffuser in place, but not the inner deflector. This modifier has a recessed diffuser panel allowing a egg crate grid (supplied) to add more direction & less spill to the light.

As this is a TTL unit I used the TTL facility in conjunction with the Pixapro ST-III T (Canon) trigger. My camera was set to Av with -⅔ stop exposure compensation dialled in. The flash was set to TTL via the trigger & an initial exposure compensation of -1 dialled in (this was established with a number of controlled Fred Tests prior to use). When using the CITI600 you'll notice that any exposure compensation does not appear on the head display; this doesn't mean the flash doesn't recognise the trigger commands, it's just the head is designed to work with both Canon & Nikon camera systems. This may or may not change with future firmware upgrades.

The first frame was a bit hot (over-exposed) so I dialled in -2 stops exposure compensation on the ST-IIIT trigger and was ready to go. The light was not that challenging so for the short duration of the shoot I didn't need to change this.


Given the ambient light conditions, camera Av TTL exposure was ISO 160, ƒ/4, 1/160th sec.

The Pixapro CITI600 TTL  is a welcome addition to my portable lighting gear as it fits nicely when I need a wide aperture ƒ/stop for shallow depth of field (DoF) effects which with conventional portable battery flash are not possible without the use of a camera lens 0.9 solid ND filter which darkens the view finder & reduces the exposure overall requiring more flash power. I will have Speedlites in my kit, which on average are 80w/s compared to the mighty 600w/s of the CITI600 at full power:)

During a controlled location Fred Test I've achieved with a 45º deep long focus reflector in place (honeycomb grid not fitted), ƒ/22 at 4m (13ft) in bright sunlight, Manual 1/1, camera ISO 100, 1/50th sec.

The Pixapro CITI600 TTL is also available in a non-TTL version.

Pixapro CITI600 TTL Key Features:

  • TTL auto exposure Canon & Nikon with appropriate trigger, variable over a ±3 stop range in ⅓ stop increments.
  • Manual from 1/1 to 1/256th power - a firmware upgrade is required for the ST-III T rigger at the time of writing as the trigger only goes to 1/128th power. Be aware that the firmware upgrade is only PC, not Mac for now and the download page is in Chinese.
  • Multi stroboscopic flash with variable frequency.
  • 32 channels and 5 groups.
  • 10w CoB LED modelling light with three power levels.

Of special interest to some will be the flash tube which is user replaceable and has a protective glass cover - reducing the risk of damage or electric shock from an exposed flash tube.

The design of the flash tube projects as well as radiating light improving efficiency with most Pixapro reflectors and modifiers - Speedlites and the Profoto B1 & B2 have concealed flash tubes very much like a Speedlite so only project light! The LED modelling light is positioned to project light through the flash tube and gives a surprisingly accurate preview.

Very soon a remote lead will be available for the head which means the power supply & flash head will be separate, very much like the Elinchrom Quadra system - one of the reasons which attracted me to the system originally was low mass on the top of a light stand when on location outside.

Also, not the construction of the 60cm portable beauty dish, very durable and not dissimilar to the Elinchrom Rotalite range of flash modifiers.

The instruction manual is clear & concise. These days a paper manual is a bonus as much of the time manuals and user guides are PDF download for DIY printing.

I highly recommend the Pixapro brand products available from https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk - Yang Wu and the team offer a superb level of customer service (yes, I have experienced it) both on the telephone and by the website Live Chat!

If you're based in UK Yang and the Essential Photo team will be at The Photography Show 19-22 March 2016, stand E91

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.




Monday, 14 March 2016

Pixapro ST-III TTL Wireless Flash Trigger

Pixapro ST-III TTL Transmitter & Receiver for Canon DSLR cameras
I conducted my initial test of the Pixapro ST-III T (Canon) with a Canon 580EXII Speedlite. For now the triggers are only available for Canon or Nikon. I'm informed that Sony compatible units will be available later in 2016.

First impressions. The build quality and layout of controls is good, although the CH (Channel Select), GR (Group Setting) & MODE (Mode Selection) buttons would benefit from white fill to the recessed letters (see photograph). The backlit LCD display is clear and once I became familiar with the button sequences changing channels and moving between modes is straight forward.

Camera Trigger ST-III TTL-T Canon
Buttons:
TEST - press to see if flash fires, also to trigger remote camera with supplied lead.
Select Dial -  Changes flash power, moves between groups and modes.
CH - Changes channel 1-32 and adjusts custom functions.
GR - Selects group A-C and confirms settings.
MODE - Moves groups between modes.

It should be noted that the flash group to be adjusted needs to be in the centre of the screen next to the white dot on the left of the backlit LCD panel.

The flash group to be adjusted needs to be in the centre of the screen next to the white dot on the left
When set to Manual Mode the flash power may be adjusted from 1/128 to 1/1 power in 1/3 stop increments. In TTL Auto mode exposure may be compensated between ±3 in 1/3 stop increments. I don’t know if this is a feature or an anomaly, but when set to Manual mode the power settings are mirrored on the flash LCD display, but not when in TTL. Apparently this is a feature of the Pixapro CITI600 (Godox AD600) as the flash is multi camera system compatible.

In TTL mode the ST-III trigger doesn’t need switching between normal & HS Flash mode it does it automatically. On my flash I have to switch to HS Sync and the trigger recognises this.

Wireless range is stated as >100m which will be line of sight with no obstacles. Indoors, depending upon conditions, less.

There is an AF beam assist for those times when light levels are low or contrast insufficient for cameras to focus.

Flash/Speedlite Receiver ST-III TTL-R Canon
Buttons:
TEST - Fires all functioning flashes with compatible receivers in place.
CH - Changes channel 1-32.
GR - Selects group A-E.

Both units have a Micro USB socket for firmware upgrades - which at the time of writing only seem available in Chinese and MS Windoze OS. Nothing for Mac users. The transmitter also has a PC socket which will allow older studio flash etc to be used triggered but not controlled remotely.

I’ve tested Pixapro ST-III TTL Wireless Flash Trigger/Receiver set with the following:

Pixapro CITI600 TTL - total remote control
Yong Nuo 565 EXII - TTL, Manual remote power setting, no HS
Canon 580 EXII - total remote control
Canon 550 EX - Manual only, no HS or TTL
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra - trigger only
Elinchrom BXRi - trigger only
Elinchrom EL500 - trigger only
Multiblitz Profilux 200 - trigger only



This means is you can mix differing makes & types of studio flash & speedlites with ease. A selection of adaptor leads are supplied, including a lead to use the trigger/receiver as a remote camera trigger.

THE trigger & receiver are both powered by AA cells, not supplied.

The instruction manual is clear & concise, although if you’re like me the type is of a size where reading glasses will be necessary! These days a paper manual is a bonus as much of the time manuals and user guides are PDF download for DIY printing.

I highly recommend the Pixapro brand products available from https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk - Yang Wu and the team offer a superb level of customer service (yes, I have experienced it) both on the telephone and by the website Live Chat!

If you're based in UK Yang and the Essential Photo team will be at The Photography Show 19-22 March 2016, stand E91

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

How to attach lighting gels to studio & battery flash

I've worked lighting correction, effects and diffusion gels for most of my photography career - in the early days shooting video correcting tungsten lights to daylight entering through a window necessitated clipping a blue CTB gel to the barn doors of the hot lights - hot lights because if you touched any metal part your finger would blister, hence why we used to all have a pair of riggers gloves handy.

Simple, cheap and effective,  fixing lighting gels to barn doors with wooden clothes pegs



A few lighting gaffers used metal crocodile clips to clamp gels to a hot light and many nothing more sophisticated than the humble wooden clothes peg - wooden clothes peg don't transmit heat and if they get too hot only char - use plastic clothes pegs on a hot light and they melt! The wooden clothes peg has become the subject of myth - in the film industry they are know as C47s!

The same principles apply when attaching gels to modern studio & portable battery location flash with a reflector in place.

The 600w/s TTL Pixapro CITI600 battery location/studio flash with standard reflector

I keep a handful of wooden clothes pegs in my camera bags along with numerous other useful odds & ends not directly photography related!


The quick & scruffy way to attach lighting gels to flash reflectors, clip a couple of clothes pages direct to the reflector.


It's also possible to gel soft boxes and beauty dish modifiers using clothes pegs by clamping the gel to the soft box spars.


Another useful accessory is the Double or Multi-Clip. The name will vary according to where you buy or who manufacturers. 


Pair of Double Clips attached to your flash reflector make a easier solution for attaching gels to lights.


Here you can see a LEE Filters cosmetic gel (combined diffusion/colour) clamped to an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra standard reflector with a pair of Double Clips.


If you need to change gels frequently during sessions then I use a piece of clear acetate or polycarbonate sheet clamped between the Double Clips.


Gels are then attached to the clear sheet with clothes pegs! This is also useful with diffusion gels as it increases the distance from the flash tube giving a better diffusion effect. When using diffusion gels and textiles I use a scrim frame as it allows me to fine tune the distance between the diffusion & light source, as illustrated in the image below.

Click on image to view larger.


The Pixapro CITI600 portable battery flash is available from Essential Photo in Birmingham, England.

I work mainly with LEE Filters which are available from Acebil in UK and other retailers worldwide.

Elinchrom portable battery & studio flash is available from The Flash Centre - call Birmingham store and talk with Brian Collier or email Simon Burfoot and don't forget to mention this blog.

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.








Monday, 29 February 2016

Day for Night with LEE Filters CTO 204


Would you buy a used car from this man? You may recognise my good friend Jamie Bannerman, I've been shooting his head shots for Spotlight etc since around 2001 - he's also the bloke in the image at the top of this blog.

This image was created outside of our Burgess Hill studio to demonstrate the simplicity of using a colour correction gel to create a blue background night-time effect, aka day-for-night.

The set-up BTS (Behind The Scenes) frame, colour corrected in post.

The studio I work from is based in a busy industrial area/business park south of London Gatwick Airport and north of Brighton & Hove, so shooting outside presents numerous challenges as seen from the BTS frame.

Uncorrected file showing the effect of the LEE Filters CTO 204 gel.

Kit List & Camera Settings

  • Camera: Canon 5D MkII
  • Light Source: Canon 580 EX II Speedlite
  • Light Modifier: 86" (7ft) satin silver reflective umbrella, similar to 
  • Lighting Filter: LEE Filters 204 CTO Full (100%) Colour Temperature Orange - CC Colour Conversion Filter for daylight (6500K) to tungsten light (3200K) "daylight" varies according to the source. Here's an insight from Lowel.
  • Gel Holder: The Original Gel Clip
  • White Balance: Daylight, which on my Canon 5DII seems to be 4850K, I tend to dial in 5300K as a starting point!
  • File Format: RAW & JPEG
  • Shutter Speed: 1/1000th sec
  • Aperture: ƒ/2.2
  • ISO: 320


The same RAW file as above with White Balance adjusted in RAW convertor to 3200K


Post Production Processing
The frame above has been processed in a RAW file convertor, intros case Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). The WB White Balance has been adjusted to 3200K which introduces blue into the frame to neutralise the overall orange colour cast. The introduction of the blue colour neutralises the orange colour on Jamie's face and any light not created by the CTIO flash is rendered blue.

The grey card in the image is used to sample the colour for correction. I prefer grey (gray) as it's less susceptible to exposure errors than white which can blow-out/over exposure and not enable an accurate WB correction, even with a RAW file.

One of the final images

Finishing
The final images were dodged and burned using Adjustment Layers in Adobe Photoshop™ to add depth to the blue and draw attention to Jamie's face - cool colours tend to recede and warm colours will enhance similar, i.e. skin tones, flatter & focus attention.

Credits


That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

PIXAPRO LED100D MKII Daylight Balanced LED Studio Light


I like to keep up to date with developments with lighting for stills and video photography, a new light which has been bought to my notice is a powerful 100w LED unit with a CRI ≥94 which makes the PIXAPRO LED100D MKII Daylight Balanced LED Studio Light a unit useful for photographers who need a cool running continuous daylight source for studio & location use.



A high CRI Colour Rendering Index https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index is indicative of accurate colour rendition where the light emitted is close to full spectrum with no unwanted colour spikes or holes!

The PIXAPRO LED100D MKII Daylight Balanced LED Studio Light is mains or battery powered from a V-Lock battery and features a standard S-Type accessory fitting allowing photographers to utilise existing Bowens S-Type modifiers, reflectors and accessories.

Available now from Pixapro for less than £300.00 https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk/product/pixapro-led100d-mkii-daylight-balanced-led-studio-light/

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

CamKart Photo Equipment Trolley



The ultimate and unique all terrain equipment trolley - designed by photographer Paul Slater Saban for photographers.

Once in a while I get truly excited about something, this is one such time. A well designed and unique rolling camera bag which really caters for  the needs of photographers who don't work in towns and cities with smooth pavements and sidewalks.

Paul has used the original prototype for six years in three continents proving that the product works.


If you're in England you can see the CamKart & meet Paul at Stand No M120 at the SWPP Convention Trade Show starting on the 22th January at The Hilton Metropole Hotel in London or at NEC The Photography Show in Birmingham on the 19th March 2016.

You may follow Paul on Twitter or visit the CamKarts Facebook page.

Good luck Paul Slater Saban, this product is worthy of success.

Image © Copyright Paul Saban 2016



Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Pixapro Portable Beauty Dish


Mark W Ratcliffe recently introduced me to the Pixapro brand of lighting and modifiers. Even though I'm a long standing Elinchrom fan & user, based on Mark's feedback I've taken delivery of a Pixapro 60 cm silver portable beauty dish.

Until now I've used a rigid Elinchrom 44cm beauty dish which I bought from The Flash Centre early  in the 1990s - it's still going strong with the interior being resprayed matt white periodically. I've not taken this on location much as it has a bulky fibre board transit case.

The Pixapro 60cm portable beauty dish was a revelation - it comes ready assembled in a clever carry case which includes a matt silver deflector, front diffuser with a circular black mask and a very effective fabric egg crate grid. For this image the beauty dish is effectively a circular soft box,with the front diffuser in place. The mask on the diffuser gives a perfect circular catchlight in the eyes. 

It is also a multi-modifier or 8-in-1 modifier:
1.  Beauty dish with either concave or convex deflector - I suspect I'll also use it with my Elinchrom Deflector Set!
2.  Beauty dish with either concave or convex deflector, with egg crate in place.
3.  Hard reflector without deflector in place.
4.  Hard reflector without deflector in place, with egg crate in place.
5.  Soft box with deflector.
6.  Soft box without deflector.
7.  Soft box with deflector, with egg crate in place.
8.  Soft box without deflector, with egg crate in place.

Location

I chose a rural barn location because of the ambient daylight which falls away quite sharply giving me control of the local light with my camera shutter allowing me to darken the background.


As you can see, it's a barn; bales of straw, old feeders and even a camper van. Where possible I now work on location with C-stands from Kupo Grip as they offer ease of use, versatility and most important stability. OK they're heavy, but plan your locations and transport carefully and you'll not have to carry them too far.

Exposure

To control the ambient light, which incidentally was heavy grey cloud and very diffuse, I increased my shutter speed by a couple of stops allowing the light from the flash to dominate the scene.  What it doesn't show here is how cold poor Lulu was!


The above frame shows the ambient exposure before the flash was added. The ambient light also provided fill to the shadows.



The overall feel to the frame was a little cool, I favour warm flesh tones so modified the colour temperature of the Quadra A head with a LEE Filters 206 1/4 CTO gel. This was held in place with nothing more exotic than a couple of wooden clothes pegs, also known by some of us as C47s!

For a portable beauty dish the Pixapro is of sturdy construction with hinged arms not dissimilar to those used by Elinchrom on their Rotalux range of modifiers.


Straight out of camera with only minor processing tweets in ACR, including white balance to 5300K. There are areas of the image which I dodged and burned in Photoshop, shown below.


Post-production notes:

1. Burned in to reduce detail.
2. Whites of eyes lightened, pupils and irises darkened along with eye lashes.
3. Skin gently smoothed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and layer opacity reduced.
4 & 8. Edge of hand & sleeve burned in as it was a paler tone than Lulu's face.
5. Left sleeve too bright for my taste so burned in.
6. & 7. Tones too bright, I wanted to concentrate more on Lulu, not straw bales so burned in by means of a layer which was under exposed by a stop or so and then masked through with a layer mask.
9. Distracting detail burned in via layer mask.

Ears can also be problematic due to translucence or even being pale and creating a paler area which draws the eyes away from the point of interest.

When I dodge and burn I tend to do so much as I used to when printing in a darkroom, only now I use a 50% grey adjustment layer with the Blending Mode set to Soft Light. This suits my style of image processing as I can lighten (dodge) or darken (burn) at will, non-destructively and even create subtle vignettes and draw attention to the model.





A we moved the light we met with uneven ground which is where the C-stand with a sliding leg allowed me to keep the riser vertical stable. I favour 20" C-stands as the short riser gives a low centre of gravity when my Quadra pack is suspended from the thumb bolt by a couple of lengths of paracord!


Thoughts

85mm ƒ/1.8 at ƒ/2.8 on a Canon 5DMk2 full frame sensor. Creating a dark or black background is something trained and experienced professional photographers have done for ages. All that's needed is an understanding of exposure, the Inverse Square Law and the right location or backdrop. Creating an image is not about camera settings or copying a technique plugged by another photographer but practicing the right skills, over and over again and adding your uniqueness to your images. Adapting the locations and lighting to the model, subjects or requirements of a client. This comes with practice over time.

Supplier List

These suppliers are known and trusted. I would not list or recommend otherwise.

Pixapro lighting, studio equipment and modifiers
Yang Wu is the man.

The Flash Centre - Elinchrom flash & more
Brian Collier at the Birmingham UK branch is a top man, as is Simon Burfoot.

LEE Filters - lighting gels and camera lens filters

Kupo Grip - lighting grip C-stands and more
Nick Allen-Miles is the man!

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.






Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Rogue FlashBender XL Softbox Mk2 on location

Working light and in tight space could mean compromise with lighting, not if you have a Rogue FlashBender XL Soft Box mk2 in your bag or pocket.


Chris Foss, Head of Wine Dept, Plumpton College

For this assignment I needed a head shot in a working winery with no more than about 6 feet between the rows of fermenting vessels. This precluded my using and umbrella or soft box which would be too deep at around 24"-36" - Rogue FlashBender XL Soft Box mk2 and a Canon 580 EXII Speedlite is ideal in this situation.


Cr4ppy Lighting Sketch (CLS)

Av 160 ISO, 1/60 ƒ/2.5 WB daylight

Surprisingly the ambient light level was relatively high at Av 160 ISO, 1/60 ƒ/2.5  WB daylight - the strip tube lights suspended in the ceiling were about 12 feet above head height and had recently been upgraded to Phillips LED fluorescent tube replacements, which still emit a cool light, some say blue, some green - I don't have a colour meter or time to measure and test so decide to improvise.

Av minus one stop WB daylight, shutter speed 1/125th sec

I dropped the camera exposure by one stop using the exposure compensation dial as I was shooting in Av, aperture priority mode. Av maintains a constant aperture and adjusts the shutter speed to control exposure. Av was selected as I wanted a shallow DoF (Depth of Field) look to the image.

To warm the background and complement the blue of Chris' jacket & shirt I placed ½ CTB gel (LEE Filters 202, Rosco 3204) in front of the flash using one of my Gel Clip accessories.Why a blue gel?

½ CTB gel over flash, Rogue Flashbender XL Softbox mk2, Xrite Color Checker Passport 


By taking a colour reference frame and ensuring I'm recording RAW files the colour is adjusted during RAW processing to neutralise the blue skin tone - as orange is opposite blue on the colour wheel the blue cast is neutralised. As the ambient light isn't lit with blue it becomes orange and warm which many prefer to cool blue.


That's it, a one light portrait with a single Speedlite, simple modifier and a cut of lighting correction gel. The Speedlite was mounted to a Kupo Grip 055 Handy Stand, by means of a metal clamp type Cold Shoe Adaptor & Umbrella Swivel.

Kupo Grip is available from www.ipt.world in UK and Mac Group in US

If you're a member of The LIGHT Side Facebook group contact www.ipt.world and speak to one of the team who I know will look after you!

The Expo Imaging Rogue FlashBender XL mk2 is available from Colour Confidence in UK and direct from Expo Imaging and other fine came stores in US.

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightsidegroup/ will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.







Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Window Light Still Life - Garlic



Window light has to be my favourite light source, although sometimes tricky to work with unless you understand how to control it.



This image was quick and simple in execution. Two locally grown garlic bulbs hanging from garden string tied to a short articulated arm. Window light from camera left, 18 inches from the white net curtain. The sky was light grey cloud so diffusion the sun like light Grid Cloth. Backdrop a reclaimed grey Welsh slate roof tile supported by two A clamps. Separation from the shadow area of the garlic to camera right by means of a homemade V-flat reflector bright silver side, positioned to reflect light back from the window. Camera Fujifilm X30, handheld with my elbows resting on the bench top.

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightsidegroup/ will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Choosing Your Wedding Photographer - 20 Hints and Tips




For anyone choosing to get married one of the most important decisions they have to make when planning their special day is their choice of wedding photographer. For some photography is essential for others it's seen as an intrusion and unnecessary expense.

With advent of the affordable high quality digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) just about anyone can call themselves a professional photographer; they don't need training or experience, just a website, business cards and a pile of impressive looking camera equipment.

As most people do not have any experience of working with photographers or buying photography services the task of finding a wedding photographer can be somewhat daunting. You can ask a friend, look in the local free newspaper or search the Internet.

20 things you should be looking for or asking when choosing your wedding photographer:

  1. Ask friends, work collegues and family for recommendations.
  2. How many weddings has the person photographed and how long have they been photographing weddings for payment?
  3. What training has the person received or have they worked with another photographer as an assistant or second photographer?
  4. Is the person a qualified member of a professional organisation such as the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography, GoP (Guild of Photographers), MPA (Master Photographers Association), SWPP (Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers), NPS (National Photographic Society) and is the qualification for wedding photography or a non-related subject? A degree in photography does not mean the person is a fit wedding photographer, just that they have studied for and met the criteria of that degree.
  5. Does the person carry both Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurances? If they employ a second photographer or assistant, by law they must have Employers Liability insurance.
  6. Are they familiar with the health and safety requirements of the venue(s) where they will be working?
  7. Do they have back up equipment?
  8. Do they have their own transport?
  9. Many photographers claiming to be "professional" actually only photograph the odd wedding here and there to get some extra money. No law against that, but how committed will they be to delivering quality products and service? When photography has to pay your mortgage and put food on the table, your whole focus is on making your clients happy, which will not be the case when photographing weddings is nothing more than a hobby and your day job pays the mortgage. 
  10. Do they advertise their address? If they do not or only offer a PO Box number, ask where they live before booking? If something should go wrong, how do you contact them after the event?
  11. Do they have a comprehensive booking form with clearly laid out terms and conditions and contact information?
  12. Is the person you are speaking to the person who will photograph your wedding day? If not, ask to meet the photographer and see examples of their work before making a booking or entering into a contract.
  13. Are the images you have seen original images created by the photographer of real weddings? Some photographers will work with models to create a wedding portfolio or attend one of the many portfolio builder workshops available to novices.
  14. Ask to see images from a whole wedding or preferably weddings. Photographers will show you what they consider their best images, which may not be those you would like to see.
  15. Some photographers will tell you that they only work by available light as flash or supplementary lighting will spoil they atmosphere of your wedding. In all probability that person has no experience of working with other light sources, so what are they going to do when they get into a situation where there is little or no available light. Used correctly, some of the best and most creative images from a wedding can be created with flash.
  16. Many photographers advertise themselves as photo-reportage or fly on the wall photographers. Some photographers are brilliant at this style as they trained and worked as photo-journalists or for newspapers, some are just naturals. Others will merely be snappers who do not have an eye for an image and will only give you a collection of random images of questionable quality.
  17. You get what you pay for, well most of the time. In majority of cases if you have a friend or relative with a DSLR camera and ask them to photograph your wedding to save money they may say yes, but you have none of the comeback when something goes wrong. The photographer needs to have professional detachment in order to get the best images. 
  18. Ask what they will do in the event that they are unable to photograph your wedding? Can they provide a named photographer of equal or better ability to take their place?
  19. Do they only provide a DVD of unprocessed images straight from the camera? If so, it is doubtful if they have any post-production or image processing skills.
  20. Don't believe that it can be fixed in Photoshop. Image retouching and manipulation is a skill that has to be learnt over many years. There are no quick fixes. People new to photography do not realise this. Much of the time images need to be created with post-production or Photoshop in mind. Photoshop is merely another tool in a photographers tool box. Some will use it to better effect than others.

Ian Pack is a photographer, with over 25 years experience in the photography and media industries. He was featured in PhotoPlus magazine in May 2011 as their expert wedding photographer. During his career Ian has photographed in excess of 600 weddings.


© Copyright 2011 Ian Pack
Reproduction in whole or part without permission of the author strictly prohibited.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Lastolite Skylite Rapid 1x1 Scrim Frame

Any form of sunlight in Sussex is a novelty, which is why I and many others ironically refer to our home county as Sunny Sussex!


Most normal people would look at the above image and say "yeah, OK, bright sun, nice", NOT! It's contrasty and even not flattering.

After the inside shoot today we ventured to the beach on the way home. The sun was direct giving hard edges to the shadows as there were no clouds to diffuse and soften the light. I could have chosen to compete with the sun by using flash, but decided to opt for an easier option, a scrim frame with a light silk in place, or in this case a 1m x 1m Lastolite Skylite Rapid frame with a 0.75 stop diffuser.


 With the Lastolite Skylite Rapid held in place an able assistant aka VAL (Voice Activated Light stand) I was able to control and often the light whilst retaining shadow definition. I could have chosen a heavier scrim but that would have softened the light too much for this image.


In the past I have been an advocate of the California Sunbounce range of reflectors and diffusers due to their build quality and efficiency. Recently I saw the new Lastolite products at a couple of trade shows and decided to give them a try - all I can say is simple to use and quite cost effective, in other words less expensive than similar Sunbouce products.

Using the 0.75 silk diffuser the Lastolite Skylite 1m x 1m becomes the light source
when placed between the sun and subject

Here the VAL is using a painters extension pole as a boom with a grip head holding the Skylite Rapid in place, in turn attached to a 1420 VAL Spigot which even in a breeze of around 10 kts moved very little due to the rigid frame. I attempted to use a Lastolite Trigrip which in the conditions proved useless as it distorted with the breeze. 

CAMERA
Fujifilm X30 CSC - Compact System Camera

LIGHTING
All natural provided by a massive fireball in the sky. Modified with the aid of a 1m x 1m Lastolite Rapid scrim frame. All held in place with the aid of a grip head, a 1420 VAL Spigot and a decent painters extension pole in lieu of a light stand and/or boom!

Lastolite products are available worldwide. The 1420 VAL Spigot from me direct via http://www.packshots.biz/gelclip/

You may see more examples of the 1420 VAL Spigot in use from this blog or in the eBook available on ISSUU (for now) http://bit.ly/1420valspigot

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightsidegroup/ will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.






Sunday, 5 April 2015

Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro Strip Grid for Close-Up Photography


Some wind-borne seeds of a typical English spring flower, the Primrose (Primula vulgaris) have germinated in a joint between paving slabs in our back yard, so I took the opportunity to get a quick frame or two using a Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro Strip Grid.


As you can see from the above behind the scenes (BTS) frame, not really the most inspiring location; I decided to get down to the level of the plant with the aid of a Steady Bag from Visual Departures in the US - this allowed me to position the camera with macro lens, Young Nuo trigger & cable remote release close to ground level. The cable remote release is essential when working close-up to prevent camera movement, a danger when pressing the shutter release.

Kit List

  1. Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro Strip Grid
  2. Primrose
  3. Spun diffusion sheet from LEE Filters (215 ½ Tough Spun) for a tad fill
  4. Speedlite
  5. Yong Nuo 622c transceiver attached to a Frio Cold Shoe
  6. Umbrella Swivel KS-101 from Kupo Grip
  7. Magic Arm from Manfrotto
  8. Floor stand/Back light base 003 from Manfrotto. Part of the Magic Arm kit
  9. Steady Bag from Visual Departures
  10. Camera with macro lens, right angle viewfinder accessory & YN622x TX TTL flash controller
  11. Cable remote release to reduce/prevent vibration & movement when releasing the shutter
Camera Settings

ISO 160
Shutter 1/160th
Aperture ƒ/16
White balance 5750K

Unlit snap, straight out of camera!


I said quick - it did take a little effort, but the results are worthwhile.


Feathering the Strip Grid toward the camera has created pool of light which creates contrast & emphasises the blooms. An improvement on the unlit snap!

Rogue FlashBenders are available worldwide. In the UK they are now available from Colour Confidence.

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightsidegroup/ will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.