Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Wedding & Portrait Photography Training

The ideal lighting workshops for wedding and portrait photographers

I've just announced a new series of studio and location lighting practical workshops in association The Flash Centre aimed at wedding and portrait photographers wanting to learn how to get the best from studio flash for portraits and controlling and modifying light on location for portraits and weddings.

Lighting control even in bright sun!
Image from The Apprentice in PhotoPlus May 2011
where I spent the day showing Anne Aveyard the wedding ropes!

These workshops represent excellent value at £99.00 per person, per day if booked in advance, and include refreshments, a light lunch and comprehensive workshop notes.

Afraid of the dark, then light it . . . 
A little flash can go a long way

On Monday 23 April 2012 we'll spend a day in the studio demonstrating how to get the best from studio flash, various light modifiers and reflectors. Working with a model there will be plenty of opportunity to put into practice what you learn.

And then on Monday 30th April well step outside for a day learning about available light outdoors and how to control, modify and supplement it. You can book one or both of these workshops, book both and you'll have a head start on the competition when it comes to lighting for portraits and wedding shots that stand out from the crowd.

To book a place visit:

If anyone would like to discuss any aspect of these workshops with me, you can get hold of me via my website.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fire and Flash | Elinchrom Quadra on Location

A dramatic way to start a show
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX from back left & fire
1/100th second, f6.3, 250 ISO, Daylight white balance
Canon 5D Mk II, 24 - 105 mm L IS

We recently ran an open Shutter evening for the Brighton & Sussex Photography User Group at the Wool Pack pub in Burgess Hill. Once again a very good turnout, especially as it was a cold winter evening - for those that didn't come along, they missed a stunning show by fire performer Richie Wright.

After Richie's 30 minute show Ben & I did a demo to show how to mix flash with fire and create some images for Richie's portfolio at the same time.

The basic set up
1/15th second, f7.1, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

As you can see from this wide shot, safety is an important consideration when working with fire, not only for the performer and audience, but also the photographer and Voice Activated Light stand (Ben). We not only had to work at longer distances, we needed clear communication with Richie a) about his action and b) our intentions for the images. The shots that follow did not happen by accident, but by observation, communication and most important collaborative team work.

1/5th second, f6.3, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

The light source of choice for these shots was an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head with Portalite 56 cm Octa soft box. We made this choice as Richie would be moving about so we needed to cover a large area with the one light - the wide shot above gives an idea of the coverage of this light modifier.

The front diffusion panel was omitted and replaced by a translucent deflector giving us a wide angle beauty dish with some transmission through the deflector. Because we needed to work at fairly high power with a fast recycling time, and coupled with the fact we'd chosen to use the 56 cm Octa, a Speedlite or Speedlites would have proven impractical on the grounds of low power output and sluggish recycling times. I could have used multiple speedlites but 4 Speedlites to gain the 400J required is a bit cumbersome/heavy, slow to rig and pricey at £400 a each. A single Quadra only costs a shade over £1k in UK money! See my recent comparison.

1/5th second, f6.3, 250 ISO Daylight white balance

Part of the challenge of working with multiple light sources, (yes fire emits light and is therefore a light be factored in) is balancing them to get the effect you pre-visualise. For the wide shot I started with my shutter at 1/15th second, aperture f7.1 (both metered with my Sekonic Multimaster L 408 in spot mode. I've owned mine since release 1995, it has now been since superceded*). I decided that the aperture needed tweaking to f6.3 and these shutter dragged to 1/5th second to get the blur without over-exposing Richie with the light from the flames. Why ISO 250? No idea, just felt good at the time!

Not too sure I'd like to follow Richie's choice of diet - I like it hot, but not flaming!

As I was shooting at such slow shutter speeds a tripod was essential. In this case a Giottos MTL 8350B carbon fibre tripod and MH 1301-652 ball head. You can read more about this combination elsewhere in my blog. I used a Canon 5D Mk II with 24 - 105 IS L Series glass - I would have a preferred to use my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM, but this was not the time to experiment so I stuck with the known safe option.

In conclusion
I currently working with a limited kit carried in a LowePro Pro Roller X200 wheeled case and using public transport where possible, especially travellin to London. I've had to think through carefully what I carry to cover the majority of assignments. In the one case have a 3 light rig, camera and lenses which I'll cover sometime soon in this blog. Working with minimum or limited kit enables faster working without getting too hung up on which gear to use for which shot. If you are a wedding photographer I would very seriously look at the Portalite 56 cm Octa soft box for your off-camera lighting. It's very versatile and can be configured to give varying effects. Again this is something I intend covering sometime soon.

Elinchrom & Rosco products are available from The Flash Centre in London, Birmingham or Leeds in UK. Contact Simon Burfoot at the The Flash Centre and mention this blog if you're interested in any of the products mentioned above.

* If I were to replace this meter, the chances are I'd now opt for the Gossen DIGISKY, the only hand-held off-camera meter with built in Elinchrom Skyport. The only thing that would prevent this is the lack of spot metering which I still find useful (see above), so the Sekonic L758DR could be an option with a steep learning curve.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Shooting Charlie Waite, Landscape Photographer & Author

Charlie Waite, a fine landscape photographer and author
In my opinion one of the great landscape photographers

Ben & I recently visited Landscape Photographer of the Year Exhibition 2011 in London with a group from the Brighton & Sussex Photography User Group (BASPUG) where group members had the opportunity to meet and talk with Charlie.

As it happens, we had the opportunity to photograph the great man; Charlie Waite is one of the living legends of landscape photography and has done much with Landscape Photographer of the Year to get more people involved in one of the most accessible genres of photography.

What follows is a step-by-step breakdown of how we created the image at the top of the page:

From start to finish the whole process took less than 13 minutes - check the meta data if you don't believe me!

This is my grab shot of the scene for exposure and colour balance. Camera in aperture priority and daylight white balance - it's always best to have a standard starting point when you pick up your camera each day. Scene is too orange if shooting with flash and a tad dark. At this stage I wasn't too worried about ISO etc.

Now I adjusted the camera white balance to tungsten/incandescent which gave a more neutral tone the scene. The camera was set to record both RAW & JPEG files with the white balance only affecting the JPEG preview file; the RAW file is not affected by this setting.

I then measured the flash exposure using a Sekonic flash/ambient hand held light meter (this particular model allows me to measure reflected light, incident and lighting ratios) and balanced the portable flash output so that the background was under exposed by a stop or so in order to create a sense of depth whilst giving context to the portrait. Charlie is the founder of Landscape Photographer of the Year

I used a single Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX A head fired with a Skyport radio trigger. I chose the Quadra in place of a Speedlite as I can use the Portalite 56 cm Octa soft box which I consider one of the better compact portable light modifiers, taking up less space than a Lastolite Ezybox of similar size.

We must bear in mind that the local ambient light is predominantly tungsten (orange), whilst the flash is daylight (blue). So with the camera set to tungsten white balance giving the background neutral rendition, the foreground would turn blue (the complementary colour to orange). So, the flash needs to be corrected to tungsten. To carry a sheet of Rosco #3407 CTO gel would be impractical as it either has to be rolled or carried flat, and the standard 20" x 24" sheet doesn't fold easily. Enter Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid cloth;

Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid Cloth alongside Rosco #3442 1/2 Straw Gel

Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid cloth was originally intended for use in the film and TV industries for correcting and diffusing large areas of light. I use it as a means of correcting the large soft box light sources used in stills photography as it colour corrects and 

Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid Cloth folded and packed with the disassembled Portalite 56 cm Octa

gives diffusion all in one textile sheet that folds up small - a 30" x 30" sheet fold to 4" x 4" by about 1/4" when compressed for travel, so packs easily with the collapsed Portalite 56 cm Octa. Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid cloth is also a useful option to CTO as it's spectrum is less red

As you can see, the corrected flash balances well with the local tungsten light - RAW file converted to 4850 K to show overall tungsten balance.

This is the one of the early frames where there is no influence from the local ambient light - settings; shutter 1/20, aperture f8, ISO 320, white balance tungsten. Images are as shot with basic processing in ACR.

The shadow area on the left of frame is dark as I chose not to fill with a reflector or light. The shutter speed prevented the ambient light from acting as a fill light to the shadow. At these light levels I could have used a Rosco Litepad as a fill light, but didn't have one as I was travelling with a shoulder bag and nothing else.

In order to give me options I adjusted my camera exposure; shutter 1/15, aperture f5.6, ISO 320, white balance tungsten. With a commensurate drop in flash output i.e. the flash dropped by 1 1/3rd stops whilst the camera opened 1 1/3rd stops, letting the ambient fill the shadow side and add warmth to the foreground.

As the local lighting was patchy and in pools we had to position Charlie where there was minimum influence from the ambient tungsten illumination and still get the background we wanted.

Lighting Diagram for Shooting Charlie Waite

  1. National Theatre, Lytelton Foyer
  2. Charlie Waite
  3. Elinchrom Portalite 56 cm Octa, front white diffuser, no deflector
  4. Rosco #3082 1/2 Straw Grid cloth, clipped or pegged to front diffuser
  1. Distance from Charlie to wall approx. 30 feet giving good DoF effect even at f8
  2. Quadra to Charlie about 6 - 8 feet. Ben acted as VAL (Voice Activated Light stand) as I was travelling light - all kit, Quadra, camera & prime lenses carried in a Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 40 shoulder bag, but this is a story for another blog, another day!

Elinchrom & Rosco products are available from The Flash Centre in London, Birmingham or Leeds in UK. Contact Simon Burfoot at the The Flash Centre and mention this blog if you're interested in any of the products mentioned above.

Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition 2011 winners runs until 19th February 2012 - if you're in London it's well worth a visit and even better, the exhibition is free.