Be More Creative with Flash Photography: Guest Post by Josh Saunders

Have you ever wondered how other photographers get that natural look to their images by using flash? Have you ever wondered how to use a flash that isn’t mounted to your camera? Do you have a need to be more creative with flash photography? Well, this blog post has been designed to show you how simple setups with off camera flash can yield amazing results.

In this article, I have two separate examples of using off camera flash photography. One was a simple one speed light bouncing off a white card set up. The other was a little bit more complex using three off camera speed lights to provide pockets of light to the subject.

In the first example, my one year old daughter was the subject and luckily I caught her at the right moment when she was having fun with her toys. So there are four images:

One taken with the on camera flash (# 1), one image (# 2) taken with the off camera flash bouncing off a white piece of foam core (available at any craft store), one with no flash (#3), and one image with the pull back shot to see my set up (#4).

Example using direct on camera flash for GRPP blog post2015-06-11_0004Example with no flash for GRPP blog postPull back shot for GRPP Blog Post about on camera versus off camera flash




The first image (#1) with the on camera flash results in uneven lighting which lights up the objects closest to the camera and the subject isn’t lit well. This is typical of on camera flash and just isn’t flattering for the subject. The second image (#2) is with the off camera flash bouncing off the white card. This is looking much better and there is direction to the light. The third image (#3) is for comparison only and was taken without any flash. The last one in this example (#4) is the pull back shot to see how I set up the second image (#2).

For my second example, we have an arrangement of flowers from Sassafras Flowers as the subject. I used a multiple off camera flash setup with a total of three placed in pattern that resembles studio lighting. I have a key or main light, a fill off to the side, and a background light. As you can see, the difference between the direct on camera flash (A) and the multiple off camera flash setup (B) is night and day. I also provided a couple of pullback images (C&D) to see where I placed the speed lights with the modifiers.

Direct on camera flash shot of flowers from SassafrasPull back shot for GRPP Blog Post about on camera versus off camera flash



So these aren’t difficult setups and you can practically do it anywhere you have the space.

Here are some tips when setting up and testing your lighting:

  • Use manual power for the speed lights and start at 1/8 power and adjust accordingly
  • When using multiple lights, start with just one and see where the light is falling. Then add more if necessary, but add them one at a time.
  • Use dark material to subtract harsh lighting or light that is spilling out too much. Anything will do, in the flower example, I used discarded pieces of a gray paper backdrop that was torn.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.

I hope this helps you to break out of the on camera flash routine and start creating your own light in your images.

Written by GRPP Member, Josh Saunders of Helio Sun Photo.

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