Sunday, February 24, 2013

Natural light and Flash

My first post of 2013, oh dear...really need to keep up.

After taking a trip to Ciaran Whyte's (nudity warning) workshop in Dublin last week using the new 5D3 (more to follow on that) I really enjoyed shooting natural light but noticed I really do love flash, really do. I think this is because I use it so much in my work it's just something I automatically want to use.

There are so many benefits to natural light that cannot be ignored

  • It's free
  • It's plentiful
  • It can be managed
  • You can travel light with gear.
To explain further, it's free as it is all around us, this makes it plentiful, although during the winter months that can be debatable and indoors can be hit or miss. It can be managed with scrims and reflectors among other tools. One of the biggest benefits is in regards to gear, you really can head out on the right kind of day and get some great images with very basic kit, or stay in beside a great big window.

With flash only 1 of the 4 pluses for natural light really make it across...

It's not going to be free, even at a basic level (but it doesn't have to be expensive), you can travel light but that affects how plentiful you can get it and how cheap too. That leaves "It can be managed" and by far that is its greatest asset, modifiers galore can allow you to some cool things with light. Also every day can be the right day with flash although rain is at your own risk :)

I recently bought a set of Elinchrom Quadras from Ciaran (same as above) and I love them. We use all Elinchrom in the studio so most of not all the modifiers can be used on this mini flash system. At 400 watts it can take on the sun with the right modifier and can turn day into night.

Natural light

Natural light is great for portraits (and food and landscapes)... very simple and very effective.


This image shows how flash can change everything, the top photo is shot with natural light, the photo below is 30 minutes later, same model, same location, same camera and lens. Flash (Quadra with softbox) is the change. It's this flexibility that makes flash a tool worth knowing. Some photographers see flash as like a bad thing, in fact I see some photographer's bluntly state that they "will only use flash as a last resort". I'd prefer to say "Flash is my first port of call" when I need the right light.

Another image shot during a summer evening, using 2 very basic (compared to the Quadra) bare bulb flashes.

There is no VS with these lights, both can be bad with a bad photographer and great with a great photographer, just like cameras :)

1 comment:

Ciaran said...

I think flash is singularly the most creative tool a photographer has. The ability to add light (consistent) and then control it through it's placement and modifiers, allows you have endless creative possibilities.

However, from what I see most of the time, people spend so much time using flash to try and mimic natural light. They use soft boxes etc. to make a small light big.. where they could easily have just used ambient light in the first place.

I'm a pretty limited user of flash, but I'm certainly not afraid to use it - it's by no means a sin, nor is it a last resort. But if there's ambient light around, that's most definitely my first port of call.