20 July 2021

Use Artificial Light to Help You Regain the Passion

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Window light coming in from the front

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz

Of course, daylight from the sun is a type of natural light. Same as light coming from the moon, stars, a candle, fireplace, or fireflies. Ambient light is the opposite of flash and is a constant light that stays on continuously for a time. It might also be referred to as Available Light. Artificial ambient light can be the incandescent bulbs that light your house or the light that automatically comes on to illuminate your the interior of your fridge when you open it. The natural light photogs can get a little something out of this. Anyone can take a photo in the daylight when all the settings are done in either Full Auto or "P"-mode. Just let the camera do all the work and you're good to go. However, to bring back that passion, try this: work with ambient light in the darker settings and use any available light that you can come up with. I've used light from a cell phone held close to a model's face. I've used the moon on a 8 second exposure.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley

But here are a few things you're gonna need in order to get busy with this concept. In the last post, I set you up with flash and triggers for under $200. In this case, I'm gonna stay in that same neighborhood. I'll begin with a good tripod. I've worked with several new and aspiring photogs who make a dubious mistake in my opinion. And when I say, "in my opinion", it's just that. I'm not quoting law and regulations. It's my perspective that when I see someone spend a grand or more on a good camera and then shop for a $25 tripod, I'm just gonna say no. When I worked at B&C Camera, usually the cheapest I get them out of the door with is a $160 Promaster system that will take care of their support and stabilization needs. You simply don't trust a thousand dollars on twenty dollar legs. Just don't do it.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Strip of light coming through window light from the front

I use Promaster tripods myself! I travel the world with a smaller, lightweight carbon fiber system that handles all my needs. Its strong and more compact to travel with. Back home in the U.S., I use a bigger, but medium sized Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Tripod with Ball Head Q2 carbon fiber unit that is the most beautiful system out there. Aesthetics usually don't count, but I fell in love with this thing a few years back and it's gorgeous as well as strong. Good sturdy legs are key. Next is having a ball head that can support the weight of your camera when it's tilted vertical. I like mine to be extra strong in this regard. When a camera is tilted vertically, it's actually off of the tripod's center of gravity. I never use the extended neck on these tripods for that very reason, as sometimes the vertical perspective is necessary.

"What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time."
~ John Berger

You can definitely pick up a used tripod system somewhere. There are super easy to test out and confirm it's serviceability prior to you trusting it with your camera out in the field. If you can get a good one for cheap, go for it. I like mine new and simply won't go for a used support system. That's just me. Every manufacturer will make tripods of various qualities, sizes, max weights, and different price points. Carbon fiber will usually run you double what an aluminum will cost. I like carbon fiber a lot. Find what suits you best in the budget you choose.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Early morning eight-second exposure

The next most important item is going to be a cable release or remote shutter release system that plugs into your camera and allows you to actuate the shutter release without having to touch the camera itself and thus causing camera shake. Promaster makes several for just about every camera system and when I do my one-on-one trainings, I'll generally have my students pick up one for $20 to $30, depending on what cameras system they have.

Next all you need is a still subject and the proficiency to shoot them giving the lighting challenges and/or low light limitations of your camera. If you have any of the Sony A7S models, then you don't really have any camera low light limitations. If you're working with a camera with ISO deficiencies, then yes, you'll have to work within that. But generally speaking, you'll be on a tripod, so ISO 100 will usually suffice. I say generally, because if you're doing astro work, then max ISO is where you'll be. In either case doing a portrait in single-sourced low light can be both fun and challenging, but it's sure to pay off with some good work.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Outdoor lamp post shining in through side window

You can easily get started by using the obvious sources of light around you. The lamp on your light stand; the light coming off the TV or computer monitor, an overhead patio light. Get creative with it. Try using the refrigerator light, a match, a headlamp, a night light. You can even play with different LED lights you might find in the toy section or automotive departments. Experiment! That's the main aim here. Experimentation and just play. Use a lowest ISO setting on your camera unless you are NOT using a tripod. In which case you want to use the lowest ISO you can get away with. Target an ISO that will allow for a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second, but cheat a little if you can. Go to 1/30th or even 1/15th and get some interesting blur. Have your model be as still as possible, but only move her head from one side to the other with a 2 second shutter. If you are not using a model and are doing night time/low light landscape, well, look to see if the wind is blowing the trees or tall grass and let that determine what your shutter should be. Just go out there and shoot and see what happens. Have some fun with this!

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley

10 July 2021

Use Flash to Help You Regain the Passion!


"In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated."
~ August Sander

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Studio Flash, Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 with 6' Octobox

In many of my posts, I mentioned one way to expand your efforts to get excited about photo again was to start using flash in your work. Now, granted... this post won't be necessarily for everybody. Some of you togs already have a great grip on this thing and it's not your weakness by any stretch of the imagination. If that's the case, then just enjoy the pictures. However, if you do NOT have an acute aptitude for artificial light, namely flash lighting kits, then let's start small and follow me a little ways down the rabbit hole. Just bare in mind, this is not a comprehensive blog post on flash. There is too much to get into for a few paragraphs. For now, let it lead you to further research, but if you have questions, pop them into the comments.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Studio Flash, Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 with 6' Strip Box

First things first. Can't be scared of light! As I have said before, most photog won't use it cuz they're scared of it. Ignorance of a thing is not a reason to fear a thing. Also, light is cheap. Yes, you can go pick up the high end flash units by Sony, Nikon, or Canon and pay skyward of $600 for a speedlight flash gun. If that is not a problem for you, then by all means, go for it. It will serve you well. If you need to start out on a budget, consider finding used gear like the Canon 430EX II or the Nikon SB-700 for your run and gun, on the go needs. I STILL use the Canon 430EX II that I bought used, even though I shoot Sony! I never shoot with the flash sitting on the camera, preferring instead to use flash triggers like I will point out in a minute. I have to travel small and make due with as little gear as I can get away with while I am traveling. You can find used these flashes give you lots of latitude and features that eliminate most every possible excuse you may have. You won't outgrow them and they will probably wear out from use long before they become obsolete.

There are also more options available to you. First, you can rent for a weekend for $20 bucks. Second, you can go off-brand with several makers. Check out Godox brands that have speedlight flash units for $100 to $200. You can pick these up for your specific camera brand, such as a Godox VING V860IIC which is one version made specifically for shooting TTL for Canon cameras (Notice the "C" at the end of the model name). TTL means Through The Lens, but for now just think of it as automatic mode. If your camera is in automatic AND you have it ON the camera, it communicates with the camera and sets the flash power for you. However, I strongly advise to learn manual control and practice shooting OFF-CAMERA! Be sure to get the version that is made for your camera brand.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Studio Flash, Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 with 6' Octobox

And if you want to shoot with the flash OFF the camera, take a look at the wireless transmitter/receiver systems. It uses a radio signal that isn't so easily obstructed by a wall, for instance, if your flash sits around the corner. Easy-Peasy! This gives you the ability place your flash unit anywhere you need it besides just sitting on top of the camera. Pick up a light stand or clamps for something to mount the flash on. I'll also add in there to pick up an umbrella holder so the flash can be mounted on something that can allow it to bend and point in any direction. 

On another quick note, studio light kits are the best! I shoot with them more than speedlights when I am not traveling. These kits usually come with a two light set-up and will often include some type of modifier... possibly an umbrella or softbox. I implore you to take a look at them if they suit what you do.

"Essentially what photography is is life lit up."
~ Sam Abell

I could throw in one more accessory, which is a flash diffuser of some kind. Is it necessary? Yeah, kinda. I don't really use a flash without something diffusing the light a bit, but I've seen plenty. It's kind of like a saddle on a horse. You don't HAVE to use one, but if you don't, it's gonna be a hard ride. Okay, screw it... pick up an umbrella while you're at the camera shop. Now, back to my main thing. For about $200 you can practice and get a better grip on flash and really step up your work. Flash is cool because it's lightweight and portable. All you need is some double-A's and you're off and running. Keep in mind. Flash isn't just used for night time shots! The question I get most often is, "Why would you use flash during the day?" Simple... Cuz the sun can make harsh shadows. Using flash as some fill light is an excellent solution. Now your model doesn't have to squint because the sun is in her/his eyes. And you can face the model away from the sun without their faces going into shadow. Oh yeah. Try exposing for that beautiful sunset AND your model without using flash and you'd better be good at composite work. Flash isn't just for studio. I take it with me just about everywhere.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Outdoor using Speedlight flash units with radio triggers

Do yourself a huge favor and just run through the manual. It may look thick but that's just cuz it's also in several different languages. Know how to turn it on and set power levels for starters and then go shoot. I'm not often shooting at 1/1, which is the full power setting. I'm usually at 1/8th power or below. Set the flash up about 45 degrees left or right of your subject. Now chances are, you'll have to manually adjust the power settings, but even with that, once you get it within a tolerable range, you can adjust your aperture to control the flash. Big Tip: Shutter Speed controls ambient/constant light (daylight or lighting that stays on). Aperture controls Flash. Opening up the aperture increases the flash's intensity, while closing down does the opposite. So within a certain range of exposure, you can use the aperture settings (shooting in Manual or Aperture Priority Mode) to control the flash output.

Play with this in varying degrees of light as well in different locations. Try out some studio light kits! Add on a softbox with it. Add in more lights... such as one mounted BEHIND the subject! Trust me. It will bring the fun back. If you're going to be in the Las Vegas area, check out B&C Camera at 4511 West Sahara, open every day from 9 am to 7 pm, except for Sunday hours which are 11 am to 5:30 pm. I used to work there. It's a beautiful store with lots of knowledgeable people who can get you fixed up. Tell them I said hello for me!

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Studio Flash, Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 with 6' Octobox