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More Flash Play….

May 12

In Lighting at 12:58pm

Another way of involving a bunch of people while teaching lighting is to use a piece of paper as a light source. In the photo world merry go round of light shapers, light tools, light modifiers, bouncers, scrims, Velcro doohickeys, and bendable whatchamacallits, sometimes just a piece of Xerox paper will do. Tape it on the screen of a computer, and bounce your speedlight into it, and you have a simulated computer light source. Embellish the scene with additional sources. Stir in gels. Mix it up with a light fitted with a grid. Link it together and fire the whole shebang with line of sight TTL. Five flashes, fifteen minutes, done deal.

Or, you keep it cool, simple and elegant. One light into the screen/paper, 1/1000th @f2.8, incandescent white balance. The windows in the background do the rest.

Or, you can make your buddy look like a mad computer genius (which he is), as I did with RC Concepcion, below.

However, sometimes you are confronted with almost no usable light in the background, as in the picture way up top of the post, so you break out a few flashes and have some fun. I had a great crowd at the GPP PopUp in Singapore, and we simply decided to involve a bunch of folks, and turn the auditorium into a nonsensical riot of color. First up, of course, was the copy paper white light/main light, Group A, dialed in to a good exposure for my three person research team. I forget the exact setting here, but in the world of TTL, you often have to dial down the power for this key light. I don’t have line of sight from camera POV, but I have found what happens is that if you fire your commander flash with the dome diffuser on, there is often enough radiant light from that initial pulse scattering around to reach the sensor on the light propped up on the keyboard.

Then, you have blackness in the background, which can turn into….any color you want. I put theatrical green gels on two speed lights, and dished them out into the crowd. They are at about 45 degrees back from the computer, and firing hard light towards my research crew up front. They are hand held, so positioning is, well, seat of the pants. But it works, except when the whole audience is laughing so hard the guys holding the lights can’t keep them aimed properly. 

The small foreground fillip we worked into this scene was to cast a fourth protagonist off to the side, the evil poacher who is sitting there copying my award winning research team’s formula off their computer screen. To illuminate this gentleman, Cali is holding a speed light attached to a paint pole, and fitted with a warm gel and a grid. I have to isolate this figure with a splash of light, but that splash cannot be a wave of light, as would be produced by, say, an umbrella. It has to be a directed pin prick of flash that hits my corporate spy, and not much else. If you hit the scene with broad, random light, the directed nature, not to mention the color, of the light you have already created gets swallowed up.

Lastly, mostly for giggles, we threw a red gelled speed light into the background. Directly behind the group, firing backwards, it has a limited spill and play. (You can see the arm of the person holding it.) Doesn’t look particularly good.

Hand held, off to the side, it produced this shot, which is what I led this blog with.

Below, is a sketch ( I use that term loosely) of the overall scene.

All speed lights, SB-910. Camera is D4. Lens is 24-70mm. Again, a fun way to demystify flash, and light a big room with a few speed lights.

More tk….










Heidi Lundsgaard says:

on May 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Hi Joe, Thank you so much for sharing all of your “enlightened” posts. It makes so much sense 😉

Joan Harrison says:

on May 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I learned the flash in the laptop technique when I went to the FlashBus tour in NYC. My Golden Retriever Gracie was happy to help me practice & together we came up with a wonderful image of her listening to music on my laptop. I also fired an SB900 into a book she was reading – a treat on top of the flash directed her gaze (and prompted some drooling, so I had to act pretty quickly). Images of Gracie can be found on my site in the “Pets” section.

Gracie & I went on to create a children’s book called “You Can Count On Gracie”. Once again I fired a flash into a book to create the image for “Six Books”. As a matter of fact, off-camera flash was used for all of the photographs in the book. Thanks Joe, for your fabulous work & for sharing your knowledge – Gracie & I had a blast working on our crazy project & I have a batch of silliness that will make me laugh for years to come. Images from the book can be viewed at

Thanks again!
Joan & Gracie

Jude says:

on May 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Fantastic Joe….2nd shot better than any stock shot out there :) Wish I was there!

Jim Donahue says:

on May 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm

How about showing how to do this with some SB700’s A D7100 and say a 16-85VR lens.

Joe McNally says:

on May 12, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Well, same principles would apply for sure. But I don’t own any of that gear, so it would tough to demo. But the groups, the gels, the exposures, the lens throw–all the same stuff. Joe

Bharat Pania says:

on May 13, 2014 at 7:17 am

Your lighting Technic is all ways evoking

oscar says:

on May 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm

awesome! I love the final large groups shots.

Imanol says:

on May 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm

cool idea… great pics…

tom soper says:

on May 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I was there. It was brilliant. Very funny and enlightening 15 minutes within an amazing 3.5 hour presentation. Thanks Joe.

Jessica says:

on May 16, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I am so inspired by this! I’m taking my speed lights out this weekend on an esession and using a gelled one to fill in the background for a colorful background. I’m hoping I can get a vibrant purple- time will tell. Thank you so much for this awesome post!

mark says:

on May 26, 2014 at 9:20 pm

for the second photo, you might have missed out the full cut CTO (or CTS for canon shooters our there) …

Jason Yu says:

on June 4, 2014 at 3:14 am

Thanks a lot for sharing your precious experience! Thanks Joe!

Michel Blandino says:

on June 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

Thank you for making share your technique.
I fell on your blog thanks to a French photographer
Sege Ramelli:

Thank you translate Google, my English is too bad

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