Quick Speedlite Tip: Put the Flash In the Picture

I'm writing a post on the new Canon 600-EX Speedlite - and came across this older post that I though you might enjoy in the meantime.

My friend Peter Calo, a super talented musician and composer, called yesterday and said that he could use a nice portrait of himself for the Tippin Guitar web site. If you don't know Tippin guitars, click here. The guitars are amazing - sound, look, feel and design.

Peter wanted a shot of him playing guitar - like a live-on-stage shot. He told me that the guitar had to look good - the hero of the picture (as we use to say when I worked in advertising). I said sure.

So, not having a studio, I set up one Westcott Apollo soft box in my office. Inside was a Canon 580EX II Speedlite.

On the opposite side of the softbox was a reflector, which I used to bounce the light of the softbox onto the shadow side of Peter's face. Without the reflector, the shadow was too harsh.

As you can see, the softbox is not pointed directly at Peter. Rather, it is pointed in front of him. This "feathers" the light for a soft and pleasing effect.

Tip: The larger the light, the softer the the light; the closer the light, the softer the light.

In the opening shot for this post, Peter's wife, Marianne, held another Canon Speedlite for a hair light. For a cool effect, I directed Mary Ann to hold the flash so that I could see it in the very corner of the frame. For the second shot, no hair light was used.

Both speedlites, on E-TLL, where fired with my Canon ST-E2 Wireless transmitter.

Of course, if you have Photoshop, you can simulate the flash being in the scene by using the Lens Flare filter. See below

I shot all the pictures with my Canon 7D and 24-105mm IS lens - my favorite lens for portraits.

Before Peter and Mary Ann arrived, I shot a few tests. Above is a shot in which I placed another Canon Speedlite behind me for a background/separation light. I used an orange gel on the flash to warm up the background. Peter liked the shot, but he chose the "cooler" look of the black background. 

So my friends, most of the time, it's a good idea to keep the flash out of the frame, but there are exceptions. 

I run Master Your Flash workshops here in Croton on Hudson, NY. I hope you can join the Speedlite fun.

Explore the light,

P.S. I have been playing guitar since Woodstock. Not fun getting old. But the good news is that I am still that kid at heart. Plus, now I can play 13th chords! Me: on hood with afro.

Almost as Cool as Woodstock

When I was at Woodstock in 1969 I never imagined that I'd be doing what I am doing now – nor could I have imagined what I did tonight.

I gave my "The Camera Looks Both Ways" presentation at the Maui Photo Festival - outdoors, on a huge screen . . . wind blowing and sky filled with stars. Almost like Woodstock, except now I can and will remember the details of the night :-)

Explore the Light,

Happy 40th Anniversary!

On this day 40 years ago, I was planning the trip to Woodstock (in my 66 VW camper) with by pals, some of whom you see here hanging out with me in a parking field at the festival.

Much as changed - in the world and with me. But ya know what, I still feel as though I am 19 in many ways. My son has helped. So has music. And so has photography – because making pictures is so much fun and offers a sense of freedom, which was important to hippies back then :-)

If I had a time machine and could go back in time, I'd travel to when Santana played at Woodstock – the high point, so to speak, of Woodstock for me. Catching a sandwich dropped from a helicopter was kinda cool, too.

Any Woodstockers out there? I would love to hear from you!

PLJ (Peace, love and joy),

P.S. What, no photo tip?! Okay, here goes:

Do you think that when Santana plays a guitar solo he is thinking about what note he just played, what note he is playing, and what note he will play next? Do you think he is thinking about what key he is in, how far to bend a note, to pull-off or hammer a note, etc.?

My guess is no.

It's the same thing with photography: we have to know our cameras and the technical aspects of photography so well that getting the shot becomes almost automatic. That's when the magic of photography happens. Soooooo, practice as much as possible - just as Santana did for years before stepping out on the stage at Woodstock.