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.