As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve finally taken delivery of a flashgun, many months after I originally decided I wanted one. The idea being, I’m really enjoying portrait photography and want to be a little more in control of my lighting (plus, my niece has a habit of being in dark living rooms).
For now, however, I’ve been quite limited as to who I can practise on. Like my earliest portraits, I had to practice on myself, which I guess is all part of growing up.
I started in my bedroom, because it has a very neutral background and slightly opaque curtains. First, I shot using bouncing the flash off of the white door, using the diffused light coming through the curtains to fill in the rest.
I then tried positioning the flash to boost the natural light.
As you can see, the exposure compensation is all the way down at -5.0. This is simply because I’m not very schooled at using flashguns, especially remotely fired ones where there isn’t great two-way communication between the two devices. I’m now looking at finally cashing in one of my training course vouchers and going on a flash course, but since the next one is not until October I’m a bit worried that I’ll have learnt bits by then.
Ater playing about at wider angles, I broke out my macro lens. Unfortunately, as most of these shots were taken with my camera on my GorillaPod with my remote shutter release, I couldn’t get far enough away to see much of anything.
For this shot, as you can just about see reflected in my left eye, I was bouncing the flash off of a white box in front of me for a lightly less shadowed image.
So naturally, the next thing I tried was a very shadowed image.
Admittedly this has been doctored a little to bring out the harshness (I used one of the ‘Cross Process’ presets in Aperture), but it seems to work pretty well.
Similarly, I took this image with even more harsh sidelight and bumped the contrast to enhance the effect.
At this point, instead of bouncing the flash (reflecting it off of a white surface) I was pointing it directly at me but putting it further away. It makes for stronger shadows, but these add definition, I think.
I then got bored attempting to shoot myself, and sought out another subject to give me a chance of being comfortably behind a camera, rather than awkwardly in front of it trying to operate it.
I soon found a willing participant.
At this point it was getting a bit dark in the room – enough for my camera to have to fire its own flash in order to be able to focus – but this shot above looks like it was taken in daylight.
With me now holding the camera, I was able to put my GorillaPod to work holding the flash (which has a helpful screw mount on its stand) and played about a bit more with lighting directions.
From the left…
… and from behind.
I eventually finally stumbled on a decent technique which got a natural result:
To achieve this, I bounced the flash off of a white box, diffusing it. This image (shot with my iPhone) shows the setup and should give you a bit of an idea of how dark it was:
The next day, I took delivery of a diffuser for the flashgun, hoping to soften some of the shadows, and set about playing some more.
The very first shot I took was of a rather nice glass of cherry wine from the good and exceptionally talented people at the Lyme Bay Winery (highly recommended, by the way).
I’ve noticed that the way WordPress compresses images for in-line posting often seems to lose something in the compression. I politely ask you click on the image above to see the native resolution version as there is some lovely condensation on the side of the glass that looks to be lost.
I quickly turned the camera on myself again.
I quite like the lens flare on these two images. But then, I quite like all of the lens flare in the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, so what do I know?
I then pointed the flash more directly at me. As you can see, the diffuser doesn’t do a whole lot of softening of the shadows.
I tried shifting the flash to an unusual position, under a table bouncing upwards, in the hope of getting a randomly scattered light. It seemed to work pretty well.
Sensing that perhaps my planned post for my flash experiments would seem a little narcissistic, I started playing about with more inanimate objects. I was also interested in experimenting with the placement of the flash.
As you can probably see, I put the flash behind this bottle of sweet chilli sauce giving it a weird, illuminated look. I decided I quite liked this, so I put the flash behind the glass of wine from earlier.
After that, I had a go photographing it again a little more traditionally.
I’ve enjoyed playing about with flash. It’s great to be able to experiment with the strong side-light I like to use in my portraits photography, and actually have control over it for once. The next step, of course, is starting to practise on other people.