Learning Flash Photography
I recall my first attempts to learn flash photography and I failed miserably. I had one of those speedlights that pointed only in one direction and so my photographs were, let's just say, interesting and not very flattering.
It wasn't until I encountered a Nikon SB900 that I realized that a) the head could swivel and b) it could be placed off of the camera. This was all pretty exciting, but the flash was set on manual and I didn't have any structure to take the first steps into this (for me) new genre of photography.
So, I languished for a while before thankfully being rescued by Zack Arias. His simple, no-nonsense One Light Workshop set me afloat in a new and exciting direction. It's a resource I still recommend beginners.
Light It Up!
If you are going to go in all the way with flash photography, you might as well go all in. That's where the Belgian photographer Piet Van den Eynde comes in.
Piet (pronounced as ‘Pete') just released an updated and expanded second edition of his book, Light It Up! Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Flash [aff].
It's a 185-page behemoth of all kinds of great information about flash photography. He doesn't gloss over anything in the 12 chapters of this ebook.
You'll see below why I recommend Piet's book, Light It Up, as a must-have and must-read for photographers learning the new skill off-camera flash photography.
What's In The Ebook
In Piet's own words:
In the first two chapters, I cover some slightly boring yet incredibly important theory about light in general and flash light in particular. With all the hype regarding off-camera flash, you’d almost forget that there was a time when ashes were mainly used on-camera. That's why Chapter 3 is all about “on-camera ash,” where I show you some of the advantages and inconveniences before diving into the heart of this eBook: working with remote flashes.
Chapter 4 covers the basic techniques of working with one one off-camera flash. I start with a simple scenario of one flash and a couple of cheap accessories, such as an umbrella or a small soft box. In Chapter 5, I show you how to quickly set up a Nikon or Canon to wirelessly trigger an external flash. If like me, you’re working with another camera brand, the procedure is comparable. Chapter 6 provides a fail-safe walk-through on how to put the theory into practice.
Chapter 7 outlines some practical case studies, including images that were shot during a one-year bicycle trip where I only had access to limited gear. The photos show that with only one light, your creative options soar. Chapter 8 discusses the more advanced techniques of working with multiple ashes that can be bundled into a more powerful light source to compete with the sun, or set up in different parts of your scene to create a portable on-location studio.
Gear-wise, Chapter 9 continues where Chapter 4 left off with an introduction to some lighting accessories to complement the basic gear set up. Chapter 10 has more cases where I also show you how to work with portable studio flashes on location. This type of flash has become much more affordable in recent years, with the cheapest third-party portable studio flashes often costing less than the high-end brand name hot shoe flashes, all while offering 6 to 10 times more light output. Their higher output allows you to use them in situations where a single speedlight wouldn’t suffice.
Finally, Chapter 11 addresses flash photography and image editing. Like any other photo, flash photos often benefit from corrective or creative post-processing. In this final chapter, I walk you through a couple of examples.
Pretty comprehensive, right?
What You'll Learn In Light It Up!
• How light behaves the way it does and how you can use the physics of light to your advantage
• Why using flash is not always a matter of increasing the quantity of light but rather changing its quality
• Why the brighter the sun shines, the more you’re in need of a flash
• How to save money when shopping for a flash system: the advice in this eBook will save you its purchase price many times over. You really don’t need the most expensive flash or softbox. Most images in the book were made with gear that costs less than half of what the big flash brands charge
• How you can get started with off-camera flash by using the built-in flash of your camera as a commander for an external flash
• Why modifiers are more important than the actual lights you use
• Why you should plan ahead when you start buying into a flash system
• How you can create super rich light on a budget by combining lighting techniques with some basic Photoshop skills
Early Bird Offer + Bonuses!
Piet just let me know that if you buy Light It Up now using this link, you’ll receive a 10% discount (use code: seshu10), on the Standard Edition (ebook only, $24.95) or the Deluxe Edition ($34.95, for the ebok, 3 videos and 5 Lightroom presets).
What Are In The Videos?
Piet explains even more about his flash workflow in the set of three bonus videos totaling 45 minutes. In the first video, ‘For The Birds’ you see him creating an iconic image of an Indian Sadhu on the Ganges, from capture to final edit in Photoshop. In the second video, ‘Layering Lights’, he builds upon the concepts that he explains in the post-processing chapter of the eBook. Finally, in the last bonus video, ‘Creating Light’, he takes you through a number of his images and explains his reasoning and lighting setup.
A Quick Review
My favorite saying and I act on it is this: The learning never stops! And to that end, finding credible teachers who happen to be active photographers is one of my missions, for your sake and mine. I've followed Piet's work for a number of years through and have been impressed with his energy and enthusiasm for traveling in what I would consider challenging parts of the world.
Add flash photography to his travel agenda and you have the makings of a teacher (pardon the pun) going the distance to show you what you are capable of doing with the right information and acquired skills. His ebooks (and I have several of them through Craft & Vision) are thorough, with the right examples, and more importantly, the right explanations. Too often, ebooks are nothing more than portfolio pieces. But Piet's ebooks double as that and as resources you will dive into whenever you have a question about flash photography.
One other thing really attracts me to Piet's work and it's his transition to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Like him, I am moving away from my Nikon DSLR's for the day-to-day work of family portraits, business portraits or events. Just yesterday, I photographed at a local dental clinic in Avon, Connecticut, photographing eight employees for their new website. I used Piet's advice from the book to set up my speedlights; one through a softbox and one hair-light modified by a MagMod diffuser.
Light It Up is a resource you will return to again and again in the future. I guarantee it!