Light Study (I) – Working with Flashes

Finally two additional flash units that I ordered on e-bay arrived and I could experiment with more than a single light source. Now I have one Canon flash (430 EX, bought second hand) and two Yongnuo flashes. Yongnuo (full name is Shenzhen Yong Nuo) is a Chinese company, which makes photographic equipment. They sell many products, which can be cheap replacements for the branded expensive Canon or Nikon stuff. For example these two new Yongnuo flash units cost me less than one Canon 430EX second hand! Anyway I’ll talk about the equipment in another post.

Basically what I was doing in this photo-session is placing light sources differently, shooting the picture, and looking at the result. My aim was to be able to predict how the image would look like so in the future I will be able to first visualize in my mind certain composition and then consciously achieve it using my light sources.

At first I couldn’t get any result that would satisfy me, my light was too scattered around and uncontrollable. Then I understood that I need more directional light, so I created gobos. This is something I learned from Strobist. You know that website right? If you don’t and interested in light, you definitely should visit it.

Anyway gobo is a simple cardboard rectangle box that you can do yourself. You then place it on your flash so it directs the light from it in one direction. And this helped a lot in achieving more predictable and neat results.

In addition I used colored gels on my flashes. Gels are transparent colored plastic stripes that you put on the flash to make its color different from daylight. By the way, there is one trick I learned myself in the process: if you use these gels, and work with auto white balance, your camera may try to adjust its white balance incorrectly since there is too much colored light in the scene. My solution was to put the white balance to “daylight” and that solved it.

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And now to the results I received, and what I did to receive them:

In the first photo (from the left) I used two flashes. Both flashes were with gobos. The flash on the right side was without gel, and I pointed it more to the “base” of the light bulb. The flash on the left side was equipped with red gel and gobo, and was pointed a little above the lamp. This way I got less specular highlights on the light bulb. Both flashes were on manual control and placed approximately at the same distance from the subject, but the power of the left flash was weaker. This way I tried to achieve the feeling that the light bulb is glowing with red light.

In the second photo the setup was essentially identical to the previous one. I just added blue gel to the right flash. While this added interesting color to the photo I tend to like the first photo better because in my opinion it better achieves my goal – getting the light bulb to glow with red color.

Next two photos are of a champagne glass lighted with the same two flashes (still having gobos on them) left flash with red gel and right flash with blue gel. The difference now is that I put the left flash on minimum power so there would be much more blue and only a touch of red. Of course I achieved the result you see in the photos by trial and error.

One more thing to notice is that the background is almost completely black. This is not because I had a black backdrop. Actually my background was plain white wall, but all my light was directional (thanks to gobos) and none of it got spilled on the background. And since I worked with exposure settings that were too “low” for the ambient light in the room, as a result the background was heavily underexposed. If I wanted to have a background, I could use my third flash to light it.

That’s it for today’s photo-session. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave comments here or drop me an email and I will be happy to get back to you. And, of course, your own experiences will be highly appreciated!
Just one more thing – don’t forget to visit the Strobist web site – I learned a lot there and sure that you would too!

2 thoughts on “Light Study (I) – Working with Flashes

  1. Greg,

    these were very nice experiments. Thanks for sharing the set-up information. It would be nice if you would tell more about the gobos, or post images of them. Or, it would be very helpful if you’d photographed all the set-up from a side, so one could see the set-up and photo taken together.
    What do you think?

    Stas

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