The last announcement from Nikon today was for the new SB-500 speedlight, Nikon’s first speedlight with a built-in LED light. With a guide number of 24m at ISO 100, it is not a very powerful flash unit (the SB-600 is at 30m and the high-end SB-910 is at 34m), but it is quite flexible with the head tilting up to 90° and rotating horizontally 180° to the left and right. In addition, it can be used as a commander or a remote flash unit and it is fully compatible with the Nikon CLS system. At $249.95, it is priced $80 cheaper than the higher-end SB-700. What’s exciting about this unit is not its typical features, but the built-in LED light. With approximately 100 lumens of brightness, the LED light can be used as a small video light or potentially even assist in acquiring focus in low-light situations. The LED light can be operated independently from flash, which means that you could actually detach the SB-500 from the camera and use its LED light exclusively, if needed. I personally welcome this innovation in speedlights and I believe it will be quite useful in some situations.
Have you ever been in a situation where light conditions were so poor that your camera would completely refuse to autofocus, with the lens constantly going back and forth “hunting” for focus? I am sure you have, since it is a very common problem. Sometimes you want to photograph your loved one in candle light, or snap a shot of your child blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Or perhaps, you are dealing with a DJ that decides to turn off all lights on the wedding dance floor, killing your chances of getting any shots in focus, even when you are fully prepared with flashes to light up your subjects. That’s exactly what happened to me and Lola last weekend when we were shooting a wedding. Lola came up to me and asked if there was anything she could do to make autofocus work again and I thought of an old trick that really does work when dealing with such situations.
In addition to the Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR lens, Nikon also announced a brand new speedlight – the Nikon SB-300. Before the SB-300, the lowest-end flash unit in Nikon’s line was the SB-400. Since the SB-400 is a straight flash with limited flexibility to tilt the head (only straight upwards, no side to side movement), I never recommended it to anyone, even beginner photographers with entry-level DSLRs. Unfortunately, the price gap between the SB-400 and higher end speedlights like SB-600/SB-700 was too big for many beginner photographers, so I would often recommend third party flash units. Does the SB-300 change the game?
This is a quick review of the Nikon Wireless Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1, which has been kindly provided by B&H – the largest photo reseller in the world that we use more than any other to buy our photography gear.
One big news that nobody seems to be paying attention to at the moment due to the much-anticipated Canon 5D Mark III release, is the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite announcement. Why big news? Because it is the first flash unit (speedlite in Canon language, speedlight in Nikon language) that actually has a built-in wireless radio capability. Historically, both Canon and Nikon used flash units that would communicate wirelessly only via infrared signal. While infrared works fine in some environments, it has problems with daylight (sun rays), range and it often requires direct visibility. Because of this problems, many photographers, including myself, have been relying on external radio transmitters and receivers such as PocketWizard for a more enhanced and reliable communication between flash units.
With the introduction of the Canon 600EX-RT flash unit and the Canon ST-E3-RT transmitter, Canonites no longer have to rely on third party radio triggers for reliable communication between flashes. Now you can use all flash features, including TTL flash and trigger up to 15 wireless flash units at a range of 30 meters, without worrying about potential communication issues. Considering that Nikon has had a lead on the flash technology for many years, it is surprising to see Canon release a radio flash first. The bad news for Nikonians is that Nikon has recently updated its high-end flash line with the Nikon SB-910, so we might not see a Nikon flash with radio capability any time soon…
I have already shown you how to take pictures with your pop-up flash and use it as a commander to trigger other remote units. A detailed Nikon Speedlight Comparison has also been posted for those who are looking into buying a flash. This time, I want to show you how you can create some amazing portraits indoors, using a Nikon Speedlight in an off-camera configuration with an umbrella.
1) Getting Started
No matter what flash system you are using, if you want to be able to take great portraits, you want to soften the light that comes out of your flash. Direct light creates harsh shadows, similar to how the sun does when you take a picture at noon. While I have already shown you how to soften the light by bouncing it off ceilings and walls, the light does not always look very natural due to its angle. In addition, bouncing the light off very large surfaces typically does not yield nice-looking catch lights in your subjects’ eyes. There are a couple of solutions to this problem, which require some investment and a little bit of extra effort.
One method I would like to talk about, is to use an umbrella on a dedicated stand to soften the light from your flash – a very inexpensive way to soften the light and instantly improve your images. Lola and I use this method a lot for some of our commercial photography and the results do not disappoint. Let’s talk about the gear you will need to accomplish this:
I have been getting many requests lately to write an article on corporate portrait photography, after my last corporate event photography tips article that I wrote a few weeks ago. Photographing employees for corporate websites and magazine articles is very different from corporate event photography – it is similar to photographing a portrait in a professional studio. Obviously, the atmosphere is different, lighting is different and the gear you use is also very different. You must be equipped with portable lighting equipment that you can assemble and disassemble in minutes. In this article, I will go through the different types of corporate portrait photography and what you can do to get the best possible results with the least amount of money spent on gear and lighting equipment.
There are two types of corporate photography – event photography and portrait photography. Event photography means taking pictures of employees and guests in corporate events such as conferences, birthday parties, Christmas parties, receptions and sales events. Corporate portrait photography means taking formal pictures of employees for websites, magazines and other various publications. In this article, I will provide some tips on how to photograph corporate events.