Alright, since this week is dedicated to Flash Photography, I decided to post a series of photo shoots I worked on recently. It is always good to be able to use natural/ambient light if it is available. In a very low-light situation, especially if you are photographing moving subjects, it is nearly impossible to properly expose the set without having your moving subjects blurry. This particular shoot was done for the CRAVE Book, to highlight female entrepreneurs. “Hello Gorgeous” is the name of the mobile manicure and pedicure company, run by two amazing individuals – Hani and Kent.
I used my trusty Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 for wide-angle shots, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G for detail shots, two SB-900 Speedlights, three Pocket Wizard transmitters/receivers and just one 30-inch umbrella. Everything was shot in Manual mode to give me consistency and control over flashes and the entire process.
It was an on-location photo shoot and I was informed beforehand that the apartment would have glass and concrete walls all around. The only light available was the 3 chandeliers that you see in the first left image. I also had very little ambient light coming from the far kitchen, to the right of the chairs.
Since there were no moving subjects in the first left image, I could have probably gotten away with having my camera on a tripod and setting a slow shutter speed to shoot in ambient light. Instead, I decided to set up my flashes and take a couple of tests shots of the set before my subjects occupied the photo shoot arena. I really wanted to get some reflections and some direct harsh light from my strobes on the chairs and other objects. So, to give it a more “modern” look, I set up my main light using an SB-900 on a stand with a single umbrella in a shoot-through configuration on the opposite side, about 3 meters away from furthest chair.
With having just one side of the set illuminated, I still needed to introduce one more flash to the right. Since I had some ambient light coming from the right, I didn’t want the flash to come off too strong. I set up another SB-900 on a stand with the diffuser cap to serve me as a fill light (or a rim light, considering I would have a subject sitting on that chair). I increased ISO to 400 to let some of the ambient light to come in to the picture. Both flashes were connected to PocketWizard units, with another one on top of my camera.
For the product shoot of the top right image, I used the same umbrella + SB-900 speedlight set to my right at about 45 degrees, a little higher than the product. Increased the depth of field to f/2.5 to have the business cards in focus and everything else in nice bokeh.
The toughest thing to do during this photo session, was control the light spill that was giving me all kinds of nasty reflections on the glass. I did not have any cardboards or other accessories with me, so I had to arrange the light in a way that minimized the spill. The rest had to be cleaned up in Photoshop…
In the above image, I introduced subjects into the set. If you notice, I removed the strobe from behind Kent (the gentleman who is wearing a white shirt). In order to minimize flash on his white shirt (his entire shirt was getting severely overexposed), I had to move the umbrella to my left, above Hani. You can see some rim light on Hani’s hair. I did not move the light on the right as I still needed it to serve me as fill light on Olga’s body (customer on the right) and on Hani’s face.
The product shots were all done with one main light (umbrella). For the above image, I placed the light slightly to my left, above the objects. You can see how the light drops on the product by properly illuminating it and providing me enough light to be able to capture the reflection, too. For the second image below, I removed the rim light from the right and moved the umbrella from my left to my right. Now, Hani’s back and her hair are not lit. I wanted to focus more on the pedicure process.
For the above image of Hani, I set up two lights. One behind Hani to give her a nice rim light and pop her from the background, and another one slightly to my left. Nasim thinks that there is too much rim light, but I kind of like it :) Again, reflections were impossible to avoid but I had to make best of what I had.
Both images above were shot with a rim light behind Hani and the main light to my left. If you are looking for information on my exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc), it is available through EXIF on each image.
I hope these examples can give you some idea of how you can use your Nikon strobes creatively and have some good results.