Flash of Inspiration

It’s not often you’ll see me writing about kit because the main intention of this blog is to give an inside peek at my work, air issues surrounding the photographic industry and waffle on a bit about things which interest me. One thing this blog isn’t obsessed with is kit because I’m not obsessed with it.

If I invest in equipment it has to be for a particular, business-related reason. I choose kit carefully and with a sensible head because there is so much lovely gear out there I could squander my cash on with no real benefit either to my clients or myself.

Once in a while though I review what I have, and kit does eventually wear out naturally so I need to see what might need replacing or updating. I have no problem with using old kit provided it works and isn’t letting me down on assignments. Sometimes investment is required for a particular project and that’s another time I look to see if buying the kit will have benefits beyond the single project, or whether I can rent the kit I need without committing to buy.

A few months ago I was commissioned to shoot a couple of hundred portraits at various locations, and while I have portable studio lighting it is quite heavy and unwieldy to transport. At the same time I knew my Canon flashes were coming to the end of their natural lives, being several years old and a few models older than the current ones. I took the plunge and decided it was time to invest in new flashguns and, due to changes in the technology, adjust the way I worked.

What I hadn’t appreciated is just how much the investment would help when dealing with often very awkward situations. Such as having to shoot business portraits in a tiny hotel lounge, crowded with furniture and with limited scope for backdrops. Or helping me create more interesting light when covering a business studies workshop event where I was moving about a lot, in poor ambient light and didn’t want to use direct flash.

One reacent situation in which the new flash kit impressed a great deal was where I was in a very dark lecture theatre at a business seminar with not a lot of space to set up any kind of lighting and had to shoot both the lectern speakers and the audience. I had a single flash on a stand at the back of the auditorium to light the speakers, but it was also enough to bounce light off the projector screen and illuminate the audience (albeit with higher ISO). Taking photos of the audience at a talk where the house lights are turned right down generally results in images which are either grainy, weird colour balance or are downright unusable. I’ve included one here so you can see what my new setup got, and this is just one of several images I was pleased with.


Business people laughing in a lecture theatre setting

The flash is behind the audience, but the projector screen made a great reflector to light the faces.

business students working on a project

Catching unposed images can be difficult, and straight-on flash kills the atmosphere. I liked the “random light” look of this with the flash off to the side.

Portrait of a business man.

Adding softboxes to a flashgun setup allows me to work in much tighter spaces than before.



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