The thing that scares most photographers most seems to be light, more particularly the sort we create ourselves from the myriad of portable studio and hot-shoe flashes available. Ask an inexperience photographer to but together a simple lighting set up and they usually end up confused and more than a little frustrated. The gear can be pernickety and the control systems not always brilliantly explained by the manufacturers. Nikon themselves seem keen to conceal just how good the CLS (‘Nikon Creative Lighting System’) included with their cameras and flashes is. A look in the D700 manual barely gives a clue as to the cleverness of the system at the photographers fingertips.
Controlling flash tubes of all sorts is complicated because you only see the light hit your subject for about 1/1000th of a second – not the ideal amount of time to craft the perfect ball of photons. It takes a while to ‘understand’ flash lighting to the point where you can get close straight away. I was contemplating these frustration yesterday evening when I spotted this little chap on the coffee table.
I liked his shadow a lot but thought his little face could do with a little warming. However, not wanting to lose that shadow meant only the gentlest of warm glow would do the trick. A gelled flash with a snoot might have done it but that felt like overkill. Even a zoomed flash (with no modelling light) will be almost impossible to focus on such a small area. Besides this this is just a little grab shot that caught my eye so I wasn’t in the mood for digging stands out.
With a light source picked out I had another go.
This one picks out the little fellas features without killing the shadow or doing anything odd to the warmth from the tungsten lamp behind him.
The source of all this warm happiness is below.
Perhaps in future I will look for alternate sources of light rather than going straight for the complicated. The moral is lighting doesn’t have to be complicated if you know what you want to achieve from it.