Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Studio lighting – Einstein E640 mono-light mounted with a soft box to model’s right and Nikon SB-700 with Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser to the left rear
“In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.”
~ August Sander

In my last post, I mentioned one way to expand your efforts to get excited about photo again was to start using flash in your work. Now, granted…this post won’t be necessarily for everybody. Some of you togs already have a great grip on this thing and its not your weakness by any stretch of the imagination. If that’s the case, then just enjoy the pictures. However, if you do NOT have an acute aptitude for the ambient and artificial arts, then lets start small and follow me a little ways down the rabbit hole.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with a Maglight for 2 seconds

First things first. Can’t be scared of light. As I mentioned in previously, most photog won’t use it cuz they’re scared of it. Ignorance of a thing is not a reason to fear a thing. Also, light is cheap. Yes, you can go pick up the high end flash by Nikon or Canon and pay skyward of $500 if you want to but come on, its a pop of light. Now speaking mainstream, I like either the Canon 430EX II, which I used for years (along with the 580EX II). With Nikon being my main system, I blast with the Nikon SB-700. Both of these are in the $300 range and that’s a good start. These flashes give you lots of latitude and features that eliminate most every possible excuse you may have. You won’t outgrow them and they will probably wear out from use long before they become obsolete.

But even if you can’t or don’t want to swing $300 at the moment, you still have options. First, you can find something used for a hundred or so. Second, you can rent for a weekend for $20 bucks. Third, you can go off-brand with several makers, most notably Yongnuo brands that will be under a $100. Second, you’re gonna need some radio triggers. This gives you the ability to take the flash off of the camera, which brings me to my third thing which is a light stand, for something to put the flash on. I’ll also add in there to pick up an umbrella holder so the flash can be mounted on something that can allow it to bend and point in any direction. But back to the triggers. This is also too easy. Phottix makes a set for $55, that are great and can be used with any flash system because its manual. There’s no TTL setting. All it does is pop when you tell it too. At B&C Camera, you can go to either of the store’s two locations in Las Vegas and get a quick run down on how to use them. Easy-Peasy.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with flash from model’s right side
“Essentially what photography is is life lit up.”
~ Sam Abell

I could throw in one more accessory, which is a flash diffuser of some kind. Is it necessary? Yeah, kinda. I don’t really use a flash without something diffusing the light a bit, but I’ve seen plenty and have done it bare bulb too. Its kind of like a saddle on a horse. You don’t HAVE to use one, but if you don’t, just know its gonna be a hard ride. Okay, screw it…pick up an umbrella while you’re at the camera shop. Now, back to my main thing. For about $200 you can practice and get a better grip on flash and really step up your work. Flash is cool because its lightweight and portable. All you need is some double-A’s and you’re off and running. Keep in mind. Flash isn’t just used for night time shots! The question I get most often is, “Why would you use flash during the day?” Simple… Cuz the sun can cause harsh shadows. Using flash as some fill light is an excellent solution. No your model doesn’t have to squint because the sun is in her/his eyes. And you can face the model away from the sun without their faces going into shadow. Oh yeah. Try exposing for that beautiful sunset AND your model without using flash and you’d better be good at composite work. Flash isn’t just for studio. I take it with me just about everywhere.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with Einstein E640 mono-light with mounted soft box from front

Do yourself a huge favor and just run through the manual. It may look thick but that’s just cuz its also in several different languages. Know how to turn it on and set power levels for starters and then go shoot. I’m not often shooting at 1/1, which is the full power setting. I’m usually at 1/8th power or below. Set the flash up about 45 degrees left or right of your subject. Now chances are, you’ll have to manually adjust the power settings, but even with that, once you get it within a tolerable range, you can adjust your aperture to control the flash. Big Tip: Shutter Speed controls ambient/constant light (daylight or lighting that stays on). Aperture controls Flash. Opening up the aperture increases the flash’s intensity, while closing down does the opposite. So within a certain range of exposure, you can use the aperture settings (shooting in Manual or Aperture Priority Mode) to control the flash output.

Play with this in varying degrees of light as well in different locations. Trust me. It will bring the fun back. If you’re going to be in the Las Vegas area or live here, get with me. I do one-on-one training for this stuff. Give me at least a week and you’ll be up and running in no time with an excellent understanding of exposure control and flash. And when I talk to you next, we’ll get a little bit more into locations.