Last Sunday I loaded up a real camera bag with real cameras and flashes, grabbed my flimsy £15 Argos Tripod and headed (in my new car) over to Brighton for the Garage Studios 1-day Flash Course.
I’m not quite sure what I expected to learn, but Adam (aka the brownhorse) took the 6 of us on the course from being nervous about using our flashguns to being confident enough to tag our photos “strobist” in just 8hrs.
We started the day with introductions, and I found myself very much the amateur in amongst a group of pro and semi-pro wedding photographers. Luckily I did have a little experience of using a flash off-camera, and even my own ebay triggers! Being a Sony user I was pretty much on my own working out how my camera and flash worked with each other though, but it does seem a lot simpler than doing off-camera the Canon or Nikon ways.
After a talk in which Adam used a lot of his own work to illustrate how to use light, and an introduction to lightstands, umbrellas and the bit that connects the two, we went outside into the bright sunlight to play with on-camera fill-flash. Although I’d used “auto” fill flash before I’d never tried it in manual. It seems so obvious when I think about it – get the exposure right for the incident light, then get the power of the flash right to illuminate the subject.
A quick break for lunch then it was back into the studio and time for flashes on stands. We were paired up into -er – pairs, and took turns trying out the techniques on each other as they were introduced. I was lucky enough to get a photogenic partner while Amy (in most of my shots) drew the short straw and had me as a model!
The first shots were “hard” light from a bare flash, camera left – again leaving the camera in manual mode at 125/sec and adjusting the flash power or the aperture to get the exposure right.
Then we mounted our umbrellas, not in a Mary Poppins way I’m afraid, and shot through them to see the difference soft light made.
The immediately obvious things were that the light was diffused – so less shadows on the face – the power of the flash was effectively lowered, giving more fall-off and the grey walls – and, if you’re not careful, sunglasses can reflect umbrellas!
We had plenty of time to play with different setups – each time learning a bit more – from the relationship between flash power and light fall-off, to balancing ambient and flash lighting, to using gels to balance the colours from two different light sources. Adam was always on hand to give help and advice, as well as provide a convenient model.
We even got to experiment, and while some of the other participants explored the possibilities of undignified poses and freezing movement (mainly jumping) we decided to play with shadows. This resulted, with assistance from Adam’s hands, in my favourite shot of the day…
We wrapped up with some experimentation with rear synch / trailing shutter / shutter dragging whilst listening to the torrential rain falling on the garage studios roof. A good British end to a great sunny day.
In summary, I’d recomment this course to anyone who owns a DSLR and a Flashgun – especially if like me you’ve read Strobist 101 and haven’t quite “got it.” It’s probably even incentive enough for me to take my DSLR and flash along to the Brighton flickr meet, rather than my usual “what’s he got this time?” film camera(s) – and that’s praise indeed!
By the way, check out Adam’s amazing group shot from the end of the day – a really great idea perfectly realised!