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Minimal Strobism

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by Uncle Frank, Jul 5, 2008.

  1. Last year at this time, I was guilty of over-designing lighting setups because I was so excited about the discoveries revealed by the Strobist. But the craze worn off, and I'm finding I can often get better results with less gear. For example...

    last year I tried to turn the street into a studio, to catch the runners when the neighborhood 4th of July Fun Run came by my house. This was the lighting setup.

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    Here are sample results. Notice the multiple shadows at the lead runners' feet.

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    Fast forward to 2008. The same pair of runners were in the lead, but I simplified things by using only one remote on a stand at camera right.

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    The motto of the Strobist used to be something like...

    Less Gear - More Brains - Better Pictures

    I can't claim the brain part, but I'm using less gear (as in fewer remotes in my setups) this year, and am happier with the results.
  2. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Yep- there's only one sun :smile: I try to get away with a single light as much as possible. Really simplifies a shoot - especially on location.
  3. DougD50


    Aug 29, 2006

    The results from this year looked very natural. I could not tell that flash was used. Well done.

  4. Nice Frank, I think the ones from this year make better use of the fill flash principle.
  5. Thanks, guys. This stuff gets easier as I simplify the setups, and to my eye, the results are better, too. It's just another example of KISS.
  6. Tom Young

    Tom Young

    Aug 10, 2007
    Less brain - More Beer - Bud Lite!

    These worked out very nicely. From the position you set the camera, the sun made for a very nice and natural appearing rim light. It's good to keep that extra strobe at hand for times when the suns position may not be so cooperative (especially when working in less sunny climes than the one you're blessed with). But when the sun can be used, it will provide as nice of a light source as can be had for free. No batteries required. :smile:
  7. Hi Frank,

    Have to agree with the quality being better this year.

    I remember seeing some photos on Strobist where a guy had taken photos using two flashes. One at either side of a stage with loads of children. The difference between the two flashes, one and none was awesome.

    Will try later to find it again, but doubt I will.

    Sometimes it is right to get the two lights I am sure.


  8. Heck yeah. And sometime 2 aren't enough. But in some cases, more than one is too many.
  9. Hello Frank. Quick question , can you use two SB-800 together from one side at 1/2 power
    and get the same result with a faster refresh rate? Thanks for all the great information!
  10. I haven't tried it but I'd imagine so, Joe. For this series I was only at 1/4 power, so refresh rate wasn't a problem.
  11. avyoung


    Dec 17, 2007
    Not sure what I like best at times...

    Hi Frank,

    Sometimes I am wowwed by ambient light and sometimes I'm glad I went the strobist way...

    Here is a previous shoot where I set two speedlights that were set up in cross-light pattern 45 degrees to the road fired with ebay Cactus V2 triggers. They were gelled with 1/2CTO and set to full power; SB800 camera left was on a light stand 8ft high; SB28 was camera right on the ground with a cardboard gobo to limit spill on the road; ambient light was underexposed by 1 stop.

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    Here is the second shot where the speedlights did not fire while recycling.

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    Like you, the shadows of the point light source can really bother me (we need voice activated light stands with softboxed speedlights):tongue:, and the ambient light shots really grab me because they are what I expect to see. However, the strobist approach can really create subject pop, increased color richness, and eye-catching specular highlights.

    These pictures were Jpegs straight from the camera and I'm sure some PP can make either much better. I actually really like the ambient light shot above, but from looking at the rest of the day's shoot, without a doubt, the strobes were a big asset: the strobist versions really made the images stand out.

    In the case of your photos of runners, I think flash fill works well. For unpredicatible situations I have one SB800 on camera as master (set to fill) and another SB800 set to remote with the accessory stand attached, in my pocket. I will flash fill on the move, but if I see a potential situation where I can use the remote as the main light or as a cross light to the sun I will whip the remote out from my pocket. I just got back from vacation and here is a couple of examples from our family trip to Yellowstone et al.

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    Here is my 5 year old son Markus enjoying the show of Oldfaithful Geyser...NOT...he's more interested in climbing a fallen tree! Remote flash was on the ground camera left: the on camera SB800 flash head was rotated to point towards the remote to fire it. Manual exposure for the background; foreground exposed with the SB800 with 1/2CTO gel. Without the remote flash I don't think this image would be successful.

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    My wife, Rota, taking on the kids at minigolf. The off camera remote flash gives some shape to her arms and legs and saves this backlight image.

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    Not an interesting shot, but I was watching the clouds create different shadows and set the remote SB800 as the secondary crosslight to the sun. Some background shadow creates some subject pop of my middle child, Lukas. Remote had full CTO gel. I don't think harsh sidelight images like this would as be successful without the remote flash. Lukas' face would be half in shadows whereas the remote gives shape to his face and limbs (on camera fill flash alone would look flat in comparison).

    I would not give up on the strobist ideas in unpredictable situations. Instead I would encourage you to carry that second flash in your pocket!:smile:

    PS. On a side note, I am beginning to feel that I might start using center weighted metering for strobist type shots. I find the matrix metering can really bump up the exposure (unpredictably) to get the subject exposed properly and blow out the background even though I have dialled in -1ev exposure compensation. I am finding to get a nice strobist shot, the background really benefits from a stop or more underexposure to get the look.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2008
  12. Well taken shots Alan, thanks for your explanation of them
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