Sunday, 16 March 2014

Off-camera flash portrait session


I spent a very enjoyable morning with Jason Dodd in Canterbury on an off-camera flash portrait workshop last weekend. Our models were Helen and Natalie and all photos were taken outdoors, either in woodland or around the Canterbury Innovation Centre.

The weather conditions were great, with blue sky and strong sunshine, but not ideal for photography. The challenge being to photograph your subjects back-lit by the sun and adjust the power of the off-camera flash to balance the exposure of the model's face.


We started in the small wooded area adjacent to the centre and worked with our camera settings and flash power to get the technical aspects under control before proceeding take some shots. There were three of us in the group so we took turns taking pictures and holding the flash gun.

My favourite from this set is of Helen, below. Note how the sun is lifting the highlights in her hair and the flash rendering skin tones and giving a catch light in the eyes.

Helen in woodland area
Helen: Manual mode; 1/250th; f/5; ISO 100; manual flash 1/16th power at ~3 meters
After some time in the woods we returned to the steps of the Innovation Centre and I used some of the architectural features of the building to add to compositions.

Natalie in front of the Innovation Centre #1
Natalie in front of the Innovation Centre #2
My favourite from this set was taken from a low viewpoint, just using the sky as background. We upped the power of the flash to 1/8th and held a diffuser in front to soften the effect. I was very happy with the exposure now: the extra power from the flash kept the hair from burning out and the diffuser softened the shadows and skin tones more effectively.

Natalie on the steps
As we got towards lunchtime, the sun was quite fierce, so we opted to move into the shadow of the Innovation Centre to do a few shots without flash, just using natural light and a reflector to balance the light across the models' faces.

Here's a mono of Natalie outside Unit 8.

Natalie outside Unit 8
As you can see, exposure control here was far simpler, with very even tones across the whole frame from the low contrast light.

By now, Helen had changed outfits and had applied some red lipstick. Using her black scarf to frame her faced and a diffuser positioned very carefully, I was able to get what I thought was my best image of the day.

Helen: The 'Scottish Widows' look


A big thank you to Jason for organising and hosting the day, to Natalie and Helen for their patience and contribution to the photography and to Steve Baker and Paul Spree for the teamwork, flash control and banter!