If you have never used off camera flash, it can seem a bit intimidating.
Perhaps you love the look of natural light.
Maybe you are a pro at bouncing your flash.
So why learn off camera flash?
Off camera light is one more tool in your arsenal, and it gives you the flexibility and ability to create beautiful portraits in any lighting condition.
Sure, I can go into a scene and create portraits with the existing light– backlighting for over-bright scenes, side-lighting for interesting portraits, silhouettes, front lighting, the list goes on and on.
But one day I came face to face with the one lighting condition that I couldn’t shoot my way through. I was faced with the possibility of needing to shoot environmental portraits at twilight for a publication, and it was at that moment that I decided that I absolutely had to learn to use off camera flash.
Since that day, I have used an off camera flash as a second source of light at every single reception I have photographed (I shoot forty weddings per year) and in a number of portrait sessions as well.
It gives me the flexibility to create the look I am striving for in any lighting conditions at all.
I still love my natural light portraits, but I go into every event and portrait session feeling more comfortable. And my knowledge of off camera flash has saved my bacon on a few occasions where the natural/existing light simply wouldn’t have cut it because it was either too dark or too overcast to capture the portrait that I had envisioned (and that my clients were expecting).
I also love the distinctive and sometimes dramatic look that off camera light can lend to my portrait sessions. And in a world of stiff competition, my knowledge and use of off camera light helps to set me apart from the rest.
Mixing shots with OCF and shots with natural light will allow you to deliver very different photographs of the same scene.
In this first shot, I was using natural/existing light to capture my subject. Because it was right after sunset, the colors and light were soft and muted.
However, there was also a gorgeous sky in the background. I used off camera flash to balance the beautiful sky while adding light to my subject’s face.
Of course, sometimes you need an off camera flash to make the shot happen in the first place, to open the shadows in the face while retaining detail in the background or to provide the light for a dark scene overall.
In this next shot, it was an extremely overcast day, and the trees came right up behind us. I couldn’t have captured this scene unless I completely blew out the background or really underexposed her face, I would have had to choose.
With OCF, I was able to balance the two so that both the background and the subject are well exposed in the shot.
And in this last shot, it was almost pitch black, so dark that we had to leave the car headlights on so I could set up the light stand. Off camera flash allowed me to illuminate my subject while retaining the last bit of blue in the night sky.
And the best part is that it isn’t too difficult to learn off camera flash. Sure, it can seem overwhelming at first, but if you have the time to practice you will be adding that skill set to your bag of tricks in no time.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive either.
I’m guessing that you already have a camera (and probably a flash), so you will need a set of triggers/receivers and a light stand or tripod. There have been amazing leaps and bounds in the world of triggers, and there are now triggers/receivers for every budget!