Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lighting with one Speedlight

About a week ago I was up late and decided to experiment with the Speedlight SB700 as this is fairly new to me and there is a lot to learn.  It could be any compatible light but I happen to have this one.  For the photo above it was about 11:30 PM and I had only one small lamp on beside me so I could see what I was doing.  Otherwise, the house was dark.  The 105mm f/2.8 was on the D600 so this is what I used.  This idea was spur-of-the-moment and the shooting session very informal.  Anyway, I set the speedlight behind this vase to see what kind of effect it may have on the environment once the shutter is tripped and this is the result.  What you see is a speaker grille on the left, the vase, television on the right, and what is our sunroom in the back.  Remember, the house was dark except for the small lamp bedside me.  The camera was set to Manual mode, manual exposure, 1/50s, ISO 100 @ f/2.8  The camera's built-in AF assist illuminator had to be turned on ( I usually keep it off) for auto focus to work because it was too dark otherwise.  I did not note what manual setting was used on the speedlight and will have to remember to do so next time.  Anyway, I like this.  The sunroom looks lit up, outside is dark as seen through the windows and the highlights in the photo all help portray the feel and sense of that evening as I remember it.  Look close and you'll see little white specs suspended around the vase.  That's dust in the air captured by the instant flash of light.  And next time I'll have to hide the speedlight better.  : )

For this shot I placed the speedlight in the vase facing downward and fired at ISO 100, 1/250s @ f/4.0 to give a nice, soft light.  I'm pretty sure I had the speedlight set to 1/128 in manual mode for this.  One really cool thing I learned while playing around was that I could trip the shutter as fast as 1/800 (that's only as fast as I tried this time) and still fire the speedlight and get a nicely exposed photo.  I did not know this was possible but it opens up all kinds of possibilities now - like when I take photos for my wife's food blog.  Now I know I can increase the shutter speed and still get light on the subject with just the speedlight.  (Sometimes she wants pictures of pouring liquid or other ingredients and if the shutter speed is too slow we just end up with a ghosting effect).

As I kept experimenting I turned toward the afghan with the thought of wanting to light it but not necessarily it's surroundings.  The photo shows exactly what I had in mind so was very pleased with the result.  By the way, some of these were taken with the speedlight on-camera and some off-camera.  I know I'm only scratching the surface of the different looks that can be achieved depending where the flash is located in relation to the camera position.  

Compare this photo with the one that starts this article.  The flash was mounted on-camera this time and pointed toward the vase and the resulting photo is not near as nice as the one I shot with the flash off-camera and behind the vase.  So this is just a quick and very telling example of the need to experiment with different ways to achieve the look you want.  I even placed the speedlight inside the vase but it would not fire.  What a shame. I really wanted to see the result of that light beam erupting from the opening.  Or at least, that's what I imagined it would be.  Reality may be totally different.

Here's a photo taken for my wife's food blog where the speedlight is on-camera and the light is bounced off the ceiling to give a nice even light that is absent harsh shadows.  So even though it was nighttime and dark, you'd never know it.

Then, here's another with the speedlight mounted on-camera and pointed at the arrangement because I wanted the background dark with only the arrangement lit as it was after midnight and I had hoped to preserve that late kind of feel in the photo.

And lastly, these two examples were taken with the flash off-camera to give a nighttime, contrasty look and feel that I think worked very well.  I have a lot more work and experimentation to do but see the speedlight making me rethink how to make compelling photos.


  1. I love how you're willing to play around just to see what the effects are.

    1. It's part of the learning process and I enjoy it.

  2. Great Shots Dave. The Lighting is Great. I read somewhere that Photography is an art. It is an Art of Observation and an Art of Light. It has nothing to do with what you see, but HOW you see it. You have a good eye for finding the right light and the right POV.

    1. Thank you, Joe. More and more I find that I'm looking for the light first but I also strive to portray How I see something - just as you point out. And to have one or more of my photos considered as Art is indeed humbling and pushes me onward to keep getting better and better.