PDA

View Full Version : A personal story tutorial of flash photography


shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:07 AM
There has been quite some threads around discussing the use of external flash, diffusers, etc. I thought this might be a good chance for me to share my experience with flash and cons. Note that I could not complete this in one shot because I actually have two quizzes tomorrow D:

Anyways, enjoy my story tutorial of flash photography at cons.

WARNING: LARGE QUANTITIES IMAGES MAY TAKE LONG TIME TO LOAD

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:08 AM
Part 1: Realizing the Need for Flash

My first con was indoor. The lighting was really poor (about ISO 800 2.8 1/30th) and the lighting was mixed. (a mix of tungsten and flourscent)

To overcome I simply bounced SB-800 directly off the ceiling, however, it was ineffective because the ceiling was high and was gray. One other really annoying thing about the place was that it had green floors, meaning that all lights are reflected, causing the cosplayers to have a weird green shadow.

http://pics22.webs-tv.net/5/userfile/s/shiroin/album/1459133182208f.jpg
*Note the green shadows under the cosplayer's hand and face. This picture was actually one that had less green shadows.

It was a really bad shooting experience. And because it was my first time, I was under the impression that all cons are indoor. Immediately after the con, I thought of solutions to overcome future situations. I laid out the problems of the previous shoot:
-Lighting was poor in general, have to use high ISO to compensate: high noise.
-Poor lighting also meant high flash output (especially when bouncing), during the con I actually had to recharge my batteries or run to a nearby store and buy alkaline batteries: long recharge cycle, frequent battery replacement.
-Some hair styles prevent direct bounced light from lighting the face: shadows at the upper half of the face.
-Bouncing at an angle or direct flash were not an options, since they would generate harsh shadows.

Addressing those issues, I came up with a solution that requires three flashes (one borrowed from a friend)
http://pai-r2.com/temp/n1638210020_5397_8210.jpg
Me at Fancy Frontier 8. July 30, 2006. National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Nikon D2Xs + AF-S VR Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8G + Nikon SB-800 X 2 + Nikon SB-600
Photo taken by a friend who will later teach me about the art of natural lighting.

Two directly up for extra bounce power and faster cycle time, one directly towards the cosplayer with a diffuser and reduced output for face lighting.

A week after my first con, I attended the largest con in Taiwan: Fancy Frontier. I entered the con early with a press pass :p (even though I wasnt working for any press) and took about twenty minutes setting up the flash array. It was a real work since I need to set it up such that all flashes will be triggered wirelessly and the center of mass is good for me to handle. I then tried the setup at nearby booths located in a university gym.

The combination was really... heavy and it was a true fatigue to carry around, but it did prove effective:
http://pai-r2.com/temp/[20060729]FF8Day1_0010.jpg
high cieling shot
http://pai-r2.com/temp/[20060729]FF8Day1_0151.jpg
low cieling shot

*you can see that low cieling is better because more lights are bounced.

Theoretical Light Diagrams to be added.

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:10 AM
Part 2: From Three Flashes Outdoor to One Flash Outdoor

Having the combination of two bounce and one direct worked really well, but it was soon that I found out most of the cosplaying takes place outside the gym...orz

At first, I thought 'soo much work for nothing', but I soon found out that three flash actually gives me a good advantage.

It was summer noon in Taiwan, the sun is shining at its strongest strength. It was impossible to take pictures of cosplayers out in the field: the light was soo strong that cosplayers almost always face away from the sun, resulting in shadows that greatly constrasted the well-lit evnironment.

Using no flash, you either get underexposed cosplayer or overexposed background. (depending on how you meter)

It was all crazy except I figured that by using three flash, I can expose the background and the cosplayer equally by filling the shadows with light.

This is doable with one flash, but using three at different output means I can eliminate harsh shadows caused by single direct flash, and also I can have extra overall output and faster cycle time. The three flashes were set to be triggered wirelessly with the Nikon iTTL system. Their outputs each differs by 1/3 of a stop. (something like +1.0, +0.7, +0.3)

The results were, again, amazing.

http://r-pai.com/temp/Cosplay_Sora_1_by_shiroin.jpg
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/40731952/
bright sunlight shot. both cosplayer and background are well exposed.

http://r-pai.com/temp/Cosplay_Kanaria_1_by_shiroin.jpg
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/42173498/
late afternoon shot when sun was not as strong.

other pics taken during the same con with three flashes:
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/42173810/
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/39669611/

The results were indeed nice, but there was one problem:
all of the pictures look the same; there was no variety!!!

That really troubled me.
Two days, total of around seven straight hours of shooting each day (yes, I take almost no breaks) with a five kilogram camera, almost a thousand pictures (only about five hundred after sorting), and they all had similar lighting!

So on the second day, before people started leaving, I decided to try something new. I broke my formula, and used no flash. (It was also because I was taking a close-up shot, and did not want to distress the cosplayer)

http://r-pai.com/temp/Cosplay_Rosiel_2_by_shiroin.jpg
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/43718989/

Can you see the difference?
Better light gradient, better skintone, no weird flash reflections!

This got me thinking.... and I decided that during the next con, I would try to use as little flash as possible.

The question comes again. In certain situations, such as under the bright sunlight, how can you use minimal flash, to recover shadow details while making it as natural as possible?
The answer was off camera flash.
Here I have to thank two friends who helped me carry the off camera flash unit to make this possible.

http://pics9.webs-tv.net/5/userfile/a/amaterasu/album/144df5056e1d61.jpg
Me at Comic World Taiwan 13. August 13, 2006. National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Nikon D2Xs + Tamron XR Di 28-75mm F/2.8D + Nikon SB-800 Connected by SB-28 Sync Cord
Photo taken by a friend who captioned this photo in his blog as "I want a personal lighting assistant as MOE as this one! XD"

Using an off-camera flash is quite troublesome but fun at the same time.
If used correctly, it produces amazing effects. But if used incorrectly, weird shadows would pop out from unwanted places.

http://r-pai.com/temp/%5b20060813%5dCWT13Day2_0007.jpg
bad angle for off-camera flash. huge shadow generated in the background and the body of the cosplayer.

http://r-pai.com/temp/%5b20060813%5dCWT13Day2_0040.jpg
Now, this was a fun one. It was taken under the entrance of a building. The cosplayer herself was in complete shadow, direct flash would create shadow in the background, and bouncing off the cieling would lit up the chaotic background of a bunch of random cosplayers resting. So what we did was use a reflector to reflect sun light onto her, and use two flashes to shine her up directly from the bottom. So even if the direct flash generates any shadow, it would be above the cosplayer onto the cieling, which is out of the frame :D
With this combination, we have a well-lit cosplayer, and an almost completely dark background.

More to come. Next chapter will talk about me starting to use natural lighting, and achieve more pleasing pictures than the flashed ones.

A preview of natural lighting picture:
http://r-pai.com/temp/film_test4.jpg

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:12 AM
Part 3: From a Flash Maniac to a Flash Minimalist

Same day during the con, I also experimented alot with no flash. The results were quite suprising.

http://r-pai.com/temp/%5b20060813%5dCWT13Day2_0137.jpg
This shot could have been improved by lighting up the face to save some highlight details in the hair. Regardless, it was a pretty good shot.

http://r-pai.com/temp/%5b20060812%5dCWT13Day1_0124.jpg
This was a 20 shot burst at 5.3FPS, trying to catch the cosplayer's emotion and the bubbles.

After acquiring these shots, I was soo amazed that I simply stopped using flash that day. (The weather condition that day was great! It was sunny with lots of clouds = bright diffused lighting :D)

It was then near the end of the summer. I took a trip to Japan before I went to the States for university.

During this trip, I used almost no flash. Mainly because I thought it would be really rude and distracting to use them in street photography; I took this oppurtuntity to sharpen my skills with handling ambivient lighting.

http://r-pai.com/temp/-200608-JapanRandom_0129.jpg
Girl on the Streets of Harajuku

Tried out natural lighting at a Japanese con too.

http://r-pai.com/temp/Cosplay_Lacus_Clyne_2_by_shiroin.jpg
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/42966739/
http://r-pai.com/temp/Cosplay_Lacus_Clyne_3_by_shiroin.jpg
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/42966766/
Japanese cosplayer cosplaying Lacus Clyne from Gundam SEED Destiny

The shot was taken outside. The weather was cloudy, and it was under a large semi-transparent roof.

At this point I am more than convinced that, natural lighting, under certain conditions, is much better than artificial lighting. Namely, when ambivient light is diffused by clouds or when the sun is not particularly strong, natural lighting is the BEST.

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:13 AM
Part 4: Encounter of New Situations: The Return of Flashes

Reserved for Part 4. Scheduled to be posted after Part 3.

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:14 AM
Part 5: ???

Reserved for Part 5, which has not been planned. Will be posted if I learn something new.

shiroin
01-25-2007, 02:28 AM
More Examples

This section is dedicated to examples of flash photography for cosplays.
It will be updated over random intervals.

Av4rice
01-25-2007, 03:17 AM
Ooh very awesome so far. Can't wait to read/see the rest!

AnimeAngel
01-25-2007, 10:17 AM
Your work is impressive to say the least. As a photographer and a cosplayer, it's good to know all the angles of every side of it. Especially photographer. And in my experience, unless you have a mount flash or a diffuser, flash=evil. Especially for someone as pale as me.

Can't wait to see the rest!

Rosieal
01-27-2007, 07:08 AM
Thank you for this! Of all the camera techniques I want to learn, this is the one I need the most! It would be also helpful to let us know what external flash products you would recommend. ^^

TomodachiFriend
01-27-2007, 08:49 PM
Nice tutorial. I've never seen anyone go around with 3 flashes before. :)

shiroin
01-28-2007, 03:21 AM
I promised to have the second part posted on Saturaday, January 27, 2007. But I only had time to post it near the end of day, sorry for the delay.

ZiggyB
01-29-2007, 03:33 PM
Thank you very much shiroin! I love how your explanations go with your photos. It makes understanding all of the concepts very easy.

I myself have been trying to decide to get a flash or not. So far I've been shooting with only natural light and fixing problems in post. I am very interested in learning how to use the flash.

I also have to say that the photo of the cosplayer lit up but with a dark background is wonderful!

TomodachiFriend
01-30-2007, 01:14 AM
Reading your explanations, I've noticed something. Cosplayers are very patient in Taiwan. I'd never have the time to put two flashes on the ground and point a reflector. Here, the cosplayer would just walk away. Maybe I'm just lousy at this thing they call communcation.

shiroin
01-30-2007, 01:43 AM
Reading your explanations, I've noticed something. Cosplayers are very patient in Taiwan. I'd never have the time to put two flashes on the ground and point a reflector. Here, the cosplayer would just walk away. Maybe I'm just lousy at this thing they call communcation.

I have never been to a North American con so I can not compare that.

But in general, cosplayers in Asia are pretty static, its mostly the photographers running around hunting for cosplayers.

You might wonder why I get eye contact soo often, that is because I usually wait for the cosplayer to establish one ^^

Sipo
01-30-2007, 01:57 AM
I've gained a lot of ideas from this post! Please, keep posting!! It's highly appreciated!! :)

Godly
02-03-2007, 03:19 AM
Very nice thread. Thank you for this.

Pliskin
02-03-2007, 01:42 PM
I have never been to a North American con so I can not compare that.

But in general, cosplayers in Asia are pretty static, its mostly the photographers running around hunting for cosplayers.

You might wonder why I get eye contact soo often, that is because I usually wait for the cosplayer to establish one ^^

As a North American cosplayer, if a photographer had the same equipment you did, I would definitely wait for the picture. That's part of the reason lots of people cosplay in the first place, LOL.

I do have to say, your work is incredible.

Ms.Naru
02-06-2007, 02:26 AM
As soon as I saw this thread, I said "YES!! I found it!" I've been waiting for something like this for some time now. Thank you, very insightful and your photography is beautiful. On behalf of myself and my Nikon D80 (recently equipped with an SB 600), we thank you!

shiroin
02-06-2007, 01:33 PM
Thank you everyone for the great comments.

College has been very busy for me. I just finished a week of midterms and now I will be bombarded with labs and other club events. I will try to update the third part this wed.

Usachan
02-06-2007, 06:48 PM
I think your pictures and the stories behind each of these photograph's are
stunning. ^-^ I can tell you have great experience with and behind the lens.

Please continue to amaze me and the world of cosplay photography on here!!

shiroin
02-08-2007, 01:50 AM
Part 3 is up. I will try to put together Part 4 this weekend.

Enjoy

Drngd Kreationz
03-04-2007, 07:08 AM
Good Solid work man Good photos, and great writing. Although, I can't believe you carried around bracket with 3 mounted flashes.. That takes some serious guts... kudos on that. I've gone through something similar but not as extreme. I only use one flash on a bracket or tripod w/ reflectors. and the flash as low as necessary to help fill in shadows. Although I will say my experience with American cosplayers really has been great for the most part. As long as I've let them know what I'm thinking. (or just them for 5-10 minutes of their time to "work" on an idea or two) they're normally very pretty patient to work with as long as they know what they're getting into. :)

Cheers

howzitboy
03-26-2007, 05:13 PM
u ever try "bare bulb" flash? those (if used correctly) offer shadow free photography. the way they work is since the flash has no reflector, the light shoots off in all directions, bouncing off of everything so u have no shadows.

try look at the sunpak 120J

americankgb
04-11-2007, 03:23 PM
Do you have a reccomendation for a good cradle? I see that your using one in a few pics. I looked around online but there are so many it's really hard to know what is good and or bad.

nugrosjp
04-25-2007, 12:35 AM
Wow you have nice pictures ! good luck with all of your ideas and problem solving.. I always watch this tread for more

nope
04-25-2007, 07:42 AM
american kgb, cradle like a bracket?
the stroboframe quick flip is great. a bit heavy but whatever, you're carting a camera and a flash! doesn't add much weight onto it.

i usually just hold my flash above my subject (top left) with my left hand and hold my camera in my right (bless you autofocus). i get less shadows this way and it's flattering.

americankgb
04-25-2007, 03:36 PM
Thnx for the info. I've been meaning to get a cable for my flash so that I can start using it off camera like you mentioned but I can't afford it at the moment. Maybe when I get some more money i'll pick one up. I've messed around with using the on camera flash as the commander for the sb-800 and using it wirelessly but it's a pain in the butt to use and half the time the flash doesn't go off if you're holding it to far away or covering the sensor. That coupled with the fact that I really need the focus assist light on the sb-800 for low light shooting and it doesn't go off when it's a remote make that set up pretty much worthless. I really want that cable for nikon which includes an af assist light that sits on top of the camera but its like $100. sigh*

nope
04-25-2007, 07:38 PM
oof! keh.com has good deals on used stuff if that helps.

pity the sc17 cord i use with my sb25 doesn't work with all nikon flashes :-(

americankgb
04-26-2007, 02:55 AM
oof! keh.com has good deals on used stuff if that helps.

pity the sc17 cord i use with my sb25 doesn't work with all nikon flashes :-(


Thanx for the tip. I was looking at the sb-29 actually since it includes the auto-focus assist. I would think about going with one of the cheaper models but I shoot in low light too often so meh.

howzitboy
04-27-2007, 04:39 AM
i bought one of those off camera flash cable thingys and never used it. its rotting away in my closet somewhere.

i used something like this:
http://www.dr-quicksave.com/ebay/quicksave/product_photos/DC_%20Accessories/Know_gallery_sc1.jpg
it sits on top of your flash connector. u put one flash on it and connect another flash to that hole via cable, so your main flash sets off the second flash. i seen them before with 2 holes so u could have 3 flashes all going off same time.
they are cheap too, like $10. might be worth try.

Tenchi Fan
05-12-2007, 02:25 AM
What do you guys think about ringflash usage? Would it be a good tool especially for those convention hall/high ceiling conditions?

howzitboy
05-12-2007, 02:55 AM
ring flashes are mostly for macro photography (close up pictures of bugs and flowers). u can use them for portraits but most are really weak.
but, used with another flash they do make awesome catchlights in the eyes.

shiroin
03-07-2008, 12:11 AM
i realized that i need to update this HAHA

anyways,
ive learn lots since i last posted,
and ill update once i finish my finals~
(with results from north american cons!)

nope
03-07-2008, 12:24 AM
hahah i clicked on this hoping for an update!

Hexlord
03-07-2008, 01:53 AM
i realized that i need to update this HAHA

anyways,
ive learn lots since i last posted,
and ill update once i finish my finals~
(with results from north american cons!)

Cheers :)

Romaniac
03-09-2008, 03:59 AM
Reading your explanations, I've noticed something. Cosplayers are very patient in Taiwan. I'd never have the time to put two flashes on the ground and point a reflector. Here, the cosplayer would just walk away. Maybe I'm just lousy at this thing they call communcation.


I also experienced that. The cosplayer seems to get distracted after I take a photo or two and the expression on their face is "what? you want more? just leave me alone" ... it makes me feel bad and I just say I am done and thank them, even if I am not really happy with the result of the photos.

Shiroin: thanks for the tutorial, and great photos.

tfcreate
03-09-2008, 10:39 PM
I also experienced that. The cosplayer seems to get distracted after I take a photo or two and the expression on their face is "what? you want more? just leave me alone" ... it makes me feel bad and I just say I am done and thank them, even if I am not really happy with the result of the photos.


That's one of the sad realities of our persuit. Practically every cosplayer expects amazing shots, yet few have the patience or will to actually work for one.... :confused:
TFC

Shastar
03-10-2008, 12:04 PM
this is an awesome thread. I'm currently taking a 2nd level studio lighting course and a lot of what you are saying here is very similar to what I'm being taught.

TomodachiFriend
03-11-2008, 02:42 AM
What do you guys think about ringflash usage? Would it be a good tool especially for those convention hall/high ceiling conditions?

Ringflash works better close and it's not just a matter of how powerful your light source is. From a distance, it becomes just another small light source. Unless you have a huuuuge ringflash or will only be shooting close, a ringflash isn't very useful.