It’s been a week full of teaching for me. First I gave a lecture on flash composites at Adorama on Monday, where I also taught the additional, MacGyver-friendly lessons that yes, you can use an Adorama plastic bag as a flash modifier, and yes, you can use gaffer tape to mend a pair of jeans. It’s the photographer way.
Then came the big show, a day-and-a-half-long workshop aimed squarely at photographers knee-deep in the business of wedding photography. This was a more talking-heavy workshop than some of my previous ones, since I wanted to share any and every business trick I’ve learned along the way to building a successful photography business — and I left nothing out. I don’t have any secrets — if you want to be a successful photographer, work hard, capitalize on whatever luck you have, and don’t stop working hard. That’s about it. If your business model is based on not letting your competition find out your secrets, then, in the Information Age, you might be on shaky ground.
Still, we did some shooting, because we’re photographers after all, and I wanted to show both how I work with clients, and some of the things I do to solve problems in photography. The first is how I stopped being a slave to the sun. If you only like shooting outdoor portraits at golden hour, then you’re going to run into some interesting problems on hectic wedding days — or maybe even cause them. Sometimes you’re going to be forced to shoot at noon, and sometimes the best decision will be to shoot in the dark.
Since it was a night-and-day workshop, we got to tackle both. First, night:
We did a number of different night tricks; this one was based on the idea that sometimes your best friend at night is as weak a light source as possible. To get the tonality I wanted from the background, I had my Litepanel Micropro, which was my key light, just about set to “OFF.”
Wait … day?
Yes, I wanted to show that you don’t have to be afraid of daylight, that a speedlight can easily conquer the sun if you use it right, and that you can have the choice to have nice, blue skies even in a backlit, bright, cloudless mid-day sky, like we had.
But I really like to drive home a point, so I thought “Why stop at blue? Let’s take this glaringly bright sky and make it black!” So I went to 11 — f/11, ISO 200, 1/8000th of a second. Obliterating the sky. No dodging here — other than a bit of a crop, this is right out-of-camera. And it only took two SB-900s to light.
Here’s the really geeky part. A few back-of-the-napkin calculations showed me that in the first photo, my exposure settings are 288,000 times as light-sensitive as in the second photo. With the right techniques, we really can conquer any situation, day or night. More important is that they’re still compelling photos, thanks mostly to my wonderful subjects, Mae and Kelly.
Who said mixing linear and logarithmic math couldn’t be cool. Am I right?
Well, I think it’s cool.