To get people excited for my two upcoming strobe photography classes at the Art Association of Jackson Hole, I’ve decided to post some samples to show what you can do with you get the strobe (flash) off the camera.
First, you need a strobe that can be triggered remotely, either wired or wirelessly. There are a multitude of ways to do that. We’ll cover that in the class.
The photo at the right shows the final image (click to see a larger version). The background isn’t nice but that’s not the point. Look at the texture of the trilobite I collected from the desert a few years back.
You can see depth, shape, texture. How is this accomplished?
Once you get to a two-dimensional photograph, the only cue for texture is shadow. You can kind of guess when there isn’t, but it’s pretty darned difficult. I used one off-camera strobe and the on camera flash for fill. More on that in a moment.
Now to the left, you can see a photo taken with just the on-camera flash of a Nikon D800. Pretty ugly compared to the one above, right? This is the type of photograph of something you’ll see on eBay. Even some wedding “photographers” think their little pop-up flash will do a good job (and charge a lot for it).
We don’t want to do that. We want to create convincing, dramatic photographs. Does every shot have to be art? No.
But it took me about 2 minutes of making adjustments to go from the shot on the left to the shot above. Is the balance as perfect as I’d like? No, but you get the point, it’s easy to see the trilobites are there, that they have depth and they are interesting. The direct flash gives you none of that feeling.
It’s a dramatic change.
The next shot is done with purely off-camera flash. It looks a little overly shadowed, right?
This is way too dramatic for this object.
That’s where the concept of fill-flash comes in handy. Even though we’ve got the strobe off-camera, the shadows are so dark that they distract from the subject. This is something we don’t want to do, either. For this shot, I wanted to emphasize the subject and not the shadow. In another blog entry, I’ll cover the shadows as negative space, an art concept. Sometimes you want to draw attention to the shadows.
But not in this shot. I wanted to show texture without making it look like a film-noir for ancient dead creatures. There are plenty of b-movies with those. For very flat objects, it does take a little work to get some drama out of them. Even a piece of paper can be made to look interesting. I’ll show that in another blog entry.
I was shooting perfectly flat petrified wood tables for By Nature Gallery and, with a little effort and off-camera strobes, I made the tables come alive. Even though they’re perfectly smooth, the little crystals inside the petrified wood just pop with color. Getting the strobe off-camera made those shots possible. (note that the photos on their site are not mine, mine are in their brochure)
Getting texture out of seemingly flat things is just one of the concept that I will be teaching in my strobe (flash) photography class.
Click on any of the photos to see a higher resolution shot to see what I’m talking about.