Impromptu Off Camera Flash Training Session – Leicester City Centre!

Simple one-light setup with umbrella

After my exploits at Bradgate Park in the morning, yesterday afternoon was a whole different kettle of fish as I ended up leading a small group of photographers, teaching them how to use off-camera flash. Read on to see how we got on!

As some of you may know, I’m a member of the Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery. What a few of us do for the photographic community in Leicester is to run these informal get togethers / photo walks and training sessions for the benefit of other photographers. This was one such event, organised by Paul Bonning-Tyers. Fortunately the weather was fantastic on the day, but this mean a huge number of people decided to come along for the tuition – far more than could be easily taught by one person.

As Paul knew that I had some experience in off-camera flash, he asked if I could take a group of around six photographers and teach them using my own equipment. Absolutely no problem!

I had a quick scout around, and took my group over to a roller shutter by a fast food outlet where I arranged my first lighting setup. As a number of the photographers were new to off camera flash I kept it simple as possible, explaining how sync speeds affected the shutter speed you could use, and how you’d have to balance the flash power using correct aperture. I then set up the most basic lighting setup you could use – a single Chinese flash, fired by cheap Chinese radio triggers – and that was it!

One light setup in Leicester

You wouldn’t think that the sun was coming from the left, and that this photo was taken at around 2pm would you!

Moving on from here, we recruited the mum of one of the models to stand in for us, and ventured into the street to demonstrate how you can use correct background exposure and subtle flash to depict a completely natural scene, but one which would have been impossible to expose correctly without flash. The end results are at the top of this page, but below is the photo you’d get if you didn’t use the flash…

Yep, there’s THAT much difference, and all we’ve done is put a flash on a stand, with a big shoot-through umbrella in front of it. This just shows how you can go from bland to something that wouldn’t look out of place on the website for ‘The Apprentice’ just by using some really basic equipment.

After this, we moved around Leicester taking a few more photographs. Once I was happy with the progress of the group, and once I knew that they understood the concept of working with one light I thought it was time to bring out a second flashgun and introduce a hair light.

Simple two light setup. One flash hiding behind the tree!

The concept of the second light (in this case) was quite simple. Although we were lighting our model nicely from the front (and the ambient light was taking care of the background) by introducing a second light we’d be able to add a more ‘3D’ feel to the photograph and give a bit of depth to it.

For the example above, all I did was set up the main light as I had earlier on in the afternoon, but then I hid a second light, firing at full power, behind the tree. This gave the highlight on the models’ right hand side and just helped her stand out from the background somewhat.

And that finished the tutorial – my students went away happy with the afternoon’s results and full of enthusiasm to try out the techniques themselves.

If you’re interested in off-camera flash techniques, or want some one-to-one tuition then get in touch using the contact form.