Doing it off-camera

One of my most important photographic discoveries in recent times was the huge benefit to be gained by moving your flash off-camera. There are strategies for improving the quality of light from on-camera flashes but the results are usually pretty flat, giving no definition and shape to your subject.

Moving your flash off-camera results in pictures which are not just a tiny bit improved, but are so much better that they belong in a different world. Studio photographers have always known about off-camera flash, but I had assumed that this wasn’t really viable with the small flashes designed to be mounted on cameras.

Not that is, until I came across David Hobby’s Strobist blog about using flash off-camera. There were photographers who used it before David, but he is Da Man, who turned Strobism into a worldwide phenomenon, with many experts now making big money offering instruction in techniques for making mind-blowing pictures.

The interest in Strobism is huge and you can get a feel for it if you visit the Strobist Flickr Group. My friend Gus visited the recent Photo & Film Expo in Johannesburg and he tells me that they had a Strobist lecture which apparently had a huge attendence, with equipment, such as lighting stands, flying off the shelves at the show.

I’ve wondered off the topic a little (I was going to tell you about a new DVD I bought) but I might as well carry on a bit about David Hobby and Strobism. His site has everything you might want to know about the subject from the equipment, less than you’d expect, to the technique.

If you’re interested, I’d suggest going to the the site and starting with the following sections:

  • What is Strobist?
  • Lighting 101
  • On Assignment

I suppose I should now put my money where my mouth is and show you what’s possible. The following pictures were shot within five minutes of each other during a demo I did for our camera club. The first was with my camera’s built-in flash:

and this was with a single flash placed on lighting stand and fired by a radio trigger through a translucent umbrella :

I’ll get to the Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD next time, I promise.


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