Using Flash That Doesn't Look Lit

Piet Van den Eynde

This article is the last in a series of three posts from author Piet Van den Eynde that relate to the release of his latest eBook. Light It Up: Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Lighting is for photographers who want to know not just how to use a flash, but to get it off your camera, combine it with another flash or two, and get creative with adding and modifying the light in any scene, anywhere.

Because it's never quite as simple as "just throw some light on it."

Piet has learned how to see, use, tint, and enhance light, and provides a straightforward approach to adding flash light to any scene. The beefy 158-page book includes three videos + five Lightroom Presets. The videos total 45 minutes of instruction and offer a behind-the-scenes look at how Piet sets up for a few shoots that are in the book, and he also shows you how he uses the presets.

Curious? Get a free copy of the first video and satisfy that little "I wanna see!" voice.  

There are two ways to add flash: either inconspicuously, or boldly, where the result clearly says, “This was lit.” To me, as with just about anything else in photography, there is no right or wrong. It’s a matter of personal taste, preference, and what you want your photo to say. While I’ve done my fair share of images that clearly looked “lit” (and I still love doing this kind of work), I sometimes also try to use my flashes in a more subtle way. In Gregory Heisler's 50 Portraits, not only does he offer brilliant examples of flash photography, but he also shares his theory of “motivating the practical,” where the photographer motivates the light to make it look authentic and believable. The use of colour gels also helps to make your flash light look real.

On top, an interesting scene with boring light. On the bottom, the same photo with an orange-gelled flash lined up parallel to the wall, simulating golden evening light. The light brings out the texture in the wall and adds some interesting shadows.

I was traveling through Swedish Lapland when the scene above caught my eye. I liked the patina on the wall and the old bike with the reindeer skin on it. The problem? Soft available light that didn’t bring out the patina the way I wanted it to. But by adding an orange filter to my flash and placing it parallel to the wall, outside of the frame on a tripod and aimed slightly down, the resulting photograph looks like it was made with the setting sun. The orange filter helps to motivate that.

In the picture of model Cato below, I combined both approaches. To the left of our boiler room studio was a window. I placed a bare strobe outside and aimed it through the window to simulate sunlight falling into the room.

The opening in the wall motivates the light. However, I also put a flash way back in the room to add some rim light to the boiler tanks to prevent that part of the image from going totally black. There’s nothing in that space to motivate the light other than my artistic choice to put it there.

Piet Van den Eynde is a Belgian freelance photographer, author, and trainer specializing in Adobe Lightroom. When he's not teaching or writing, he travels the world on his bicycle photographing the people he meets along the way. See more of Piet's work on his website

 

 

 

Craft & Technique Piet Van den Eynde

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