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Studio in your hands: portable lighting setup for event photography

 

 

I am not an event photographer, but like any of you I enjoy shooting events I participate in. Let me show what I  use to get studio-like lighting in any regular size room (for a bigger ceilings, 30 and more feet it won’t work that good).

The main idea is to have more than one light sources: one for a  model and the second one is for reflection and the rest of the room. With only one flash attached, even if used with light diffuser, you can’t have good light spread. The best you will get  in a relatively large room   is a flat looking model and some shadow behind.

dual dedicated  flash setup for canon
dual dedicated flash setup for canon

Much better results will be by using 2 light sources:

One to highlight the model, and a second one to bounce from a walls/ceiling and highlight the model from  aside and behind. The biggest advantage over diffusers (which is basically doing the same, by separating light  impulse into two different directions: front and perpendicular to frontal direction 360 degree spread), because you can manage  split ratio between group of flashes. By selecting how much light we want to use to highlight the model and how much for a background /side reflection we  can imitate at least  3 independent light sources: one front,  one fill light and one  counter (hair) light  from behind.  Obviously, we need to have white walls  to work as a fill light, and something bright on top/behind.

I was  using 2 Canon Speedlite 580EX flashes, one was set to a master (group A) and  second one (Group B) to a slave mode. This is how it looks on a flash LCD screen.
Master, group A:

canon speedlite 580ex master mode
canon speedlite 580ex master mode

Slave, group B:

 

canon speedlite flash slave setup
canon speedlite flash slave setup

 

On a master (A group) I  selected output power ratio shift, making  side flash to work with more or less power than slave unit. I was using  2:1 power ratio.  However, any other, less expensive flash will work well, you just need to have a manual mode to set side flash to fire with 2 or 3 time more power (depending on how far you’ll be from a walls and ceiling)  than a front one.

 

Dual flash setup on canon, one master one slave
Dual flash setup on canon, one master one slave

 

Also,  I’ve used a diffuser for a front one  to soften flash beam even more. Slave was tilted to about 65 degrees out.

I have some really cheap flash grip, far from the best and most convenient you can find on the market, but I am completely fine with it :-)

 

 

Hot shoe grip for DSLR flash
Hot shoe grip for DSLR flash

 

I prefer to use it to shoot vertical (see photo below),this way secondary flash bouncing from a ceiling, creating similar  effect  I described earlier, shooting a business portrait  with beauty dish in a studio. If we set secondary flash unit for 3:1  or even more power ratio (3 times or more power shift compare to  frontal flash) and tilt it’s head to about 65 degree with maximum zoom (105 mm for 580EX) to create a snoot-like light beam, we can hit  ceiling and walls behind model with really intense light without highlighting the model at all.

Which is exactly what we need: virtually we’ll have 2 or 3 independent light sources: front, fill and hair light, all in your hands. Yes, you’ll need both hands, it is really heavy :-)

 

 

dual dedicated flash setup for canon vertical
dual dedicated flash setup for canon vertical

 

 

Below are several examples from a Christmas eve we’ve been celebrating in our friend’s house. All  portraits were  done in a dark, really dark room at 1/60 sec and f4.0, with 24-70mm Canon F2.8 L lens attached to 1Ds mark III body:

 

studio like portrait with dual dedicated flash attached to  canon
studio like portrait with dual dedicated flash attached to canon

 

Studio like portrait with dual flash canon
Studio like portrait with dual flash canon

 

 

studio like portrait with dual dedicated flash attached to  canon
studio like portrait with dual dedicated flash attached to canon

Let me know if i miss anything here, would be glad to know about your ideas, especially if you professionally shoot events.:-)

22 responses on "Studio in your hands: portable lighting setup for event photography"

  1. What an unbelievably great idea.

  2. Великолепный совет! Сегодня же приобрету кронштейн и попробую. На самом деле так просто! Спасибо Алексей! С наступающим Новым годом!
    P.S. Ваши уроки очень полезны и информативны, проблема только, что я не знаю английский, если текст удается ещё перевести через переводчик, то ролики увы. Ещё раз с наступающим!

  3. pourquoi pas en triangle avec un flasch distant plutôt que deus cote a cote ?

    ::: (opérateur) ::: (::: flash)

    (sujet)

  4. Fantastic idea for DIY photography. The pictures look awesome too. I am not an expert in photography either so I think this trick should do for me.

  5. Well this is nice I might try it. I use Nikon and have an SB800 and an SB600. But true it would be quite heavy. In iTT it makes communication preflashes which might be irritating for some.

    I use a BounceIt card I can turn it’s angel so I can put more or less of the flash power in front or up to the ceiling.

    It is like having two flashes.

  6. I shoot weddings, amongst other things. In most cases there is nothing to bounce the light off of, so the only possibility is to use the flash with its head pointed forward. However, I have recently started to use two flashes, as well – one is the camera’s built-in small pop-up flash, and the other is an external flash, hand-held off camera. I use Nikon so the pop-up flash activates the external flash in a wireless way through an optical signal. In this setup the powerful external flash, which I usually hold with my left hand as far away from the camera as possible, acts as the key light, while the camera’s built-in flash acts as a fill light. It works beautifully!

  7. I think your setup would work for a number of difference scenarios. I was curious how the two flashes communicate? I use wireless flash from time to time; however, I wouldn’t think with both flashes oriented in the same general direction, they would be able to communicate. Any secrets?

  8. I shoot events as a large part of my current workload and I have to say that this whole idea of adding more lights is just absurd. First of all its too heavy for an all day shoot. Secondly, it draws way too much attention to the photographer [you’re not the star of the event – your client is]. Thirdly, with today’s low-light capabilities its really not necessary. On top of that in most/many cases flash convolutes the ambiance of the environment by giving it an artificial look.

    That’s not to say that I don’t use flash – sparingly. I just wouldn’t hammer my subjects with not one but two lights thereby running the risk of creating the hallmark of amateur lighting – the dreaded cross-shadow.

    As for your reply: “I guess even in concert hall, 2 flashes mounted this way will produce better results than one. Just need to aim both to the subject, not a wall. Do you agree?” I’d say, “No, I don’t agree”. If anything, I would only bounce the light off a wall or at least use a diffuser and point it away from the subject[s]. As for concert photography: no one wants your flash going off while they’re playing or enjoying the music. Here again you’re not the star.

    I suggest loosing the strobes all together. Check out Jeff Ascough’s blog or at least look into how Planet Neil operates using his strobes. In a word – less is more.

  9. Actually I think it is hard to judge how well this set-up is working because of the background. Generally on-camera flash looks ugly because of the shadows. The tree here is hiding things. Show me it done on a white background !

  10. Nice photos and idea but you say “event photos” and what you show are family photos in a controlled white walled room.
    I would love to have events in a white living room but that won’t happen.

  11. Very nice lighting and so portable! I’m going to have to see if I can find my old bracket too.

  12. That’s a great way to avoid shadows. What we really need is a bracket that will hold both lights off camera. I guess that could be really awkward and heavy, though. I photograph weddings and I like to use off-camera flash as much as possible, but never considered adding a second flash via bracket.

  13. Wow never thought of pulling out the old bracket for using a quick 2 light option. Thanks for the great tip!

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