Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Strobes

About ten years ago I was gifted a set of studio strobes from a friend of mine who was closing her photography studio. I had always wanted to learn lighting, but looking at the strobe heads and soft boxes just stressed me out. It seemed hard and technical and not “my style”. So I told myself that lighting just wasn’t for me, put the entire set up in storage and left it there for five years.  

During that time I struggled with light.  

You see, I live in Seattle, and it’s dark here for about 9 months out of the year. When I was shooting digitally, I would just crank my ISO up to 6400 and make it work. But when I made the switch back to film I knew something had to change. If I was going to shoot film inside, in Seattle, I was going to have to learn how to use lighting.

So I did. And it changed everything.

Since then I’ve become somewhat of an off camera lighting evangelist. I sing it’s praises every chance I get! And every time I talk about it I hear the same reasons from photographers on why they don’t want to use it. So today I want to talk about the three myths that keep photographers form using off camera lighting and why they are just not true.

Here we go.

Film Photography with Strobes

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 Myth #1: Lighting is hard

I used to think this too. But it’s not. In fact, it’s really, really easy. Just force yourself to start. Take your strobe or your flash, put it on a tripod, put a light modifier on it, and tell yourself it’s a window.

Light is light. If you can do it with the sun shining through a window, you can do it with a bulb shining through a soft box!

Myth #2: You can’t be spontaneous when using lighting

This was my biggest worry what kept me from using lights for year. You see, I work with kids. And kids run and jump and move a lot. I wanted to be able to capture that movement. And I can. In fact, strobes make it better! The flash freezes movement, so you can capture a kid in mid jump and not get motion blur!  


Strobe Lighting

Myth #3: Lighting looks fake. I want soft and natural.

This is the biggest lighting myth around. Lighting, when done right, can look as soft and beautiful as natural light.  

This is how I do it. I turn my lights down until I get a reading of F4 in the shadows. That way I can shoot at F4 or even F2.8 and have a perfectly exposed image that looks soft and just like natural light. 

Pro Tip: If you are going to be shooting with off camera lighting be sure to check your camera’s sync speed. The sync speed is the fasted shutter speed recommend for your camera when working with a flash of any kind!

Okay friends… I hope this has inspired you to give lighting a try, so get out there – and light it up.

Strobe Lighting

Need more help? Tune in now to join Sandra Coan as she helps address lighting, film photography and strobes on CreativeLive

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With over sixteen years experience working in both film and digital photography, Sandra Coan has become Seattle’s premier maternity, newborn and family photographer. Her award winning work has been featured in a variety of publications including Click Magazine, Lemonade and Lenses, Seattle Bride, Plum, Bump and The Knot and on the popular blogs Let the Kids Dress Themselves, Light Inspired and Beyond the Wanderlust. Sandra's work is also now a part of the Seattle Museum of History and Industry’s permanent collection.