Speedlights with Film


Film Photography with Strobe Lighting


Lesson Info

Speedlights with Film

Now for this section, we are going to talk a little bit about speedlight flashes. Ta-da! Because I know we've probably already gotten a lot of questions about this. I know it's a question that I get on social media and on my blog all the time is, "Okay, this is great, but I don't have the money to invest in a strobe. I feel like strobes are too big." All the reasons why people wanna stay away from strobes. How do I do this with a speed light? Which I think is a really, really fair question. The good news is, and why I waited 'til the very end of the class to talk about this, is everything that we've learned totally applies. Remember, light is light. If you can do it with the sun shining through a window, you can do it with a strobe shining through a softbox, which means you can do it with a speedlight too. (laughs) It's all the same. So, everything we talked about as far as how you meter, light placement, where to put everything, how everything goes together, all that works with a spee...

dlight too. So, here's an example. Here's Betty, my posing doll, sitting on the bed in my studio. I have my Wescott Apollo 50x50 set up, and I have the speedlight off-camera on a light stand there. And you can see, there she is. Now, these photos were taken with film and I metered the exact same way. Just like I would with a strobe, I have my speedlight on a stand, I have the stand with the speedlight inside of the softbox, and I'm still gonna be down here and I'm still gonna come in and meter for my shadows here. And then I'm gonna go over, I'm gonna adjust the speedlight, adjust the light, everything's the same. All rules apply. Same rules apply. You already know how to do this. And again, here it is, baby on the bed with that Wescott umbrella, and you can see the pullback and then you can see the image. And same, I just went in, did everything as if it were a strobe. It's set at 45 degrees to the bed. It's up a little bit, so if she had eyes, we could see that pretty catchlight and all metered the same. So, anything that you do with a strobe or window, you can do with a speedlight. And here are those two side-by-side. Off-camera flash with the 50x50 softbox and off-camera flash with that shoot through umbrella. They actually look pretty similar. Those are looking good. So, let's talk about pros and cons of speedlights. So, pros: They're small. They're totally small. You can fit this in your bag easy. They're relatively inexpensive. You can get a really good speedlight used for a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to a strobe head that can be much more than that. They're easy to set up on location because they are so small, and they have what's called TTL, which is easy to use on-camera. So, TTL, or it can be ETTL, depending on the brand that you're using, but it just means that it uses through-the-lens metering, so your camera is really smart and it will look and it will kinda meter for you and it'll adjust how much light shoots out of your speedlight onto your subject. So, it makes putting it on your camera, shooting it on your camera, pretty easy. Cons, however, there are a lot of cons to shooting speedlights. First of all, there is no model light, so you're kind of shooting blind, and I think we've already established today that I love my model lights. I always have my model light on. I wanna see how that light's gonna hit my client and when you're working with this speedlight, it goes back to what I was saying about you really gotta trust the process because you can't see that light before it hits. You have to kind of just be really good and I've done this enough times that I know if I put it here, it's gonna hit here because you're not getting any kind of feedback. You don't see that light go until it fires. They're harder to adjust the output. So, when your flash is in manual mode, I'm gonna show you how to do that in a second, you can have it off-camera and you can take a meter reading and you can adjust the output just like you would on your studio strobe, but it's a little harder to do because they're smaller, it takes a little bit longer. I use the pro photo system, so I adjust light on my strobes from my air remote, which is great. So then getting up and opening the softbox or pulling out the umbrella or whatever modifier you're using to adjust your flash can be a little time-consuming for sure. They also have a slow recycle time. I'm gonna just turn this one on here, I think we have pretty fresh batteries in here, but see now it's warming up, you gotta wait. You gotta wait, still warming up. (laughs) and then it fires, and then depending on how fresh your batteries are, you have this recycle time that can take a long time. And yeah, still waiting. So, we're just gonna go. And they eat batteries. Like I said, gosh I hope that this one has fresh batteries in it because they really do eat batteries a lot. So if you're working with this all day, make sure you have a good pack of double A's because they go through them. So, what you need to know about using a speedlight versus using a strobe. So, I was always taught that when you buy any kind of camera equipment, you should really keep it in the family. If you're a Canon shooter, you want Canon lenses, you want Canon flash. If you're a Nikon, you want a Nikon flash. Oh, there it goes. See, now it's ready. (laughs) Let's just see how long it takes. If you want your equipment all to work really, really well together, then that's optimal, but honestly, sometimes if we're shooting these vintage film cameras, it's not always easy to find a compatible flash. So, if you're shooting a Contax and they stopped making Contax a long time ago, it's a lot harder to find a Contax flash that's gonna be compatible, that you can put on that hochu, and have it work. Or a Pentax or whatever. The good news is I have tested everything because I always tell people I am a scientist at heart and I like to try things out, and I have put my Canon flashes on my Contax and had them fire no problem. And I've done it in TTL. I've put my Canon flashes on my Hasselblad and the H2, and had them fire no problem. So, it can be done, it's just that you can't necessarily always rely on the results. Chances are, you're gonna have a lot better luck if you do have the same brand, speedlight, flash as your camera, but just know, you can hack it. You can make it work. And again, when you're using your speedlight flash, remember that you need to know what your sync speed is. That's always important, whether you're using a strobe or a speedlight. Any flash of any kind, you wanna know the speedlight. The other thing you wanna look for when you're buying a flash, if you are gonna use it off-camera, and I really think you should, (laughs) as opposed to putting it on your camera, is check the model before you buy it and make sure that it has a sync spot. Not all of them do. So, some flashes you can get, they're a little less expensive, they're really meant just to be on top of your camera, but they don't have a place where you could sync a trigger to, and if you wanna take it off-camera, you wanna be sure that it has a place where you could hook up your cord and you could hook up a trigger and you could use it like a strobe. So, that's something to know when looking for one of these to buy.

Class Description

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.


a Creativelive Student

Wow! with a lot of online stuff out there one can become rather overcome with too much information, however, the way Sandra presents her courses is just perfect! Her honest and simple and easy to understand approach was just what I needed. Not once did I think she was just going through the motions, she really loves what she does and it shows. To be able to rewatch and rewatch was also a key for me. Since I have dyslexia I have to take things one half step at a. time. After completion of the class I had a new found confidence when using strobes. A must have.

Micah Hewett Images

Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!

Gabby de Janasz

Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!