Strobe Questions Answered
One of the things that we ask people in the chat rooms and I want you guys to think about as well in studio, and grab a mike, is what are people's biggest challenges with strobe photography because we're gonna be answering these challenges throughout the class. So I wanted to give you a couple of these.
Okay, let's go for it.
So, and again, what are your biggest challenges? Grab a mike. And so, let me go back to, well one person said, like the image here of the surfer getting that sun behind the subject matter. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Now in Seattle it depends on what time of year, but you don't have a lot of sun. We so far, we've actually seen the sun come and go since I've been here, but when we did our demo in the park, the sun just didn't cooperate very well. But what I always try to do is put my subject, if I'm outdoors, there's a sun source, put my subject so the sun hits right along the neck. So you see that edge a little bit. And that becomes an edge light. Ri...
ght? And we're gonna show you how to calculate that with the sunny 16 rule. This was a composite. (laughing) So it's a fake. He's shot in a studio and then I shot outdoors. But I've been doing this for so long that I know that when I shoot in the studio often I can get that look. But you put the sun usually to create an edge light and then you're gonna calculate, which were gonna do with the sunny 16 rule, how to balance that. It's really fun. It's not difficult at all.
You had a question.
Yeah, so I know that you were talking about how heavy some of the strobes can be and everything.
As far as all the gear you kind of covered stands and everything, what do you do for power though for any kind of mono light or strobe on location?
Very good. All right, so if I have my studio-type strobes I have the Paul C. Buff Einsteins, and they have a thing called the Vagabonds, or they have a couple different sizes. And it's your power supply. And so there's a lot of companies that are coming out with strobes that have even the power supply built right into the mono light. It's a really fun strobes coming out. So you gotta have a power supply. In the old days we used generators. And that was the standard. And I had a generator for years. And you gotta smell gas and you gotta transport it and all that stuff. Then they started making smaller generators, you know little Hondas were great. I've had generators that you rent. You go to a place, you pick them up, and then you fire 'em up, and they just boom, they blow your strobes, smokes come out, right out of 'em. Right there on the spot. Generator wasn't designed with a surge type set up, voltage or whatever. And I lost my strobes right on a location. It was nasty times. Now we have great solutions. So battery packs. Yes, that's what I'm saying, there's more solutions today than ever before. So depending on what brand you use or what brand you're looking at, pretty much all of them now have battery packs. But now there's a limit to how many strobe, times it'll go off. So you have extra batteries, things like that, that you have to consider. Here's what I would say. When it comes to doing a commercial shoot with an advertising agency with clients and ad agency people, you gotta crew and everything, you gotta have everything covered. Meaning that you have extra strobes, extra batteries, extra everything because it will go wrong in the field and you have to be able to cover it. So I have, even with my Vagabonds, I have an Optima battery that's liquid something, whatever you call it, and I have an inverter that was actually made by Paul C. Buff, It's their original one, that is bungied to the side of it. And I can go and tap into that and I can go 3000 flashes, full power. That's like all day. And it's in a little case I bought at Home Depot that's like a tool case. And I just slid right in it, I just have a handle, just pick it up and... You know, it's a little heavy but I just go and throw it in the back of the car, and it's my backup. Now I usually use, like I say when I have a commercial shoot I'll use my regular Vagabonds. But I have that battery pack just in case I go, the art director keeps saying, we want more shoots, more, more let's try more, and personally I'm like my battery's are going. So I have that covered. But that's just a little backup thing there, but, and I did this for years. I would ship without the battery, go to O'Reilly's or whatever, Auto Zone, buy a battery for the shoot, the weekend, and then give it to the assistant or somebody at the end. Donate the battery to somebody. But I would buy the battery for the weekend. So it was $100, maybe $80 for a battery and I'd have it for the weekend. So you gotta think about those things. Yeah there are some solutions out there, but I've pretty much done it all from the generators all the way down to what we have today.
I'm pretty interested in your creativity because it's really phenomenal. Here I understand we have the surfer and you can just photograph him on a beach, it's kinda plain, so you have this nice architectural structure. I see those two going together. Earlier we were talking about the athlete in the alley who was doing the jumping. So how do you envision these? Do you envision these before you take the photos? Do you try multiple backgrounds to see what fits best? Can you kind of explain your thought process as you create?
Well because I'm so smart... (laughing) And I have my act together I have everything planned out ahead of time. Wouldn't that be great if that was the way life was? What I typically do is when I photograph my surfer I know I'm gonna drop him in some kind of background, if I do composite. What I've done is, hopefully, every chance I get I'm shooting backgrounds. I've done this for years now. I have my own stock agency for my backgrounds. I don't buy backgrounds. And so I've got a number of scenarios that hopefully will work with this guy. Then what I do is I bring those out and I'll drop him in and I'll look at it and go, Hmm, it's not working. Ope, yeah that works. Then I'll do my treatment on it. But I wish I was smart enough to have it all worked out ahead of time. Now I do know when I talk to photographers that literally try to script it all, and their heads explode. And they call me, "Oh I can't figure this out." and I'm like, why are you trying to figure it out now, just go shoot. Just get a subject. So I have a thing. Give me a subject, put it in front of my camera, and let the magic happen. Then literally I just wing it. Most of the time I'm winging it, yeah. I'll have some things put together, but I'm a wing it type of person. And I would rather have it, I'd rather stumble on it than have it too planned out. That's me, that's my personality. So your personality may be a little different. But I would say don't get caught up in trying to plan it out too far because you're head'll explode.
I have a technical question since we're in technical mode.
Do you mix strobe with speed lights and studio strobes?
Like on outdoor shoot I've got one studio strobe, I've got speed lights.
Yes, yes, okay so you have a speed light, which is, you know, light is light. Daylight balanced. You have a big studio strobe, yes. Now what you gotta do is you gotta make sure they all go off the same time. So you gotta figure out a solution for that. And so you have triggers, you know the radio triggers, the new Canon strobe, the new latest ones a 600, that are radio, or they're wireless, radio transmitters. They will talk to each other. But if I go to mix my studio strobes with those I gotta have a solution that will trigger both. So someone tipped me off to a little website, I can't remember the name of it now, but it's just a company that builds a little optical slave that goes right into my 600, I just screw it right in and now I can go put it on a little stand way back there and have a little accent light, and my big studio strobe goes and triggers it optically. Now if I don't want that I can also put a PocketWizard or something on that to trigger it wirelessly, too. It's not gonna be ETTL or have all these functions that the Canon transmitter has, the little commander, but there's a solution there. So you just gotta figure it out, and what I do is typically you can go online and type in I've got a problem and figure it out on the internet. It'll usually tell you, someone says I solved that problem for you. And here's a little trigger that this little company makes that goes into that for your 600 Canons or whatever. But you gotta make sure they talk to each other. So that's it, once they talk to each other light is light. That's a good question. Yes.
That was a great question, and there were a couple of people in online who are fairly new to photography. And so if you could explain that was about combining strobes and speed lights, but just a little bit more on the difference between the two.
Well okay, so we talked about the capacitor driven, which is a bigger studio type stuff, strobes, and the speed lights. So we're gonna get into more of that in a minute or later, but let's go back to this. If you're gonna freeze action, and you're in a studio environment, so you see a lot of my athletes are jumping in the air, I have to have a flash duration that is at least 1/5000 to 1/6000 of a second to freeze someone going really fast. So here's how you do it. You take your strobe, set it up in a studio and just have someone swing their arm and you go and click and catch it. Then you go on your monitor and blow it up and look at their hand. If there's a ghost that flash duration's not fast enough to freeze someone, like the hair flying or whatever. So speed lights, as you generally go down in power your duration goes up. So a speed light at full power is probably gonna be about 1/500 of a second, maybe 1/1000 of a second, somewhere around there. And at its lower setting it'll go up to 1/10,000 of a second. And so what I normally do in a studio is I take, with the Einsteins, I take and run the power down. And on the back of my Einstein it tells you your T time. So I just go, doo doo doo doo, and it tells says 1/6000 of a second. And then I put my soft boxes and everything on it and I get everything ready. And then I got, oh, I don't, there's not a lot of power, right? It's at quarter power. So then I go, I raise my ISO to 400 ISO and I go from f7.1ish is normally what I shoot in a studio, I go to 5.6. So I'm at f5.6 at ISO 400, that's what I shoot all my jumping athletes at. And I have a 1/6000 second flash duration. So that's pretty easy on the Einsteins, but on the other strobes a lot of times the manufacturers don't tell you the flash durations. They don't give you that information. So you gotta swing the arm to make sure you get a duration output that's gonna freeze someone jumping. So if you're doing a bunch of dancers jumping in the air you gotta have a flash duration. Your shutter speed is gonna be set at probably your sync speed, 1 to 1/200 of a second. That's not, at this point it's not freezing action. We're gonna talk more about that later. You gotta have your flash duration at a higher, 1/6000 of a second to freeze someone. So some studio strobes will not get higher than 1/2000 of a second flash duration. So when I started doing my research I'd look up a certain strobe, no information. I'd call them up. "Hey, I got this question, blah blah blah blah, "what's your flash duration at full power, "half power, whatever?" "Hmm, we don't know that." So that's why we say, when you go to buy a strobe, studio type strobe, see if you can get that information. So that way you know, I wanna freeze the action, you gotta make sure that strobe will give you the ability to do that. And not every strobe will do that. So every speed light typically will give you fast duration, just not a lot of power. So we'll talk more about the high speed syncing coming up. But that's a good question. So there's a lot of confusion there. But, yeah. All right, anyone else.
All right so this question had come in from Gabra Cameron who said, would you use a bare bulb flash, and he says like the Godox Witstro 8360? They are a cross between strobes and speed lights and have portability.
Yes, all right. It's a good question. So basically what he's saying is there are some options on the market that are kinda like a speed light but they actually have a flash tube kind of thing that sits on the front, okay? And so what that is is that's just a flash tube now that's in essence sticking out of the front of your the unit, okay? There are some advantages to that actually, which means when you put it in an umbrella it spreads really wide, okay? But in terms of output, it's still, I don't know how much power that puts out, right? Usually you gotta put a modifier on it or in it, put it in a modifier. So, you might get a little bit of advantage in terms of spreading light, and that unit might be a little more powerful than say a standard speed light, meaning that they beef it up a little bit, but just having a flash tube sitting on the end of your unit doesn't necessarily give you better light, unless you put it in a modifier. So it's all about what you put it in is really what's gonna soften or harshen your light. We're gonna talk about that a lot coming up next.