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Using colortubes to spice up your shot

It’s no secret that I love to take my images a few steps further than just a portrait, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with standard portraits, but for me the real challenge is more into creating something more surreal, and one of the things I love to do is combine coloured gels with a bit of smoke and maybe throw in some lens flares here and there.

During a recent live stream we decided to use the led tubes as my main light source and play with the different options, and today I’ll show you some of the results.

Our model during the live stream was Lois.
I’m using two small Nanlite led tubes and one large Nanlite led tube.
The nice thing about these tubes is that they not only are able to show almost every color imaginable but also output more than enough light to actually use them in professional photography. I absolutely love those tubes.

But enough talk, let’s take a look at the setup I was using.
I do have to add that the glow is achieved by using the amazing Black Mist filter from K&F concept, I can’t tell you guys enough how much I love using that filter, in fact you can now even buy it from our webshop at frankdoorhof.com/shop

Here you can clearly see the two lights on the side and the large tube Lois is holding. With this setup I just started to experiment during the live stream and came up with the following results.

But you don’t have to use all the lights at once of course.
So whenever you do a photoshoot, always try to experiment with different ways of lighting your model, move around your model and of course turn off certain light sources, you will be surprised how many different options you get from your lighting setups if you just dare to move around and move your lights a bit more than you normally do.

Now loads of images will fail, but always remember, there are no fails/mistakes, you only fail when you stop. So all the things that not work (and will drive you nuts) are just steps towards understanding and learning to visualise your setups.

For the next images I played mostly with the larger led tube and asked Lois to keep it really close to her face. When you are shooting on aperture priority mode or any other auto setting, you will have to adjust your exposure compensation because otherwise the face will blow out due to the fact that the metering of your camera will be thrown off by the large dynamic range in shots like this. It can help if you use spot metering in your camera as meting mode, but even than… I strongly advise to shoot things like this on full manual mode and use the EVF or Live View of your camera to check lighting. Plus of course when you shoot tethered (which I also highly advise as you all know) you can check the final results on a large screen and already do some tweaking in your RAW convertor (Lightroom, C1, Luminar etc.)

Playing with led tubes is very challenging but a boat load of fun, but do beware… it’s incredibly addictive, but also a great way to learn and understand your lighting.

You can see the whole live stream for free on our YouTube channel (we would love a subscribe).
Digital classroom mixing strobes and leds

Tip: Get that sun

One of the things I always love to do is shoot the sun in the frame.

Sometimes just somewhere in the frame. But often I get more satisfaction by placing it for example just behind the model and letting it just shine through creating some cool effects.

Of course you can do the same with strobes.

Feel free to share your favorite sun in the frame images.

Everything can be a light source Part I

One of the most asked questions must be “what’s your favorite light”
One of the most heard excuses is always “I don’t have the gear to do this”

 

In reality the answer on both questions can’t be given 123.
Let me start with number 1.
My favorite light source is something I always have problems with explaining, somehow my mind never thinks about light sources, but in the total image, and I choose the light source that give me the look that I need…OR I use what I have with me. So saying I love light source XXX or YYY doesn’t really make sense because it could very well be that that light source doesn’t give me the end result I have in my mind. I strongly believe that is also one of the problems a lot of “starting” photographers struggle with, and also a part of my workshops where I always tell people to NOT think about lighting as a source but as a means to get the look you want for a certain shot.

 

Now let’s look at number 2.
Nobody will have all the gear in the world, so there’s always something you don’t own or can’t use, so if you REALLY want, there’s always an excuse to NOT be able to do something. However when (see number 1) if you don’t look at gear but only at a final result and work towards that you will very quickly find out that often the most simple light sources (and other gear) are more than enough to shoot your end result. You just have to flip that switch that tells you you need expensive gear.

 

So don’t I care about what I use?
Well yes of course, I love my Sony cameras or iPhone, but not because I can’t get my results with other gear, I can shoot the same images with Canon, Nikon, Medium Format, iPhone etc. It’s just that the quality of the end result will be different, and because I also love quality (and love gear) I’m actually always looking for that little bit of extra quality, which is why I ended up with Sony and still shoot Medium Format.

 

Lighting wise it’s the same story, during workshops I often have to shoot with different brands due to sponsors or organizers of an event, and I think I’m probably one of the easiest instructors out there because I don’t really care if I have to shoot another brand as long as they can do the things I need, and if they don’t I’ll just adjust my program to work with the limits (or extra possibilities) I have. Personally I absolutely love my Elinchrom gear, the modifiers are in my opinion the best out there for the look that I like, and the quality of the strobes is awesome, I’m always very careful with gear but they are in some harsh situations sometimes, especially during workshops where groups of 10-12 people have to shoot in warm or cold weather, and the Elinchroms actually never let me down, so indeed there is a preference.

 

A while ago I started a workshop called “Alternative light sources” in which I actually teach the points I made above.
By making the attendees understand that a photograph is in essence a story or a frozen moment in time and not a mix of gear you will quickly see that their mindsets also change and they start to take risks they normally never do. One of the things for example is shooting higher ISOs, many photographers are often afraid to shoot on that higher ISO mode because there is noise. And indeed there is noise in the shot, but you have to realize that this is something you often see on the screen but not in prints (not even larger prints). Looking at a picture on a monitor 1:1 is in essence something like looking at a HUGE print from a few inches, and let’s be honest… that’s not something you do, you move back. This is actually why I always tell people to just print an image you think has too much noise and I think you will be surprised how good the print looks.

 

As soon as you realize this you will often find out that there are a lot more light sources you can use instead of strobes. You can for example shoot amazing shots with just some Christmas lights and for example a smart phone. And this is exactly what we did as the first setup during the workshop.

 

Nadine is lit by two smartphones and the lights she used in her dress.
Of course it’s a higher ISO shot, but as mentioned before…. when you print it absolutely looks great 😀 (depending on your camera of course, some cameras are indeed very bad above ISO3200, but most will do just fine “enough” up to ISO6400.

nadine-november-5-r-2016-0001

Mixing ambient/available with strobes

A situation most photographers encounter many times is mixing ambient/available light with strobes.
There is however a pretty simple rule you can always use to remember how to influence the look of a scene.

Shutter speed controls the available light
Aperture is the flash
ISO stays the same

If you change the ISO you have to change the aperture (because this is fixed pulse from the strobe).
By changing the shutter speed you can let in more or less ambient/available light.
This way you can make a background outside darker (faster shutter speed) or lighter (slower shutter speed) while the exposure on your model (the flash) stays the same. Do remember this is of course with manual flash with ETTL this works slightly differently.

Also remember that there is a point where the ambient/available light can actually over power the strobe, especially outside when working with fill-in flash this can happen quite easily, that’s why I always advise to setup your strobes on full power first and lower the output by counting (if your system has 1/10th or 1/3rd digital settings and is reliable). If you change the shutter speed you have to remember that if you double or halve the shutter speed this is ONE full f-stop so if you know your aperture and the combination of ambient and flash you actually can very quickly calculate when the ambient is higher that the flash. If for example the setup is f11 on the model on 1/125 and you overpower the ambient with 2 stops, you know that when you shoot on f11 1/60 you are now overpowering the ambient with just 1 stop.

This comes in very handy when you start adding constant lighting to your scene like in these examples.
You can actually (to a certain level) control how much the lightbulbs emit, or how far they blow out.
I love using the Elinchrom ELCs for this because they can go down REALLY low in power, and that’s awesome for mixing them with this kind of light.

For this setup we used one strobe on the model and one blue gelled strobe on the back for the smoke effect. The chandelier was powered by 230V 😀

Mixing light sources can be incredibly fun but also a bit difficult at first. Also take into account that some light sources have a different color temperature (to be exact EVERY light source has a different color temperature, that’s why we use the X-Rite color checkers), you can solve this by gelling the strobes, or…. just leave it and play with it like I did in these shots, I love the cool hues you can get this way.

As a rule of thumb:
Outside light : no correction
Tungsten : Amber colored gels
Fluorescent : Green colored gels

Or find the proper CTO gels, you can of course also stack gels, I always advise to by them not to heavy and get two, this way you can stack them together if necessary.

Model : Danique
Dresses (black) by Sinister

Danique June 17 2016 2441

Danique June 17 2016 3408