Each summer, the Raleigh Flickr Group has a summer project. This summer, the project was to submit one matted photo that would be judged in an un-themed gallery exhibition. The idea that I had planned wasn’t going to happen during the allowed window to shoot in.
I was in kind of a film noir mood and found a model who was wanting to shoot so we spent the afternoon shooting. Now the nice thing about film noir is you can get away with one light for the most part and being that I only have one light, it was a good theme to choose.
About the same time, the Triangle Strobist Group (also on flickr) was posing a challenge idea for getting 4 moods using just one light. So I was going to be able to address two items at once!
You can do a lot with just one light.
The first thing you have to do is get your one light off camera. On camera lighting is pretty unflattering and limited in what you can do, though a popular technique for on camera lighting is using a “Ring Flash”.
There are several ways to get your flash off the camera. The easiest, if your a Nikon or Canon dSLR shooter (and I think Sony can also do this) is to use their built in wireless system. This system works by using the camera’s popup flash to “command” an off camera strobe.
In my case, I could use the popup flash on my Nikon D200 to control my SB800 speed light without wires.
If you can’t use this method (no popup, camera doesn’t support wireless modes, etc.) you have other options. You can invest in inexpensive optical triggers that use the on camera flash to fire an off camera flash. Or you can invest is radio triggers. These run from the expensive Pocket Wizards to the uber-cheap Cactus triggers (found on eBay). Since my popup on my D200 is busted, I picked up the Cactus triggers which work well for me.
Once you get your light off camera, then you need to be able to modify it. The simplest modifier is to make the light bigger creating softer shadows. This can be done with an umbrella or a softbox. A popular technique used by many of us is to use a white transluscent “shoot thru” umbrella. This acts like a circular softbox. A light weight light stand, with a swivel (used to hold your flash and the umbrella to the stand) and a shoot through umbrella can be gotten fairly cheaply.
This setup gives you flexibility on where you place the light. You control the height, distance and angle of the light. Shot closely to the model you have a large area light with soft shadows. You can pull the light back and have it start producing harder shadows and only lighting part of the scene.
To be continued…..