What can you do with one Speedlite, a clothes steamer, a flag, and a large reflector? Well, you can create the portrait above…if you’re lucky enough to have Zack Arias standing nearby. Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to be in Manhattan at the same time that Zack was teaching his OneLight workshop. If you don’t know Zack, you should. So check out Zarias.com. If you’ve not been to a OneLight workshop or watched his OneLight DVD, add these to your must-do list.
Zack’s OneLight message has heavily influenced my photography. Here are a few of his insights that resonate with me.
• Don’t believe that buying more gear will make you a better photographer. Shooting will make you a better photographer.
• Don’t buy more gear until you master the gear that you already have. Also, if you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.
• One light—in the right place and with the right modification—can create all the light you need.
About The Shoot
Always remember that the range of bright and dark tones that can be recorded by our cameras is much narrower than the range of light we can see. I knew that by lighting Zack with a Speedlite on one side that I would create a dark shadow on the other side of his face. The easy fix, I decided, would be to position the Speedlite so that a good bit of the light would fly right past Zack’s nose and into a reflector so that it could bounce into the shadows. Essentially I wanted one flash to light both sides of Zack’s face. So, as you can see above, I literally hung the 42″ gold/silver reflector on the hinge of the door. Then, to keep it at just the right angle, I conscripted the studio’s clothes steamer into the role of disk holder.
I typically think in terms of lighting the background separately from my subject. So, another key to making this photograph was to keep the Speedlite from lighting the steel door directly. I strapped a Rogue FlashBender to the side of my Speedlite as a flag. At 9″ x 11″, the large FlashBender is my first choice when I need to keep a Speedlite from spraying light everywhere.
The last bit of mod that I used was a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce. This little plastic dome helped spread the light up (where is just flew away) and down (where is created the great vignette down Zack’s jacket). Had I shot the Speedlite without the Sto-Fen, the light would have had a harder edge and the vignette would not have been so subtle.
Portions of this article excerpted from my to-be-published Speedliter’s Handbook, coming December, 2010.
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