flash tips

off-camera flash. some recent learnings from Justin and Mary's "lighting intensive" workshop. by Cheryl Lukasewich

Ok. So I recently attended two different workshops put together by photographer couple Justin and Mary Morantz from Justin and Mary. The first day's workshop was called "Lighting Intensive" and revolved around understanding and using natural light and a one-light setup to shape light, making it work for you to create a more dynamic image. My mind and heart have been churning and bursting at the seams as I've tried to digest this yummy new information and figure out how to implement what I've learned in new and practical ways when I shoot. I know it will definitely be a journey to make this stuff come "naturally" but I LOVE the journey! How exciting to know that I can continually learn and grow! The following images show a typical tablescape setup complete with a floral centrepiece, tableware and a wedding favor. I've heard a lot of different ways of how to capture details - my go-to has almost always been using either only ambient light (no flash) or using my on-camera flash pointed straight up to bounce directly off the ceiling. I have no qualms with these methods as, obviously, they've worked (well, worked enough) for me in the past but I'm utterly convinced that what I've learned takes things up a notch.   Working with off-camera flash can be really daunting which is why I've semi-avoided it.  I do use OCF and actually study new information when I find it but it often feels like trial and error rather than practicing a science, you know? What I learned here is SO SIMPLE, it's bananas.

Ok, first let's look at a recent image I took "pre-workshop." The reception venue was quite dark (as most receptions are) and so I lit up this display of capcakes by bouncing my on-camera flash straight up. If you look at the shadows around each of the cupcakes you can see that they aren't super directional - You can tell the light was obviously coming from almost directly above.  (excuse the fact that my blog compresses single portrait-orientation images oddly and makes them look kinda yucky).


Now, check out the tablescape images from my workshop. The lighting was, again, quite dark but instead of using my flash on-camera, bounced straight up I used my flash off-camera in a medium-sized softbox. I had an assistant hold the flash directly to the left of the table, angled straight across the table (not angled down towards the table at all). In effect, the flash was 90 degrees from where I was standing. Because the flash is placed inside a softbox the light source becomes 1) larger, 2) less intense and 3) more dimensional. Try to picture where the light is when you look at these.

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Can you see the difference? It's actually incredibly significant! It's such a simple change but the results make everything more luxurious! I'm in love!

I also tried using this OCF setup (with a softbox) with one of the models in our class. In this triptych I started with my assistant holding the softbox to the right of the model, about 90 degrees from where I was standing. Again, the softbox is directed straight across as opposed to angled down at all. In the centre image I got the assistant to move slightly to her left (the assistant's left; not the models) so she was more around 85 degrees from me. The image on the right I moved my assistant a bit more to about 80 degrees from me. Can you see the subtle differences?


I'm in LOVE with this new simple way to "up my game" and can't wait to try it out at my next wedding in December!


Interested in off-camera flash? All you need is one flash and a set of wireless remote triggers (there are also triggers that don't have to be wireless but if you're buying them anyways, I'd recommend wireless). One of the triggers attaches to your flash (off-camera) and the other attaches to the hot shoe on your DSLR). If you shoot Canon, you can also invest in 2 of the 600 EX-RT speedlites (which I have) that have the wireless trigger system built right in!! I'm in LOVE with my 600's and would highly recommend this option but prior to this I used a Canon 580 speedlite (no longer in production, I think) and pocket wizards :)  You can find a medium-sized softbox like this one online or at various photography stores around your city.

tips for photographers. shooting in a dark ceremony location. edmonton wedding photography tips. by Cheryl Lukasewich

I recently asked on my Aeris facebook page if anyone had any questions about my work or photography in general and was asked this question: "What kind of settings did you use in the church when you were shooting without a flash? Your indoor photos are so bright!"

First off, I have to admit that I'm pleased that this person didn't notice that I was indeed using a flash! It's nice to feel like my shooting isn't as big of a distraction to guests as it sometimes feels :)

Why didn't he notice my flash (as much)? Because I point it straight up :) Although the photo below (please excuse the awful quality of the stock image :/) shows it slightly angled forward, I tend to shoot with my flash point directly up or pointed slightly back so that the light bounces off (in most cases) the ceiling. The results of bouncing your light as opposed to shooting with your flash pointed directly at your subjects are numerous but a main example would be to avoid harsh shadows and the "deer in a headlight" look. There ARE ways to shoot with your flash facing straight at your subject; it does very much change the look of an image and can add dynamic effects if done correctly however I simply don't shoot that way. Maybe I will someday but the style you see reflected throughout my portfolio doesn't include "fill flash" (aka a forward facing flash).


At times when I'm using my flash I also may pull up my white card (a built-in card on certain flashes) that reflects a small amount of light forward even if I'm bouncing my flash off a ceiling. Below are images of both a flash with a built-in white card as well as a "make your own" version if your flash doesn't have one :)


Although I used my flash throughout this ceremony it often still needs a little "umph" in post-processing. Churches/ceremony locations often cast odd colors onto an image due to things like a "yellow-y" wood paneled ceiling/walls, paint colors, pew fabric colors, stained glass, etc. - all of which end up changing the overall tone of an image (If I shot in a room with red walls and a yellow ceiling things may come off looking a little yellow/red, yes?). So, in post, I can correct those tones/change my white balance to better reflect the actual colors that were present rather that objects/people with odd color casts on them. You can also adjust your white balance in-camera prior to shooting in a specific location but again, I usually tweak it in post.

Here are two examples of images I shot at a recent wedding. The images on the left are SOOC (straight out of camera) and were taken with my flash bounced off the ceiling (see specific settings under each image). The images on the right are after I tweaked them in post. 2013-05-26_0002.jpg ISO 1250, f2.2, 1/160 2013-05-26_0001.jpg ISO 1250, f2.2, 1/160

Do you have any questions? Contact me and perhaps I'll do a post on it! Please note that I don't by any means consider myself an expert on photography. I know what I've learned so far and, as I plan to never stop learning, I hope I'd have an even better answer in 2 years, then 5 years, etc. :)