Small Flashes on Location. Again.

     Dr. White on location at his office in Austin.

I've been doing a series of ads for a large oral surgery practice here in Austin.  We are introducing the partners/doctors to the community in a casual ads that showcase the doctors engaged in their hobbies.  We photographed a rancher/doctor feeding a baby dear with a bottle in a pasture.  We photographed one person with his Ducati Monster motorcycle out on the golf course and we photographed one subject with his horse.  All the shots were fun and showed a side of the guys that people rarely see.  It served to make them more than two dimensional.

But then I came along a doctor who had sacrificed his free time to be the president of his professional association.  He was adamant that for the past two years any time he didn't spend practicing medicine he spent working for its improvement.  He felt most at home right in his office.  So that's where we did his photograph.

I am standing out in the hallway and Dr. White is sitting just inside the door.  I'm using a Canon 580 EX2 flash in a Speedlight Prokit beauty dish about two feet above camera, tilted down at him, for my main light.  Behind him and over to the left of the frame I'm using a second flash, a Vivitar 383 df, bouncing off the ceiling in the middle of the room.  I used a third flash, also a Vivitar 383 df from the back right of the room, with a home made grid attachment to provide just a little bit of accent light to the left side of his face to give a bit of separation with the back wall.

All of the lights were used in manual mode with the main light at 1/4 power, the room fill at 1/2 power and the accent at 1/8th power.  I used a Canon 7D body with a 15-85mm zoom lens set at f5.6.  The ISO setting was 200 and the shutter speed was 1/50th of a second.  The camera was on a Gitzo tripod.  I was looking for a realistic but flattering lighting design that didn't call too much attention to itself.

The shot was done in raw and processed in Lightroom 3.

From a technical point of view there is a big shift in how I pack to light things.  In the past I would have taken monolights or a strobe pack and heads but now it just feels natural to take small lights for indoor shots.  Nine times out of ten the big lights would require me to really throttle down their power in order to match them up with room light levels.  Then there's the hassle of running extension cords all over and the need to bring bigger stands and accessories.  When I go to shoot interiors now I'm generally feeling well equipped if I take one Canon flash, like the 580 EX 2, and three cheap manually controllable flashes for fill and accents.  All of this and the Speedlight Prokit beauty dish and a few other modifiers fit comfortable into a Think Tank wheeled case along with the camera and a few lenses.

I triggered the main light with a long Canon off camera TTL cord (the flash was used on "manual") and then let the two Vivitar 383's provide their own slave function with their built in optical slaves.

Obversely, when I go out to shoot on locations that are exterior I find that I generally leave the small flashes at home and use the more powerful Elinchrom Ranger RX pack system (1200 watt seconds) or the Profoto 600B pack system (600 watt seconds).  These lights provide me the punch I generally need to blow light through a softbox and still match sunlight.  I take the Profoto if I want to move fast and the the Elinchrom when I need a lot of pops.  (I also have an extra battery for the Elinchrom....).

Outside I use a radio trigger (Flash Waves 2) or an old fashion PC cable to trigger the flash.

I used the 7D on this assignment because I like the versatility of the 15-85mm lens and I like the fact that it's really very sharp wide open.  Couple that with better autofocus than the 5D2 and you've got a camera and lens package that's easy to shoot.  I was originally seduced by the full frame of the 5D camera but in practice I've come to appreciate the advantages of the cropped frame cameras and often choose the APS-C system of the 7D, backed up with a 60D for a lot of my work.

Doesn't matter what you're shooting with as long as you're having fun and making money.

Announcement:  I'm pleased to say that my first book: Minimalist Lighting.  Professional Techniques for Location Lighting,  is back in stock at Amazon after being sold out for several weeks.  Sigh of relief.


John Krumm said...

That's a nice looking shot, great looking large. Do you spend much time taking test shots and adjusting the slaves or is it all pretty fast now?

kirk tuck said...

Hi John, About fifteen minutes to set up with a meter in one hand. I put the camera on self timer and use myself as a stand in. Maybe three or four tries to get it just right. When the subject steps in I take one or two more test shots, maybe tweak a light and then shoot. We were done five minutes after he walked in. Then we sat and chatted as I was also interviewing him for the ad. Good question.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughtful tutorial.

mike wilson said...

The background looks really yellow. I'm assuming that the small flashes weren't gelled and there were florescents lighting the scene. Is that the case and if so I'm curious why you made that decision.

Thanks as always for sharing, Kirk!

kirk tuck said...

MIke, We turned the florescent lights off. The walls were really yellow. You can see the little pamphlets on the back window sill have areas of white which are pretty neutral. As is the beige on both the metal parts of the exam chair and the medical instrument on the stand. I knew the room would go read as uncorrected yellow but It gave a nice color contrast the doctor's skin tone. Thanks.

Crina said...

that's a cool image - being a dentist myself I can relate to it better:)
your blog is very interesting Kirk! Keep it going...