I really love natural light. There is such depth and colour to it and it can communicate so many different things, from the soft romantic glow of sunset to the fun and brightness of mid-morning sun. And when I first started out as a photographer one of my aims was to shoot using only natural light. Part of what drove this though, was the lack of knowledge on how to handle flash photography. It always seemed too much, too bright, too harsh and, if I’m honest, I was scared!
The learning curve has been gradual but the main turning point in my use of flash came at my cousins wedding in Cape Town, shooting the majority of photographs at midday!!! Oh my goodness, it’s the worst possible time to shoot, especially in a South African summer where there are no clouds to act as giant diffusers. I had to adapt and use my flash to produce soft, beautiful photos. Here’s a small selection of Leigh-Ann & Bernard’s wedding photos.
Now, I’ve had a fair few people either ask me to explain how I use my flashgun or have commented on the weird attire I put on it. So here’s a brief look at what I tell them (thanks to my lovely Aunt, Sue Benedict, for being my model).
1. Flashgun facing forward
All the light is directed straight at the subject. It’s overexposed and very harsh. It bleaches out the skin, creates shadows in the background and isn’t very flattering.
2. Flashgun facing upwards
So if you don’t want all the light flooding your subject, you can tilt the flashgun so it’s pointing upwards. That way only some of the light will reach the subject. Unfortunately it isn’t enough to get rid of any shadows caused by any overhead lighting. The result is ‘panda eyes’ and
3. It’s all about bouncing…
I’ve tried a couple of different diffusers on my flashgun but have eventually settled on a very low tech option which diffuses and reflects the light. I put a piece of card on the top of the flashgun and hold it in place with an elastic band. It’s all about bouncing the light across the area of your photo which means that shadows on the face in in the background are reduced or eliminated completely. Simples!