This past week I was out shooting a friend at night for a new music project he's working on. I had originally hoped to start the shoot earlier in the evening, around dusk which would have allowed for some natural lighting and some photos without flash - but since traffic and other circumstances got in the way we were forced to start later than anticipated and it was DARK.
Now, in most situations like this it would be easy as a photographer to freak out and think the shoot is going to be a total bust. But that is never the case and I always tend to find a solution.
Before David arrived I frantically searched through my gear to see if I had brought my mobile studio flash which would certainly come in handy/ideal to use in this situation. Unfortunately it seemed that I had forgotten it at home (later in the week, I found it buried in my car lol) and so I would have to quickly come up with a Plan B.
Like most photographers these days, I always have a flash diffuser with me - my preferred choice is the Gary Fong line of flash accessories. I knew from experience that as a last resort this would definitely help me achieve a broader and softer flash spectrum (as opposed to shooting without it, causing the flash to be very harsh and direct - absolutely terrible for portraits).
But - the hidden gem in my camera bag as it turns out would not be the flash diffuser, but rather my flash bracket which I also carry with me but rarely use. By combining the diffuse light from the Gary Fong and the added reach of the flash bracket, these two accessories turned out to be the perfect one-two punch for amazing portraits on the fly in the middle of the night. See figure below.
1 - Gary Fong diffuser
2 - Canon EX Flash
3 - Flash bracket
4 - ETTL cable for flash bracket
Basically, what the flash bracket+Gary Fong combo allowed me to do was shoot as if I had a studio flash with me. And especially on Manual mode, the results were really striking - I was surprised. Not 100% ideal, but the shoot went well and the client is happy - that's what matters most.
By creatively making use of the flash bracket I was able to angle or stretch my flash in different ways - thereby directing the light in a variety of directions and creating shadows behind the subject in such a way that no one would ever know the source of light was actually attached to my camera. Getting your flash away from your lens is the most important thing in this type of work, to create more flattering light and shadows. There's nothing worse than the direct flash deer-caught-in-the-headlights look.
Here's some raw out-takes from the shoot. Notice the soft lighting on the face as well as the direction of the light which could easily pass as the result of studio lighting triggered off-camera:
I would definitely recommend these accessories and if you don't already have them, go pick them up. They are relatively inexpensive in comparison to strobes/stands/power packs, easy to use and most importantly lightweigt and mobile. Ask your local Henrys or Vistek about the availability of these products.
By the way, you can check out more band portraits in the Music portfolio.
All images, videos, text copyright © Matt Vardy, all rights reserved.