Sunday, January 24, 2010

Creative Flash

The word is finally out: TTL flash is a powerful tool to improve your photography, and easier to use than ever before.
By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Creative Flash

Project The Flash

When I need a break from portraits and urban shooting, I head out into the wilds of Colorado to photograph the natural world. Since I’m a devoted birder, I always seek out interesting birds to photograph. But a common problem photographing birds is that they need fill-flash to add a catchlight to their eyes and punch up their colorful plumage. Standard flash doesn’t have the power to reach a distant meadowlark on a post. I solve this problem by using a project-a-flash. This item consists of a Fresnel lens that’s attached in front of your flash head, which projects the flash farther than it could normally go. My favorite style is the FX-series Flash X-Tenders from Kirk Enterprises. This flash extender increases the flash output by two stops and attaches with a simple Velcro® system. Anytime I anticipate photographing wildlife, I put a flash extender in my photo bag.

Use A Ring Flash

A ring flash is a specialty type of flash often used in fashion, portraits and macro photography. A ring flash circles the camera lens and produces a unique style of light, often a small shadow circling the subject if they’re close to the background. Ring flash systems are generally specialty flashes and expensive. But now there’s an option to attach a ring flash to your TTL flash.

The Ray Flash from ExpoImaging is a ring flash unit that attaches directly to a TTL flash and fits around a lens like a traditional ring flash. It requires no batteries and maintains your TTL flash functions. Better yet, the Ray Flash is light and easy to carry, unlike traditional studio ring flashes. Photographers often use the ring flash as the main single light with the subject near the background or as a fill light when using other strobes. The Ray Flash produces the same 3D quality of light that traditional studio ring flashes produce.

Gel The Light

Many times, changing the color of your flash is helpful. Sometimes you might need to color-correct your flash to match the existing room lighting. For example, if you were photographing in a room lit by fluorescent lights, you’d use a green gel to give your flash the same color temperature as the fluorescent lights. Other times, you just want to add color to create mood in your image.

Gels are heat-resistant pieces of plastic used in front of your flash. They come in a wide range of colors. Many flashes today come with precut gels and special holders. My Nikon Speedlight SB-900s come with several colors of gels and a special holder that snaps to the front of the flash. My Nikon D3 actually knows what type of gel is being used and can adjust the auto white balance accordingly.

If your flash doesn’t come with gels or a way to attach them, Honl Photo and LumiQuest offer precut gels and a simple Velcro® system. Both offer colors to correct for incandescent and fluorescent light sources, as well as some creative colors.

Putting TTL Accessories To Use

How exciting are these new TTL accessories? I was recently in Kenya photographing Masai warriors. These warriors were polite and soft-spoken, but they weren’t comfortable waiting long as I took close-ups of them. I wanted to make an interesting portrait, something striking and unique.

I quickly set up an Ezybox as my main light and put a second SB-900 on a stand behind a warrior, creating a simple cross-lighting setup. Using a Nikon SU-800 wireless transmitter, I had a friend hold my Ezybox close to the warrior, and I began shooting. From setup to capture took less than 10 minutes, and the portraits turned out great!


Kirk Enterprises
Honl Photo
Tom Bol is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer based in Colorado. You can see more of Bol’s photography by visiting his website—go to

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