I’ve always been a natural light portrait photographer. But for Christmas, I received the awesome gift of a new flash – the Canon 600 EX-RT. So of course, what else could I do but spend an afternoon playing around with it in the living room?
As it turns out, there is a huge difference in process between natural light and flash photography (as you would expect). In natural light photography, the photographer’s job is to “run towards daylight” as my dad would say, using the existing conditions to her best advantage. The photographer is an observer and a participant in the scene and is left, to some degree, at the mercy of the sun and the subject. In flash photography, the photographer becomes the director of the scene, conceiving of an idea and then adjusting the lighting and the subject as needed to make it a reality. As a total novice, this time around involved a LOT of trial and error. I am a slow and clumsy director, which is exactly why I chose to use myself as the first subject.
In the end, there were three light sources involved in this picture. I already owned a 430 EX speedlight, which I set up as a slave flash to the left of my face, fired through a handheld diffuser. To the right is a window, which I covered with a sheet. The backlighting behind me is another window. My goal was to use the side lights to outline the contours of my face, highlighted by the backlighting. I’m pretty happy with the result, although the left side is a little too bright. If I had more time, I probably would have played with it a bit more, making the highlights as symmetrical as possible.
I also found that it was difficult to capture a relaxed expression when I was dealing with so many moving parts. Newsflash: I will never be a model. I’d be constantly making my “let’s do this” face.