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09-17-2018, 06:30 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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Lighting Control for Flowers

Flash is so often seen as a part of portrait photography, that it is easy to forget how valuable flash techniques can be outdoors in the garden, in particular for improving the look of flower photos. This is especially the case when the sun is shining and creating harsh light with high contrast. Here, the ability of flash to allow us greater control over contrast, ambient lighting exposure, and the direction and quality of our light, is invaluable!


As many of you will know already, I am a strong exponent of off-camera P-TTL, and in particular the practical benefits of Radio P-TTL & HSS use in situations that it is suited to. It is certainly well suited to the practical demands of outdoor garden photography, where a session can consist of multiple subjects with different flash placements and changing natural light as the suns direction and intensity varies.


It helped me in a very practical way in my recent shoot at a local gardens, as I was assured that the flash exposure was taken care of, and I could concentrate on other important aspects, such as positioning and framing, ambient exposure settings, and focussing. I used a single flash in a softbox, and as the flowers were close to the ground I just rested the box and flash on the ground, supported by my backpack ......here's an example of one setup .....








I simply aimed to have the flash light coming from an angle to one side, and where possible I balanced the flash and ambient lighting to create a mixture. I used a 1/4 CTO get on the flash head to allow a cooler daylight WB for the backgrounds with the flowers retaining a natural warmth.


This is the flash forum, so there has to be some techie talk! So here are the technical settings :


Camera : Pentax K7 - Lenses : D FA28-105mm (the roses) / Tamron AF70-300 Di LD (all the others) - Flash : Cactus RF60x "XTTL" firmware) - Softbox : 24x24 inch (folding type, double diffusion) - Transmitter : Cactus V6II ("XTTL" firmware)


Camera M mode : ambient exposure set to around 1 to 1.5 stops below metered level. I varied the ISO if needed in order to maintain a short exposure time for handholding at the fairly long focal lengths in use (105mm - 300mm)


Flash P-TTL Mode : "TTL" set on transmitter, with -0.5 to 0.0 compensation for most shots. The HSS ones needed +1.0 stop once the TV got past 1/500th (fairly normal behaviour I've found for P-TTL/HSS generally)


Exposure Settings : ISO 100-400 - Apertures F5.6-13 - Exposure 1/180th-1/750th


Enough of the techie stuff ..... how about some flowers! Here's a few of the results from this recent session :


1.









2.





This next one is an example where the instant switching into HSS mode came as a great help, allowing me to quickly flick to a shutter speed of 1/750th to reduce the sudden burst of harsh sunlight glaring onto the flowers, and letting me capture the details and tones even in that sort of difficult light .....

3.


09-17-2018, 06:39 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Very nice examples. Off camera (wired or unwired) can really help with flower shots. I am the ‘official’ photographer of an orchid society where the winners have to ‘shine’. This can be more delicate than portrait photography! Orchid folk take his stuff seriously 😳 Even in a greenhouse setting I talke a minimum of three Pentax flashes.
09-17-2018, 06:40 PM - 3 Likes   #3
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4.
Here, the natural light dipped down as the sun went behind clouds, and these buds were in shade too .... so my ambient exposure disappeared to nothing! I was up against the buffers with my ISO and shutter speed, so had to accept the black background .....







5.






6.
This one best shows a mixing of ambient and flash light ...... the flower was facing the sun, creating a backlit effect to me (you can see the whiteness around the centre as the sunlight pieces through the petals) .... I then balanced this natural backlight with my flash lighting onto the flowers back ....













7.






8.




Thanks for your comments and views ..... I hope this might encourage more use of flash, and particularly some Radio P-TTL and HSS use out in our gardens!


Nigel

---------- Post added 18-09-18 at 01:43 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Pentax Syntax Quote
Very nice examples. Off camera (wired or unwired) can really help with flower shots.

Thanks, those orchid shots sound complex!

Last edited by mcgregni; 09-17-2018 at 06:46 PM.
09-17-2018, 07:21 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Great technique. I like that softbox, I don't have anything that large.

I personally like the black background. I recently have done a few flowers with flash. Some were done with a stand mounted cactus RF60x driven my a V6 on my K-3 - some were done with direct on camera pop-up flash. No diffusers and no soft boxes.









09-17-2018, 07:40 PM   #5
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Yes, a black background can work.....I prefer it more for portraits than a glaring, distracting white one. Perhaps the ideal for flowers is the dreamy creamy smooth bokeh like my Nos 6 and 8 here. Unfortunately, in gardens you often can't get that sort of space behind the flower, so it's a case of trying to reduce the distracting effects of leaves and soil that are visible behind.

Big and close equals SOFT! That's the mantra for flash positioning and diffusion. You have done well to keep the contrast down over the flowers, even with bare flash there..... But I do recommend something like that 24x24 inch softbox. A good size means you don't have to squeeze the box too close to retain a big size relative to the flower, as often there are branches and leaves in the way.
09-17-2018, 08:09 PM   #6
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Nice flower shots.


One of my most used tools in flower flash photography is the grid. I use the Expoimaging Rogue grid but there are others out there as well. You can really isolate flowers or other small objects with a grid, preventing any sort of background whatsoever.
09-17-2018, 08:12 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by automorphism Quote
Nice flower shots.


One of my most used tools in flower flash photography is the grid. I use the Expoimaging Rogue grid but there are others out there as well. You can really isolate flowers or other small objects with a grid, preventing any sort of background whatsoever.
Can you show us an example and maybe the setup?
09-17-2018, 08:14 PM   #8
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Thanks, I'll take a look at that sort of grid, it's not something I've got yet.

09-17-2018, 08:44 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Can you show us an example and maybe the setup?
Here is an example:



This is a quick shot to show the idea that I took a couple years ago. Sorry, my cactus at the time was dirty.

I don't have a picture of the setup at the moment, but basically it is a off-camera flash with the Rogue grid at the narrowest setting (all grids in place). The flower is on a desk, and the flash is aimed directly at it like this:


Excuse the bad drawing. The farther away the wall is, the better because then it will appear all black. Note in this shot it wasn't all dark gray like this because it was too close so I darkened it in post. If it is nearly black but not quite and you want it blacker you can just move the black point.

Also even with the grid you might want to block off the flash in certain ways to make the beam even more narrow. If the flower is somewhat small, then the light should still look pretty soft since the beam is quite large in relation to the flower.
09-17-2018, 09:18 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by automorphism Quote
Sorry, my cactus at the time was dirty.

Do you mean your flash or the plant ?!?


Its interesting to see the effects produced by the different types of diffusion and light placement. I prefer the off camera look, particularly an angled sideways placement .... I see this effect (apart from in my own shots) also in UncleVanya's first photo. The others have a flatter and starker appearance. The last one by automorphism has the directional look but it appears to be from a small light source. I see that the grid has contained the light effectively onto the flower itself.


I prefer the look of the modelling produced from the off camera, directional light, plus the softness that comes from the box plus its size in relation to the small flowers.


We also have to consider the effect of mixing ambient exposure into it as well ..... again I feel this is a plus as it adds to the complexity of light playing over the flower, and aids the modelling and 3 dimensionality.
09-18-2018, 01:23 AM   #11
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Very very helpful thread. Thank you Mcgregni for sharing this.
09-18-2018, 05:20 AM   #12
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Thanks, I'm hoping to encourage more of us to try and use flash outside in gardens!
09-18-2018, 11:51 AM   #13
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And curmudgeon that I am, here's a Manual Flash version, illustrated and explained in some blog posts I wrote years ago. Used a Rogue Grid in one and a Snoot in the other. I have big modifiers with diffusers and grids I very often prefer hard light.

Properties of Light - Direction

Inverse Square Law
09-18-2018, 12:08 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Brooke Meyer Quote
And curmudgeon that I am, here's a Manual Flash version, illustrated and explained in some blog posts I wrote years ago. Used a Rogue Grid in one and a Snoot in the other. I have big modifiers with diffusers and grids I very often prefer hard light.

Properties of Light - Direction

Inverse Square Law
All of my shots posted were also via manual flash control. (including the pop up flash)

All of my shots were manual flash as well but the details were put into a thread and not flickr. I didn't use any modifiers and will try that some in the future. Really enjoying the details you guys are posting.
09-18-2018, 03:50 PM - 2 Likes   #15
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I have long been an advocate of choosing a Flash Mode based on both environmental and practical aspects ..... ("environments" being, for example, a studio / event venues / outdoors in a garden or any portrait shoot in the sun ..... and practical aspects being, for example, using flash lighting as the only exposure source / mixing flash and ambient exposures / using on-camera or off-camera flashes / total number of flashes to be controlled / working in changing lighting conditions vs static lighting / working with dynamic subjects vs static "posed" ones).


I believe that for each of us, and for every specific flash photography session, there will be a combination of these circumstances that determines our choice of using Manual or Automatic flash modes. Of course for this to be true we have to have the option of both modes on our equipment, plus the confidence through experience to have tried and tested things in our own real world situations. Having the option is becoming much easier for us now, with more affordable choices (hotshoe flash types) and not so affordable (studio types) offering "Radio P-TTL" systems.


So I'm showing here my own personal choice of P-TTL mode for garden flower shots, based on the environment (changing sunlight and direction of both natural light and flash positioning), and the practical aspects (need to balance ambient with flash, working in a dynamic way with positioning and changing distances). I see a strong case with this combination of aspects for TTL flash control. Here it is very efficient to think mentally in terms of "stops" for both ambient and flash exposures. So I might think I'll keep ambient at -1.0 or -1.5 stops below meter, but then place the flash value at -0.5 ..... This makes the ratio and mix I'm looking for, and it's easy to relate the two as they are thought of in the same units...... Rather than the flash setting being a power figure (eg 1/8th or 1/32) that bears no relationship to the camera settings or brightness values I want to record.

Last edited by mcgregni; 09-18-2018 at 03:57 PM.
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