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12-07-2009, 08:00 AM   #1
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Portrait pictures, is a bracket necessary.

Hi Everyone,
I have been asked to shoot some portraits of my sons sports team. I have a K20D. The shots will be done at night outside against a background, I do have a flash (Metz 58 AF-1) but no other lights. Someone told me I should get a bracket so that I can keep my flash above my lens when shooting with the camera in portrait position. Is this something that I should get? Besides a bracket what else would I need to make this work? Thanks for any advice you can offer.

12-07-2009, 08:34 AM   #2
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Your camera has a lot of pixels, keep it upright and crop the sides of the picture.
That way you do not need a bracket, the flash is kept above the lens that way.
Otherwise you will create side shadows.

Make sure to maintain focus, not a to shallow DOF and you'll be fine.
Try a diffusor, that gives less sharp edges on the photos.
12-07-2009, 06:30 PM   #3
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It would depend on your lens too!
If you have a fast lens, then you might only use your flash as some sort of fill (if under strong lights).
You also didn't say where outside is "outside".
What background will it be against..a wall..field..goal post?
Whole body, medium shot, head shot?
There are a lot of factors you didn't mention.
12-08-2009, 01:48 PM   #4
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Outside will be outside at the school no room inside to set up the backdrop and its California so the weather should be fine but it will be dark as it is happening past sunset. I'm using the lens that came with the camera a 18-55 and against a white background. I also have a 55-300 lens. Hoping to do full length shots.

12-08-2009, 02:57 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kirk Smithson Quote
I have been asked to shoot some portraits of my sons sports team. I have a K20D. The shots will be done at night outside against a background, I do have a flash (Metz 58 AF-1) but no other lights. Someone told me I should get a bracket so that I can keep my flash above my lens when shooting with the camera in portrait position. Is this something that I should get? Besides a bracket what else would I need to make this work? Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Kirk,

Sounds like you're doing this soon. I recommend that you keep things simple and don't attempt to get fancy between now and this shoot. Using flash like a pro is difficult, really difficult - and there's a chance that you can really screw things up if you don't know what you're doing. But using flash like a really good amateur is pretty effective and not too difficult.

My recommendations:
  1. Stick the Metz 58 on the camera
  2. Aim the flash directly at your subjects
  3. DON'T STAND TOO CLOSE. Try to stay at least 10-12 ft away from the subjects.
  4. Use the 18-55 lens
  5. Set the Metz to P-TTL (but see below)
  6. Set camera to aperture priority (Av) mode and set to about f/5.6
  7. Set camera to ISO 400
  8. Don't put your subjects right up against a background that a shadow can land on
  9. If at all possible, use a tripod and a remote trigger (see below)
  10. Shoot!

You should practice beforehand. Doing so will give you some confidence - and may identify a problem when you still have time to fix it.

I suggested P-TTL on the flash. But you might also try Auto mode. It's also pretty easy. I personally have had slightly better results with Auto than I do with P-TTL, when using the Metz 58. But it might be me. Anyway, if you practice you can try 'em both.

The tripod suggestion is useful if you can take it. With a tripod and a remote trigger, you can LOOK at the subjects while you're shooting. You see a lot better when you're not behind the camera. A cable release is more reliable than the infrared release but either is better than having to push the shutter button on the camera.

To answer the question you asked: No, you don't need a bracket. If you're shooting in portrait mode (and without a tripod) you can just live with the fact that the flash head is now beside the camera rather than above it. Won't make a huge difference. I certainly would not shoot with a bracket without having practiced with it a good bit. Brackets can be a big pain in the neck. And I think they were more useful back in the old days before variable flash.

Of course, don't forget fresh batteries (and at least 1 spare set) for the flash as well as a recharged battery for the camera!

Good luck,

Will
12-08-2009, 03:23 PM   #6
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All of Will's suggestions are great, especially practice beforehand. With a white background, you might need +0.5 Ev. That depends on how much of the background is in the shot, your camera, and the uniform colors.
12-09-2009, 07:51 AM   #7
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Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. Yes i will be using a tripod. Not sure if I can track down the trigger in time but will try. Wonder if setting the timer on the camera to take it would be a substitute for this if I can't get a remote trigger. Again thanks everyone for all the help. I really appreciate it.
12-09-2009, 08:02 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kirk Smithson Quote
Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. Yes i will be using a tripod. Not sure if I can track down the trigger in time but will try. Wonder if setting the timer on the camera to take it would be a substitute for this if I can't get a remote trigger. Again thanks everyone for all the help. I really appreciate it.
Wills comments are excellent and yes, timer delay will work.

12-09-2009, 10:46 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kirk Smithson Quote
Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. Yes i will be using a tripod. Not sure if I can track down the trigger in time but will try. Wonder if setting the timer on the camera to take it would be a substitute for this if I can't get a remote trigger. Again thanks everyone for all the help. I really appreciate it.

Well, a timer will work, but it's not the same.

With a cable release, I can look the subjects in the eye, watching for that moment when the bride's smile is just perfect, and then take the shot immediately. A timer makes everything a bit more artificial and there's more chance that somebody will blink just before the shutter goes off. But of course blinking is a problem no matter what, and that's why you have to take at least 2 exposures (or be prepared to cut and paste in Photoshop, which I have never been willing to do).

Will
12-09-2009, 11:34 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the help. I did as you suggested and everything turned out well. I had to make a cable release as I couldn't find one in time for the shoot tonight. Amazing what a $3 hands free phone cord with volume control can be turned into.
12-10-2009, 07:40 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kirk Smithson Quote
Thanks for all the help. I did as you suggested and everything turned out well. I had to make a cable release as I couldn't find one in time for the shoot tonight. Amazing what a $3 hands free phone cord with volume control can be turned into.
I'm impressed that you could make the cable yourself. I would have no idea how to start such a project. I do it the old-fashioned way: go to bhphoto.com, find what I need, and place an order. ;-)

Glad to hear it worked out well.

Will
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