Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/09/19

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Subject: [Leica] Flash Primer
From: Donal Philby <>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2000 15:25:02 +0000
References: <>

Martin Howard wrote:

>So, I'd like to learn how to do flash as main light and fill light with a
> time I wish to take a picture.  I'm positive that there must be tricks
>that you 'old guys' used to use before the advent of TTL matrix flash
>metering, which allowed you to get good pictures without constantly fiddling
>with the camera and/or flash.  Please share some of those tricks.

A book of a question.  Seeing available light first is key.  Using two
lights is more complicated, because you have to still make it look like
one light, as in nature.  Also, the quality of direct fill verses
indirect (bounce) if very different in character, despite the seeming
contradiction.  Having shot a few thousand product shots in the studio,
trust me on this.  

For a simple set up, however, try this in a room.  One light at the
ceiling, one light off camera at the subject.  Basic, quick, looks so
much better than florescent ceiling lighting straight down. 
Alternatively (I just shot some this way), one on celing as fill turned
way down and one bounced off a wall to the side.  Meter the fill alone
to a stop or so under.  Then separately meter the key light (incident
toward the wall/source).  

While the ttl matrix whiz bang is wonderful, nearly flawless, you can do
nearly the same with auto, especially if just using for fill or to
slight change the character of the light.  Just set them for a stop of
so under.  

Get a couple light weight stands and ball heads.  Also can use the Leica
mini tripod with an adapter.  There are several sync eye with foot plus
tripod thread adapters out there that work well on a mini ball head.  

And if I remember right, I've seen one book on using the mini strobes. 
Consider, too, the Nikon video on strobes.  I haven't seen it, but
imagine it might be good.  A local store here in San Diego rents them.  

I am using more and more simple "smart" flashes in my commercial work
and am constantly amazed at how good things look when done right. 
Sometimes they're smarter than me, but Imma learnin'.  And it feels good
to leave big cases at home, especially when flying.

Just as an aside, to really learn lighting, I would suggest starting out
with a couple cheap tungsten lights from the hardware store.  Shoot BW
fast film, if you want, but mostly, train your eye to see and then
control the light.  Until you can control continuous light
instinctually, you will have a hard time with strobe that you simply,
without a polaroid, have to visualize the effects from meter readings
and experience.

good luck,

- -- 
Donal Philby
San Diego