Small Flash on Assignmnet

Today's post comes from the book Bill Hurter's Small Flash Photography: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers by Bill Hurter. It is available from and other fine retailers.

Christian LaLonde received an assignment from Reader’s Digest to photograph a high school auto mechanics teacher and his class who were making a car for regional races. LaLonde drew a sketch of his ideas to help his assistant visualize what he was imagining. The main light was a Lumedyne 400w pack triggered by a Pocketwizard with an umbrella on a Manfrotto Mini Boom on a stand. to get the depth of field he needed, he set his main light source for f/8. He set up four nikon Sb-800 and two Nikon Sb-80dX Speedlights to create accents and separation on each person. He set up one light at a time, having the students stand in for test images. This helped in the end because the students clearly understood what LaLonde was trying to achieve.

The first light was positioned on the left side of the camera in front of the car. the second Sb-800 was placed on the right in back of the car to light up the entire side. As LaLonde was setting his lights, he made test images to see what his lighting was doing so that he could find the perfect exposure. Next, he positioned three of the students on the car and set up the third Sb-800 Speedlight in a doorway on the left side of the camera. Initially, this was splashing the light in too wide an arc, so LaLonde made a snoot with black foil.

After positioning the last student on top of the car, lalonde realized that he needed more light on her. He set up the fourth Sb-800 Speedlight with a snoot in a storage room at the back left of the car and pointed it through the glass directly at the back of the student. He added two Sb-28dX lights underneath the car to give separation between the wheels and floor.

Because of all of the lights and the wide-angle lens, he was having a flare problem. To solve it, he used two lightshaper sheets clamped on stands on either side of the camera.

Shooting with his camera tethered to a laptop lets LaLonde see and play with his raw files immediately. He applied a Camera Raw effect that he created called “Cartoon,” which made the subjects jump out from the background and gave the images depth and a cartoon-like feel.

Before he was done, LaLonde did several different set-ups, modifying the lighting and moving the camera and subjects. This session took approximately one hour and 45 minutes from setup to break down. Before leaving the garage, the files were backed up on an epson P3000 portable drive.

LaLonde used a nikon d2X with a Sigma 15–30mm lens. image photographed in raw/neF mode and converted to dng format. Main light was a lumedyne 400w pack, four nikon Sb-800 and two Sb-28dX units were also used. The flash output was 100w/S with various output settings for nikon strobes (from 1 /8 to 1 /2 power). The computers used were a Mac Powerbook and a Mac g5 Quad Core and the software included nikon Camera Control Pro, Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop.

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