Soft, shadowless light has become the general direction that a lot of portrait photographers take, attaching fast lenses to their cameras, opening up the aperture as wide as their lenses will go, in order to blur everything behind the subject and I have been just as guilty of this technique myself.
I recently I watched Damien Lovegrove’s Lumen video that makes use of Godox Equipment and in particular, hard light. What really grabbed my attention apart from his images, was the limited amount of gear he used to produce images with so much impact, which got me thinking about embracing hard light, rather than steering clear of it.
I have been using Godox equipment with various softboxes and umbrellas for location shoots for just over three years now and although I am far from being a master of lighting, I am always looking to develop new skills and ideas in relation to lighting.
This weekend I decided to experiment with the Godox kit that I have and see what I could produce using hard light instead of using the light modifiers I normally use, so kindly Fran agreed to leaving her camera in her bag, so that I could experiment with hard light on her and stand around whilst I moved a light stand from one location to the next.
Godox AD200 with 5″ reflector
For much of the Lumen video, Damien uses 2 lights and two light stands, he does use a few lighting modifiers, but for the majority of the shoots that he walks through, he is using either 5” or 7” reflectors, so his kit is minimal. Apart from uniqueness of the hard-light images Damien produces, what really appeals to me is the simplicity and the reduction of the amount equipment he uses. Lighting modifier’s all have to be packed and carried to locations, so the idea of creating more edgy images with limited kit, is really appealing for numerous reasons. I also thought that learning to make use of hard light will also enable me to offer something different from my current equine work.
I am used to scouting out interesting backgrounds for horse portraits where I can make use of a shallow depth of field, but I decided to set myself a challenge, not to blur out backgrounds, so from the outset I would doing something different. Damien takes no longer than 10 minuets for the placement of his lights to create dramatic location portraits, which is down to a combination of his experience, knowledge and skills, but also his creativeness as a very talented photographer. However, it took me a little longer, “but hey, we all have to start somewhere in terms of learning”.
I think the first thing I experienced and learned is that the placement of your lighting with hard light is more critical than when I have used larger modifier’s and made use softer light. As I was not intending to blur the backgrounds, I thought I would try using different focal lengths and apertures to my normal 135mm to 200mm at f/2 to f/2.8, so the next thing I started noticing were textures and shadows, which I had up until experimenting with hard light overlooked.
There are numerous resources on the web that talk about soft and hard light, but when you start exploring and playing with soft and hard light, you start noticing many differences that you may have overlooked or even be aware of. By exploring and embracing the differences of hard and soft light, it is enabling me to further develop a better understanding of light and how it can be applied to create different types and styles of images. Playing with hard-light is rewarding and enjoyable no matter how many mistakes I make and I intend to keep practicing and learning.
Personally I think the Lumen video by Damien Lovegrove and his team provides more than just a look at how he creates images using hard light, it gets you to think about trying and doing things differently with light, and that’s what good education should do, inspire you to learn and try new things.
You can find out more about Damien Lovegrove and his training videos via the link below.
Despite the advances in technology you cannot learn everything online. We think we have a unique way to develop new skills in relation to off camera flash, so If you feel that your photography skills or creative expression have hit a wall, why not join us on a Get Out & Learn Workshop and try photographing Red Squirrels with flash?
Due to the location and uniqueness of photographing Red Squirrels with flash, I only facilitate this workshop with a maximum of two people. I have two meet up locations: Hawes & Ribble Head. The duration of the workshop is a maximum of three hours and the cost is £40 per person.
When it comes to lighting modifiers, don’t be fooled by the hype, the quality of the materials are important, but the brand name will not make the light quality superior or transform you into Annie Leibovitz. However as Annie Leibovitz knows how to light, she could use any modifier to create a good image regardless of it’s brand name.
I have purchased various lighting modifiers over the years and think I have found one of the most versatile lighting modifiers I have ever seen and used, what is it? A HWAMART ® EOS100B 100cm 39″ Easy Open Silver Soft Umbrella Softbox.
For my uses a modifier above “39 for outdoor use becomes an issue if there is a breeze and anything smaller than “39 is just a tad too small in relation to size, distance and light quality. However, this conclusion has resulted after experience of photographing Horse Portraits outdoors, whilst trying to keep kit portable, packable and of good quality.
The HWAMART ® EOS100B provides the sweet spot in terms of the quality of light it produces in relation to its size, quality and price. The softbox is built around an innovative and integrated spring-loaded rod system that quickly snaps into place. There is also Included is a detachable beauty dish deflector as well as two levels of removable diffusion panels and a honeycomb grid. With these options you have many different ways to achieve different lighting for most situations.
What is the build quality like? Is it as good as Westcott? I guess time will tell, but for the price it is very close and far better than most of the gear coming out of China.
If you are getting into lighting and are looking for your first light modifier, the HWAMART ® EOS100B is worth considering, if I had the choice of only having one lighting mod, this would be it. Price wise it’s in the middle, the price tag is neither low or high and from my experience, this price point provides quality without paying for the name and unlike most of the cheap kit from china, it will last if you take care of it. Moreover, learn to use one light properly and you can achieve some great images, spending a fortune on kit won’t provide any short cuts, you have to put in the effort and practice.
Photographers have a wealth of creative tools at their disposal today that enable the creation of some truly amazing images in relation to lighting. Despite Adobe Photoshop making almost anything possible image manipulation wise, have you ever wondered how similar images of today were crafted and lit 30 years ago?
There are past photographers whose body of work stands the test of time and whose names are very well known and there are others whose names fade. This year I have decided to improve my lighting skills and knowledge so I have been searching for good learning material and recently I learned about a photographer I had never heard of, Dean Collins.
Dean Collins? If like myself you have not heard of him, once you discover what he did and created, if you are interested in lighting, you will see that he was a lighting pioneer.
Mr. Collins was a photographer that specialty was light – understanding it, controlling it and making it do anything he wanted. Although the videos on YouTube look dated with the eighty’s hairstyles and clothing and the technology looking like pieces from a museum, at the core, there are still little learning gems that shine as brightly now as they did over 30 years ago.
Why is Dean Collins still relevant today? His workshops taught about the properties of light and instead of focusing on current trends, he stuck to the fundamentals that are still as relevant today as they were 30 years ago and if you have never heard of him, personally I think he deserves discovering either via YouTube or an internet search.
I have just purchased a second-hand book called “Photographic Global Notes” Although the book has contributions from numerous photographers from around the globe, they were all lighting pioneers in what they did and there are plenty of insights and learning opportunities and it only cost me £4.50 with delivery.
If you are looking for a simple manual flash trigger set, the Flashpoint R2 SPT is a great option in terms of price and functions. The R2 SPT is a single firing pin transceiver and is the first simple universal flash trigger set that is compatible with the Godox X 2.4 GHz Radio Flash System.
Inexpensive Receiver – Universal To Fire non Godox Lights
Single Firing Pin Transmitter – Universal To Work On Any Camera With Standard Hotshoe
Increased Range – Up To 150m, or 300m Using R2 SPT as both TX & RX
The Flashpoint R2 SPT are Transceivers, with the Transmitter and Receiver units in this case being exactly the same device. A manual switch on the side simply assigns the unit as Transmitter (TX) or Receiver (RX) as required.
Being Single Firing Pin only, the R2 SPT do not provide TTL or HSS, though this allows them to work universally, as well as providing longer range.
Acting as a Transmitter to R2 enabled flashes, the R2 SPT will provide Remote Manual Power Control. (Not when acting as a receiver though).
Flashpoint R2 / Godox X – 2.4GHz RF Radio System
Range – To 300m (R2 SPT as TX & RX)
Range – To 150m (Between R2 SPT and R2 / Godox X System)
Wireless Shutter Release (In Sync With Flash – TRX Mode)
Type-C USB Port for Firmware Updates
3.5mm Sync Port
2.5mm Shutter Release Port
Powered by 2 AA Batteries
Functioning as a Receiver unit, the R2 SPT provide an economical way to simply fire you existing non- Godox lights in sync with the camera.
The R2 SPT provide a 300V safe trigger voltage on both the Sync Port and hotshoe, so even most older flash units should be safe to use connect to the receiver.
NOTE – In RX Mode all buttons on the R2 SPT (except the SET / TEST Fire Button) require a long press to have any effect. This is so that settings can not be bumped and changed accidentally.
Functioning as a Transmitter unit, the R2 -SPT (being single firing pin) are universal to work on any camera having a standard hotshoe.
The R2 SPT feature 5 individual quick access Group buttons – A / B / C / D / E .
in TX Mode the R2 SPT provide Remote Manual Power Control of the Godox X System flash units. As well as turning the Modelling Light and Beep On and Off remotely.
Only Remote Group Control (ON / OFF) is available with R2 SPT as receiver.
NOTE – Double pressing a Group button turns that Group ON and OFF, and Holding a Group button turns that Group on only.
Integration with other brands of flash
Prior to my lighting kit being predominantly Godox, I hade various types and brands of lights, if I wanted to combine them with my Godox kit, I needed numerous leads and other triggers which made quick setups not so quick.
One piece of lighting kit that I still use and love are my Einstein’s, by Paul C Buff and by using R2 -SPT trigger, I can combine the Einstein’s with my Godox lighting kit. I don’t have remote power control of the Einstein, but if I use the Einstein as my main light and meter for that, controlling all of the other Godox lights is simple and for Horse portraits this just works and very well.
I would love a Godox AD600 pro, it would really speed the process of lighting up, but the justification in terms of cash outlay would be a stupid move and as I only use the Einstein’s for specific scenarios where I need to pack a lot of lighting power, I can usually get by with the Godox kit I have anyway. The R2 SPT trigger is a cost-effective simple solution to my needs and I also then have a back for any situations where my Xpro 2 trigger might fail.
I really hope Godox release these in the UK, I had a friend order mine and then ship them to the UK, but even with the postage, the R2 SPT’s are still a bargain.
Although I take commissions for Horse Portraits throughout the year, the autumn is always a special time of year for me personally. I try to utilise the autumn season to try out new ideas and locations and this year my focus was at Skipwith Common.
Although Skipwith Common provides a great location for equine portraits, the two locations that I found that were most suitable are at opposite ends of the common, so lugging lighting kit from one location to another eats into time and requires effort.
Unfortunately, when we arrived for the first shoot on October the 5th, many of the leaves on the trees were still green, so we had to make the best of what little autumn colour we could find. Fortunately, as the sun was dipping in and out of the light grey clouds and there was little autumn colour around, I decided to try some hard lighting ideas, the only problem was de-rigging the kit and carrying it to another location.
Making the best of a location we could manage to carry the kit too, we set up a C Stand with two Godox AD200’s that were gridded in a reflector and then used an Einstein (Paul C Buff) with a long throw reflector.
Anyway, here are a few examples of what we achieved, pleased with the results, especially as the intended shoot was to make use of the autumn leaves that turned out to be a little lacking in colour. We have another shoot at Skipwith, so I hope the leaves will have turned, but will also do so a few more hard light shots too.