December 17, 2013

Pancake Session: Light Modifying in a Pinch

Happy Pancake Day you guys!!

Today we want to talk a little about what to do when you find yourself in a situation where you need/want to use flash, but you don’t have a modifier with you or handy. I CAN’T stress this enough: we recommend using a modifier of some sort when you’re using a flash 99.9999% of the time. That’s because the larger the light source, the softer & prettier (and less obvious that it was flash!!) your light will be. Just using a flash on stand won’t give you that same effect (even if you do move it in pretty close to your subject). It is the use of those modifiers that goes MILES in making flash look like natural light.

We always travel with our Profoto umbrellas & softboxes to modify our flash, and they are absolutely our go to modifiers of choice! But on occasion we will find ourselves in a situation where the modifiers are either still in the car or we need to shoot quickly and don’t have time to go grab them from wherever our stuff is at the reception. Take this picture below from Indhu’s bridal portraits. We had left the modifiers in the car because we have shot at the Biltmore before and it usually has gorgeous, abundant natural light. But on this day in particular, it was really dark & cloudy outside, and we were in a room that was facing a darker side of the building.

We knew where we wanted to position Indhu as far as background & composition and now we just needed to add in some really great directional light to really make the portrait we were going for. Just the daylight alone coming in through the window to the right of Indhu just wasn’t cutting it. So what we decided to do was use that natural daylight that was there, but supplement it with our flash. We did have our SB900 with us in our bag even though our umbrellas were in the car. So what we did was that Justin grabbed that flash and held it behind the sheer curtain in the window, using the sheer as a makeshift modifier. In addition to that, he also held that sheer out from the wall & the flash about two and a half feet (basically however long his arm would reach!) so that the flash had to travel further before it hit the sheer, thus filling up a larger portion of the curtain and making a larger light source. The result is what you see below! The flash behind the curtain becomes our main light and the rest of the daylight pouring in becomes the fill.

So the next time you find yourself wanting/needing to use a flash and you either don’t own a modifier yet or don’t have one handy, look for some existing modifiers in the room that you can use. A few of our favorites are through a sheer curtain, through your reflector, or bouncing your flash off to the side and up at a 45 degree angle, thus turning the ceiling into your modifier while still bringing the light back in directionally making for that great dimensional light! And if you are in the market for investing in some new light modifiers, we HIGHLY recommend THIS Profoto umbrella and THIS Profoto softbox

As always, we hope this helped!! And if you are someone who finds yourself struggling with your flash, afraid of your flash, not getting consistent results from your flash, or you didn’t know it was even possible to get light, airy & very natural light looking images from a flash then our J&M Lighting Intensive might be for you!! We have just a FEW seats left to our upcoming 2014 stops….take a look & see if we’re coming anywhere near you!

J&M Lighting Intensive – New Jersey on January 28th

J&M Lighting Intensive – Richmond, VA {SOLD OUT}

J&M Lighting Intensive – Denver, CO on April 5th

Happy Pancake Day y’all!

  1. Andy

    Beautiful image and great advice! Was the curtain on the same window that the fill light was coming through?

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