Longtime professional photographer and lighting expert Gary Fong gives a demonstration of the incredible creative power in using speed light flashes. After finding a very cluttered background, a small, simple lighting setup with between one and two flash units offer extremely varied results.

This is part of the "Ugly Room Series" where Gary Fong tries to find the worst conditions for photography and controls it completely.

Video Transcript

Hi, everybody. This is Gary Fong, and in this video I’m going to teach you how to take a very difficult, cluttered background, whether it’s in bright sunlight or in indoors in a very cluttered location and turn it into a very dramatic portrait studio anywhere, any time. This right here is available light, and this is an example of what I’m going to show you how you control your light using speed lights and Gary Fong Flash Modifiers

So let’s start with the basics of lighting. When you’re indoors and you put a flash on the camera, this is what your shots look like. It’s probably very familiar to you. The reason why they look like that is because it’s on camera flash. Some people would then bounce off the ceiling, and this is what you get. A light that is very, very broad off the ceiling, but the face is cast in shadow. Using the Gary Fong Lightsphere, light bounces off the ceiling, and yet is also filling in the lighting on your subjects so that your subject is not in shadow, and the lights for your sends light completely around the room, omni-directionally in a 360-degree pattern. When you take the flash off camera with the Gary Fong lights for collapsible snoots, you’re able to create an effect like this. A very, very dramatic spotlight-looking effect because the Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Snoot only allows light to come through in a small circle.

By adding a second flash and another Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Snoot loaded up with either our color gels our color domes, you’re able to get an effect like this. So I’ll basically show you how this works. I’m trying to find the most ugly place that we could possibly shoot and turn it into a studio. So as you can see, where Carrie’s standing, she’s standing in front of basically a shed with a bunch of stuff in it, right? This is not where you would really want to do a portrait. So I’m going to do the first shot in available light, so I’ll turn my flash off and in just regular program mode. I’ll show you what this looks like. Actually, the lighting in here is really pretty if it wasn’t so cluttered in the background. So that’s my available light shot.

Now, what I have is I’ve got up on top I have one remote wireless that they’re both on the same channel, they’re both on TTL equal amount of light coming out of that. This guy is a master controller only, but the one in the rear I’ve actually put one over my red gels. So they both have the Gary Fong Collapsible Snoots, one does not have a red gel. So we’ll just go ahead here. I’m going to put it on manual again so that I can make it do the things I want. What I want to do is I want to wipe out that background. So I’ve got it on an F 1.8, and I have it on 1/400th of a second right now. That’s what we get, it’s a complete dramatic difference.

Now look at the difference between all the stuff in the background, and when I shoot. Like that. Okay, now that that’s done, let me show you on camera flash. So I’m just going to take this guy, put the mode on TTL. So basically what’s happened now is I’m going to go to the camera and I’m going to make the flash mode right here. We’re going to go to the best one we can for indoors, which is the slow sync mode. I’ve got the camera on camera flash, and we’re going to aim and… Okay, so that’s on camera flash, and you can see that it’s very kind of harsh and two-dimensional, so we’ll just do one regular bounce.

Okay, so that’s bounce, and you see what happens with bounce is that it puts shadows right into the eyes because there’s no fill. With the Lightsphere, what we’re able to do is do a combination ratio of fill and bounce off to the ceiling. Now as you can see up high here, we’re in a very, very high ceiling, so oftentimes people go, “Well, is it not just a bounce light, will it work without ceilings or in a low ceiling?” It works great in a low ceiling or in a high ceiling, okay?

So now we have the Lightsphere on, and this is flash fill with the Lightsphere. I’ll do it one more time so you can see the difference. That’s actually quite pretty light except for the background. So in short, when we have a really nasty looking background, the reason that is, is because you can see the stuff in the background because the available light is showing it. When we control it with speed lights, with speed lights we’re able to completely turn the background black. Once the background’s black, we’ve subtracted all the available light, now we can add the light of our own choosing. That’s what I’m doing here. One light up high, one light with a red gel in the back, and I’ve basically created with the little railing on the fence I’ve created a graphic background.

There you have it, complete difference. Subtracting the light until it goes completely dark, and then we add new light, okay?

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