I’ve decided to learn how to take photographs under more controlled lighting conditions using external light sources.

I usually shoot outdoors, in available light, and focus mostly on landscapes and scenic shots with few people present.

I do use an on-camera flash for holidays and birthdays, but those are casual shots, usually not posed, and for daytime events the flash is only used for fill light anyway.

And I do shoot small objects, sometimes at macro levels, usually using a pretty decent set of continuous lights I got for Christmas a few years back.

But I’m talking about something different here. As in actually controlling the light in a much more serious, focused and determined manner.

So far (but my birthday is coming up soon!) I have an old, but quite functional, Canon 420EX Speedlite flash, useful for general purpose shooting, and a macro ring flash, best suited for closeup work.

Last night I took my first set of portrait type shots, using a bright LED lamp as the sole light source. I handheld the camera and basically took a selfie! I’ve rendered two different black and white versions of one of those shots, and they’re shown below.

Monochrome Mike

Monochrome Mike

Monochrome Mike

Monochrome Mike

Tonight I created a more elaborate setup, one where my camera was controlled by my laptop and where the speedlite was off-axis, mounted on a light stand to my left. I have a small, collapsible soft box attachment for the flash, and that was in place.

I had the Christmas tree to my right, and worked very hard, (and succeeded a few times) in properly exposing my face while keeping the lights from the tree looking nice.

Unfortunately I had a focus problem that I didn’t notice until I was finished, but given the purpose of the shoot was simply to test the setup and gain a bit of experience, I’m happy to have even a couple of useful shots!

The first two demonstrate my success towards the goal of keeping both myself and the tree properly exposed. I show the 2nd image so you can see how close the flash was to my face.

The last shot is interesting. Somehow the camera lost track of the fact there was a flash, so set the exposure for 20 seconds. Well, the flash fired, and I moved as I didn’t realize the shutter hadn’t closed.

It turned out to be a pretty cool shot!

Studio Mike

Studio Mike

Studio Mike

Studio Mike

Double Studio Mike

Double Studio Mike