Making Light 2 – Advanced Off-Camera Flash Use

by matt on October 19, 2011

Making Light 2

A few months ago I reviewed the e-book Making Light which was an introduction to using off-camera flash.  I’ve experimented a bit with using off camera flash ever since reading Strobist.com and going through the Lighting 101 crash course (highly recommended).

This second book in the series by Piet Van Den Eynde dives in a bit deeper and looks into some more advanced techniques and setups with a focus on location lighting and portraiture.  Probably the most useful section of this book is the 10 new case studies that show you how to apply each new concept in real world situations.  Finally we also get to take a close look at four photographers and their work with off-camera flash.

I See Banding, Did My Camera Break?

Have you ever played around with flash lighting and set your shutter speed too high and end up with images with black banding through part of the frame?  The first time I saw that I thought I had broken my camera. But what is really happening is that the flash is firing above the camera’s sync speed so the shutter is blocking the light and creating the banding.  Piet spends several pages talking about high speed sync, why you would want to use it (lighting scenes with shallow depth of field, photographing fast action) and the equipment needed to utilize this feature.  I want to see if I can get this to work with my Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon 580EXII.

The author then talks about using multiple flashes.  I have two flashes that I use frequently.  I have one usually in a shoot-through umbrella as my primary lighting source and another that I use to light the background, or sometimes as a hair light.  In the book he talks quite a bit about the PocketWizard triggers and from everything I’ve read and heard they are top notch.  Unfortunately they are also a bit out of my current budget so I’ve been using Cactus V4’s which I purchased on eBay.  For my purposes they work fine and I don’t really have any complaints.

Mmmm…Gear!

The gear section of the book (you know you love reading about gear) goes into advanced triggering systems like the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and Flex TT5 radio flash triggers.  Gear talked about includes the wireless triggering systems, modifiers like softboxes, grids, snoots and flags.  The gear section was pretty good and I learned quite a bit about the various components and how they are used.  This section concludes with a brief discussion of options available when you outgrow your small compact flashes and want something more robust.

Making Light 2 Gear

The next section is the 10 case studies which take a close look at the anatomy of a lighting setup.  I really enjoyed these as it’s always nice to see how a shot is setup and the settings used to achieve the final output.  I think my favorite case study was called Yogyakarta Blues and described using a gel on the flash to get deeper more rich blues from the sky; or it could have been the one where he talks about mixing flash with HDR.  However, I wish there had been more details provided for many of the case studies such as more details on where the flashes were positioned and why the photographer chose to locate them there.

Finally the book concludes with four interviews with photographers that make frequent use of off-camera flash.  Conversations delve into the use of flash, positioning, settings and post processing techniques.  To me this was probably the best part of the book as one is able to get into the mind of another photographer and take a peek at how they view a scene and set the stage.  There is some really great information contained in these interviews.  I definitely plan on reading them again and taking some notes.

Conclusion

Overall I liked this book (despite what I felt was a lack of details in some of the case studies) and thought it was a good follow-up to the first book of this Making Light series.  If you are interested in learning more about off-camera lighting and digging in a little deeper from where the first book left off then you should pick this one up as well.  At $5 it’s worth it just to read the 4 interviews in the final section.

For a limited time you can get both Making Light and Making Light II for $8 for double your reading pleasure.  This bundle would be a great start to learning off-camera lighting.  Or if you just want to pick up this second volume, Making Light II, you can use code MAKINGLIGHT4 on checkout to get it for $4.

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