Many of you who have shot with me in the past will know that I like light. In fact, I love light. I’ll use ambient, look for light sources at my location, or make light myself. I own 7 different sizes of softbox, countless umbrellas, reflectors, 3 Nikon SB-800s, a Paul C. Buff Einstein, a couple of older Nikon flashes, a 200 lumen LED tourch, and probably a few more things tucked away in boxes that I’ve forgotten about. I use this stuff on nearly every shoot I do. But today, I wanted to share a technique that fits in with the way we have to work most of the time. Using what Joe McNally calls “available light.” That, of course, being whatever light is available.
One of my other favourite alternative sources of light is the little “flash” on the back of my smart phone. Currently, I’m using the LG Vega Iron, which has a pretty blinding light on the back of it. Using any of the “Flashlight” apps available, you are able to keep this light on permanently and it makes for a great substitute for flashes or small torches in dim situations. You can use it to light paint, or for simple illumination of your subject.
On a recent shoot for UC Hastings’ College of the Law Magazine, I was using the light on the back of my phone to provide a focus assist in a dark room. The camera was struggling to get focus, and the splash of light the phone provided was enough to allow the camera’s autofocus system to work. For the first few frames we worked like this; using the phone to focus, and then an SB800 to illuminate Nathan. Then it clicked, this shoot was tech themed. By using the very tech Nathan’s company develops to light him, we could add another dimension to the image. It turned out that the balance the phone light provided was just the right amount to light Nathan, and we ended up with the shot below.
This second shot was used on the cover of the magazine (thanks UC Hastings!), and is lit with an SB800 in a softbox. Both make for great light on Nathan.
In a pinch, look around you. You might find light from a space heater, a torch, or just your phone. I’d love to hear about your use of alternative lightsources as well!
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