Tag Archives: critique

Off-camera flash–a 1st attempt

A regular reader and now a friend, Mike Hayes, shared some pictures he made of a fire dancer recently.

It’s great when someone I barely know offers up their pictures for a critique. It means someone out there thinks I know what I’m talking about.

I picked 3 pictures out of the 10 in his Flickr photostream.

First off, for this being Mike’s first foray into off-camera flash, I have to say he picked a tough situation but it’s certainly worthy of the effort.

There is plenty of potential for him to get some nice pictures with this especially since he tells me he may have a 2nd shot at this.

Some disclaimers: if I think a picture can be taken with a minimum amount of gear, I”m all for it. But in this situation, I think Mike could certainly use a 2nd flash.

The fire dancer lights her "swinging balls of fire". A second flash or the use of a reflector with a backlight is needed to create separation so she doesn't blend into the darkness

The first picture showing the dancer firing up her swinging balls of fire needs a second light, mostly behind her to create separation so that she doesn’t just disappear into the background.

Since I don’t know the exact circumstances behind why she came to be performing on a tennis court, I’m going to assume that the location can’t be changed.

Mike tells me he had a 16-foot off-camera sync cord from his hotshot to the 580EX flash set to 105mm which his son held.

So if all he had was one flash.

I would suggest the flash be held as close as safely possible to the dancer.

2 reasons: Shorter flash-to-subject distance means quicker recycling for the flash and also softer light.

I would also suggest the flash be held high and aimed downwards towards the dancer’s head.

Then a reflector can be used in front to kick the backlight back into her face.

For this to work well, Mike will need to make sure the light from his flash at the back doesn’t strike the front of his lens resulting in flare and loss of contrast.

If he is not getting the results he wants, then he has to figure out the exposure manually. It’s actually not that hard these days with the instant feedback of the LCD monitor.


I’m  torn between this:

  • Shoot with the beautiful sky in the picture, but get the tennis court fencing
  • Shoot downwards on the dancer, lose the beautiful gradient sky, but get the distracting white lines of tennis court
This is the cropped version of the original.

That’s why I cropped the original vertical into a horizontal to make the dancer more prominent.

Her feet don’t add much to the picture.

If I were to keep the feet, then I would try to crop out  the lines of the tennis court on the bottom right.

Try setting flash to rear-curtain. It may not make much difference since the she is not moving from the spot, just her arms.

Thanks for sharing, Mike.

Mike, by the way, won the 11 x 14 print of the shepherd the one and only time I ever had contest to guess my favorite picture.