Get Flash with Flash Workshop

I recently attended the Get Flash with Flash workshop run by Andy Cubin and Terry Hewlett at Photography Workshops. The course was based at the Mayfield House Hotel in Crudwell just outside Malmesbury which is a lovely location.  It was quite a cold day which was a shame as it restricted the shooting to indoors to save everyone getting frozen.

The morning started with introductions and Terry running through some basics about camera and flash settings to ensure everyone was up to the same level and using the same language. It was then onto the first exercise for the day which was about balancing ambient light to flash power using the flash compensation setting on the camera and TTL metering to get a balanced picture. This exercise was further extended by Andy looking at using manual flash and balancing the flash settings to get a correctly exposed subject and background while throwing that background out of focus to create a bokeh backdrop. Andy and Terry had arranged models to work with rather than us shooting each other which was a nice touch.

A buffet lunch followed with time to chat about the things photographers chat about. Terry also gave an overview about using a light meter for those that weren't familiar with one.

In the afternoon we split up into two groups (5 in each). The first group went off with Andy and we looked at riding the shutter to transform a scene from a dark night type image to a lighter daylight image by just adjusting the shutter speed seeing how low you can go handheld. It really is surprising how low a shutter speed you can use when using flash. The speed it takes the flash to fire provides the freeze frame until the ambient light balance start to overpower it.  This principal was demonstrated further with the peanut throw and catch exercise where Chloe would throw a packet of peanuts up in the air and we photographed it in flight.  With the flash providing the pop of quick light, even at lower shutter speeds, the packet is frozen mid air perfectly sharp.

The groups then changed over and Terry ran through a whole range of different light modifiers, how to set them up, their characteristics and ideas on when and how to use them. Once we had been through and shot a few variations as a group with Terry we had time to experiment on our own.

After this we all got back together in the bar area to look at balancing colour temperature.The purpose of this exercise was to ensure that the flash lighting matched the lighting in the bar area which was a mix but most cool incandescent lighting.  The idea being that the models didn't look like they were being lit by flash to keep the scene natural looking.  After running through measuring and adjusting colour temperature in the camera we took shots with and without the flashes gelled to see the difference.  The picture below is a simply two light setup with both flashes gelled.

During the day we covered a lot of different exercises all building on the previous ones. The principal of flash lighting are reasonable straight forward actually and by doing the workshop you get to see that.  I think I picked up, in one day, knowledge that would have taken many hours of trial and error to work out by myself so it was time and money well spent.  So if you want to learn to use your flash this is the course for you.

Unfortunately due to other family circumstances I was unable to attend the Film Noir course the following day but based on the Get Flash workshop I will certainly try and make it to another one of their courses soon.

My key take away points from the day

- Aperture / Flash power is about the amount of flash used in the image
- Shutter speed (with Aperture) is about the amount of ambient light (riding the shutter)
- You don't need much lighting to get a good look
- Setting manual flash is so easy
- Ensure your lighting power and temperature are balanced
- A good flash picture doesn’t look like flash