I ended the last entry with my first image of Tori, lit with two SB600s and one SB800, using the D300 camera’s pop-up flash as a wireless controller. I was reasonably satisfied with the lighting. Here is my favorite shot of Tori from that early session:
Having dialed in the lights and camera for the space and the backdrop, I forgot one important thing: when the rest of the dancers arrived, we needed a group shot. So, the first thing I had to do after setting everything up? Tear it down and move it out of the way.
Fortunately, I have a new philosophy about group shots. I no longer fear and loathe them, because I no longer try to light them in an interesting way. It’s just too difficult to control the shadows when the light moves too far to the side(s). Instead, I put flashes with reflector umbrellas a couple of feet to either side of the camera to provide a soft, even front light. Then I place another speedlight behind the group.
It took a while to compose the group, arrange the lights, and capture the shots, so I felt a little rushed when it was time to photograph individuals. But the dancers themselves were fantastic to work with. Each knew what he or she wanted to do in front of the camera, so there was no time wasted with indecision about poses and movements. Unfortunately, I positioned the camera higher than I had when shooting Tori, and this contributed to some of the perspective problems I wrote about previously.
The happiest discovery of the day came when I realized that I did not have to look through the viewfinder for these shots. Since the camera was in a fixed position and pre-focused, I could stand up straight and watch the dancers, rather than bend over the tripod-mounted camera with my face pressed against its back. Watching the dancers from a comfortable position allowed me to time my shutter releases far more accurately.
By the middle of the session, I was using two SB600s in umbrellas, camera-right of the dancer, an SB800 behind and camera-left as a backlight, and the pop-up flash as a low power fill light. For dark-haired dancers, I moved one of the SB600s to serve as an additional backlight. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, because I could not adjust it’s power independently, as the in-camera commander only controls two groups of lights.
All in all, I thought it was a very cheerful session, and I really enjoyed working with these young people (including the teacher!). I hope they are pleased with the results. As you know, I am never satisfied, but I am happy to have achieved my goals of more dramatic lighting and more action shots. What will I do differently next time? That’s the topic of next week’s blog!