A couple of days ago I decided I wanted a new Facebook profile picture, and I wanted it to be new, up to date if you like, instead of just picking one I’d used before, so I set about taking a few self portraits using the gear I had to hand testing my creativity.
Whilst most of my kit is fairly high end stuff, filled with decent camera, lens and flashguns, I still like to experiment with bits and bobs to see what can be produced. The following photo is one from that experiment shoot and is now the one I am using on Facebook as my profile pic.
Not the worst picture in the world, and not the greatest for sure, would probably help if it wasn’t me in the photo, but beggars can’t be choosers huh. Anyway, I placed the photo on Facebook and I got a number of “liker’s” and a couple of comments, positive ones at that. I noticed one of the “liker’s” was fellow professional photographer Scot Baston, so my intrigue was awoken as to what Scot thought of the making of the image. I wasn’t after constructive criticism as to the result of the image, but just wondered if he could fathom how and what the method and gear for the shot was.
As expected he got the how spot on, two lights, one either side with the one to my left (or right side of the image as you look at it) slightly behind me. The what with though was obviously never going to be quite as easy because A, you can’t see it, and B, there are so many different pieces of kit on the market it could almost be anything that was used to light me up.
His first suggestion was two flashguns. It’s a well educated guess as I work with flashguns a lot and Scot knows that I know off camera flash very well indeed, but in this case it wasn’t flash, so I was really interested to see where he went next with his answer.
Icelights. That was his next suggestion, and he was so so close to being correct in terms of the type of lighting used but the lighting I was using couldn’t have been further away in price from the Icelights range if it tried. However, the fact he related what he was seeing to the possibility it could be lighting from such a high end range of lighting was a bit of a refreshing eye opener that if such a well trained eye couldn’t tell for sure what was lighting an image, is it really that important to have to have the supposed best of the best gear to be able to be creative in the photography we take.
After all we are forever being bombarded with adverts, blogs, reviews, that to get the best imagery you must be using Bowens this, Elinchrom that, Canon this, Nikon that, when its simply not the case. You can get as creative as your knowledge and the gear you have to hand allows you to be and if there is a suggested boundary there is nothing stopping you from testing or pushing those boundaries regardless of what you are using.
So what was it that I was using, well, I shall tell you via the medium of a short story.
I was en-route to a commercial shoot and had to stop at a garage for fuel. Whilst queuing to pay I noticed a set of strip light LED torches on offer and my mind suddenly found itself pulling up memories of a couple of issues I’ve had recently and that these torches would have been the answer to those issues. On two recent weddings I’ve done some Bride/Groom portraiture in the pitch black, and due to suing off camera lighting via the Phottix Odins its meant the camera has had no assisted focussing because the Odin controller sits in the hotshoe instead of a flashgun with the infra-red beam, and being pitch black has meant I have struggled to get enough ambient to focus. Bingo, these strip lights with magnets on the back and hooks on top would put out enough light in those situations to illuminate the B&G without that light then interfering with the exposure….so I bought them.
So for that image above, it was just two very simple, very cheap strip LED hand torches, one placed either side of me to light me up, and then I set the camera settings to match the light being emitted by the LEDs which was ISO800 f/4 at 1/125th, and when I say cheap they were less than £5 each, compared to Icelights at £279 or the newer ones which are going to be more than that.
Yes I do realise that the Icelights are brighter, bigger, better made, come with other bits n bobs and can be controlled in terms of power settings etc and so there is a very good reason why one was £5 and the other £279, but the point here is quite simple, creativity isn’t bound by high end gear, it doesn’t come from a price tag. You aren’t stuck just because you can’t justify the big spend. The only restrictions on creativity is your willingness to experiment with what you have to hand and the limitations of that gear may not be as limited as you first thought, so get experimenting!
I’m sorely tempted to go back and get 4 or 6 more and making something a little more impressive out of them so that as a collection they put out a bit more light than just one either side, but going back to the original reason to buy them, they will be perfect at solving my lack of light for focussing in the dark.