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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Gadget Bag: Light Up Your Life

Flash accessories and lighting concepts to help enhance your photography

Light Up Your Life I've been a studio shooter for quite some time, so when I started getting involved with nature photography, I wanted to bring some of my studio equipment along. As you can imagine, big battery-powered strobes are cumbersome. I decided that I didn't want to have that burden when hiking and enjoying the wilderness so I opted to leave them at home. There are much easier and lighter ways to achieve a similar look by using small accessory flash units.

If you've ever photographed a subject and thought the end result looked desaturated or flat, consider the benefits of using a flash. That's why we use them in a studio. They offer so much control and can be used as more than just a way to illuminate your scene. Light, whether natural or artificial, can create a three-dimensional feel to your image, and your flash can be the tool to enhance it.

You can control the quality and power of the light from your flash to soften the look of your images, make colors pop or add a sense of drama. Once you see the creative aspects of using flash, you may go even further and begin integrating two or more units at once to brighten dark areas in your foregrounds, corners or backgrounds.

Following are some easy-to-use flash accessories. Most are created to fit over just about any flash head and help in focusing, diffusing and coloring light. These techniques and accessories often are used in studio photography, but with these handy attachments, you can create a studio anywhere.

Putting gels and filters on your flash can be a fun way to create interesting effects in your picture or simply assist in making it look natural. Let's say you want to photograph a subject around a campfire. If you use your daylight-balanced flash, you'll end up with an image that has white illumination and not the golden color of the fire glowing on your subject. A warming gel or orange filter over your flash could make that image seem like it was lit naturally by the fire.

In addition, a warming gel over your flash is key when shooting neutral subjects against a sunset, as it helps in matching the golden light of the sky. Apart from balancing your foreground and background light, try doing something completely out of the norm. Imagine doing a night shoot with a gel over your flash and turning a big green cactus red!

Warm up your subject with Sto-Fen's Gold Omni-Bounce. This easy-to-use attachment is modeled after the original White Omni-Bounce, only the Gold Omni-Bounce is used to create a warm tone on your subject. It fits directly over your flash head, without the need for an adapter, and diffuses light to prevent harsh hot spots and shadows. List Price: $17.95.

LumiQuest's FX Colored Gel System includes an assortment of gels in blue, green, red, yellow and amber that fit into the filter holder of the small softbox attachment, allowing you to get creative or enhance the color in your shots. Use green to add an extra pop to the background of your macro photography of insects and plants or try painting one side of a desert sand dune blue. The system folds down into a compact 33/8x43/4-inch size and comes in a pouch to protect the filters from getting scratched. List Price: $33.95. Read more.

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