How to Get Small - Part Five - Studio Lighting in Your Pocket

August 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This is the fifth in my series of articles on "How to Get Small" in assembling a professional photography kit. I've always enjoyed the challenge of doing more with less, and it's been particularly on my mind in recent years as I've spent a lot of time in faraway places, flying with laughably small luggage allowances, encountering unexpected photo opportunities, and exploring on foot or in crowded vehicles.

Metz CS-2: My pocket portrait studio

In photography, it's easy to think that more equipment solves every problem. On learning that I'm a professional, a hobbyist told me the other day he wanted a better camera because his pictures "come out too dark". Knowing that he could get better photos simply by taking control of the camera he already had, I suggested that he invest in a book or class instead. Because it's often technique that makes the difference.

Here's an example. Wanna see my honkin' big new studio flash? Here it is:

 

Metz 28 CS-2

 

Studio-style lighting that fits in a shirt pocket.

How? Well, what makes light flattering is its direction and size, not power. By holding the flash out to the side in my left hand, I can create off-axis lighting that avoids the ugly flat look of on-camera flash. And, pointing the flash at the large surface of a ceiling or wall creates soft wrap-around light. Working at close portrait distances, the Metz has all the power I need. Add in a tiny wink from the camera's built-in flash to fill in the shadows, and voilà!

My wife needed a quick headshot, and rather than drag out my big rig with umbrellas on stands, I just grabbed my pocket camera and the little Metz 28 CS-2. I set the power manually, pointed it up and slightly to the left at the ceiling, and dialed the camera's built-in flash down by 2 stops for fill. Couldn't be easier.

 

Lit with Metz 28 CS-2 and camera's built-in flash

 

Two-flash Rembrandt lighting I can carry everywhere and set up in seconds. And, it's good for a lot more than just quick portraits. I use it extensively for candids at events and weddings, too.

The tech-minded may be interested to know that what makes this combo work is the Metz' inclusion of an optical trigger (set off by the camera's built-in flash) as well as provision for 5-stop autoexposure (for direct lighting) and manual output control (for bounced light) down to 1/16 power. Two AAA batteries typically last all night, and recycle is nearly instant, since the flash doesn't have to work very hard when I'm shooting up-close at high ISO.

This little gem travels everywhere with me now.


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