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Ultimate Just One Flash on Camera How-To

Try my tricks for creating directional, dimensional illumination with just one speed light.

By Sara Frances | January 26, 2011

No, it's not too good to be true. I know it sounds impossible. But day after day, job after job, I've made this simple equipment perform in situation after situation. Of course it's not just the flash modifier I use; my method evolved over time and out of the needs and constraints placed upon contemporary photojournalists and PR and event photographers. This video will show you in detail how I do it - every time.

This is part one of a 3-part series of before and after examples with complete exposure data. Watch them in sequence for best tutorial.

The back story is that first you've got to see light, think light and maybe hear it and smell it as well. Immerse yourself in light; the source, the direction, volume, color and meaning of light. There's no such thing as "bad light"; your job is to make whatever is available dance to your tune. You have to think of the story you want to tell in the photograph. Almost always I decide to modify light to suit a specific message.

Scrims, gobos, flags, reflectors and studio lighting work wonders when you have time and personnel, but speed lights are magicians when you have just a few seconds to bring home excellent, meaningful images. Over years I've tried just about every sort of speed light modifying device you can imagine, and I've also made a few of my own. Trouble is, no one device worked well in all situations, so I was carrying around an inconvenient bag of extra parts. Inevitably the right one was never on the camera when I needed it.

Enter the Ultimate Light Box from Harbor Digital Design.

At first examination I didn't see anything unusual or promising about the ULB. The first location trial, however, was another story. Its modular parts allow quick customization to mesh with all kinds of scenarios and lighting conditions - and it fits in swimmingly with my crazy method of bouncing flash to augment, soften, directionalize and dramatize available lighting. My approach is not to dominate, but to work in with the existing light and always to make supplementary flash perform to create rounding so seamlessly that you hardly think is it there.

Check out my method, and try it for yourself. I'll bet you'll find new clients who'll recognize they simply look better in your pictures.
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