Flash Fear and How I Got That Shot

Why Do I Need Flash?

Flash is essential to capturing great images in low light and even broad daylight. The beauty of flowers makes almost everyone with a camera want to shoot a photo. Easy enough, right? Point and shoot. Then you look at your photo and it doesn’t quite capture what your eyes see. This happens quite a bit but the difference is more pronounced when you photograph flowers or anything indoors. Last evening I purchased a bouquet of colorful roses and placed them on a table. Because I had been experimenting with recently purchased gear, I took advantage of the equipment and the flowers. I’ll tell you what I used for both the over-done mega production and the plain and simple method.


Bouquet of roses shot in manual with a silver-lined parabolic umbrella and 3 Yongnuo 560-IV on a 3-bracket holder. Light source camera right. Nikon 85 mm 1.8 shot at f4.5, ISO 100, 1/125 sec.

My Gear

I started with my Nikon D750 and Nikon 85mm prime lense and a Westcott 7 feet parabolic silver-lined umbrella that I had been trying out for an upcoming group photo shoot. I attached the Wescott tri-flash bracket and began shooting with the umbrella positioned in different angles. I then switched to my Nikon 105mm Macro lens. Shooting in manual, I played with setting including varied apertures between 5.6 and 13. My ISO was set at 100 throughout. Shutter speed varied between 125 to 160, and later 250. The flashes, 3 Yongnuo 560-IV were set at the same power. The flash power varied throughout, but the better shots were taken with the flashes at 1/32 (The speedlights were on the same channel but in different groups producing a very strong burst of light. In retrospect I should have placed all three in the same group). The angle head of the flashes varied to change direction of the flash as it reflected off of the silver lining of the umbrella. No diffuser was used. As I continued to play with equipment, I added in my Nikon SB-800 speedlight (no longer manufactured) as a slave for fill flash to light the stems of the flowers that were above the rim of the vase. This overkill was fun and I was glad I had taken the time to experiment.

Less Gear Better Results

I began breaking down the equipment but then I thought it would be good idea to use some additional modifiers. I placed one Yongnuo 560-IV on a light stand and added a Magmod magsphere and later the magbounce. The magsphere produced the best photos. I took most of these with the following settings: f13, ISO 100, 1/250. Talk about a simple set up. The result can be seen here. Multicolor Rose Bouquet shot at Night with Flash

Yes, I exceeded the sync speed when I changed the shutter speed to 1/250. This speed produced a black bar from the camera curtain at the bottom of the photo that I’ve since cropped out.

Final Result

The overall lesson for this shot: Simple is sometimes-and usually-the best.

KISP (Keep It Simple Photographer)

I learned a lot about my new equipment-the parabolic umbrella, the tri-flash holder, using multiple speedlights in one modifier, and using a slave, etc. But, if my only interest was in photographing the bouquet of roses,  the simplest method of one off-camera flash with a modifier would have been enough.

I started playing with this set up at 7 PM or a little later. I would not have been able to do this shoot with the ambient light in my living room.  I did over do it with the try-flash, but flash is essential to producing quality images under any conditions including broad daylight if you don’t want overbearing shadows of dark circles under your subject’s eyes.

If you have fear of flash as I did for many years, get over it and just dive in. It’s worth it. There’s no other  way to capture the beauty of a bouquet of roses at night.

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