Strobist Lighting 102, Lesson 1.1

Mon, Aug 5, 2013
I'm a big fan of David Hobby's strobist blog and highly recommend it as a resource for anyone interested in improving their photography repertoire.  I've started working through his "lighting 102" course and I plan to share the results here and over at my portfolio site at smugmug.

So beginning at the beginning, exercise 1.1 is all about observing the results of a single, off-camera flash moving to different positions relative a set subject.  The position of the subject and the position and exposure settings of the camera don't change.  Additionally, the flash unit is set to manual, and the settings don't change on the flash.  Only the position of the flash relative to the subject changes.

As a subject for my exercises I used an action figure from the Lego Hero Factory set and taped him to the cold shoe on one of my lighting stands (don't mind the ugly green masking tape on his foot).  I was then able to pose him in a classic action-adventure sort of pose- he looks rad, right?  Here are facts for this exercise:
  • camera-to-subject distance: 5 ft.
  • subject-to-background distance: just under 3 ft.
  • flash-to-subject: 3 ft. (slightly closer on the backlit photo)
  • lens focal length: 115mm
  • camera exposure settings (Canon 60D):
    • "natural" light shot (center photo): f/4.5, 1/10 shutter speed, ISO 250
    • lit shots (everything besides center photo): f/5.6, 1/250 shut, ISO 100
  • flash settings (LumoPro LP180): 1/128 power @ 105mm zoom, no diffusion
  • flash stayed at consistent height as it revolved around the toy in 45 degree increments
  • the captions on the photos indicate left and right from *my* perspective behind the camera, not "camera right" and "camera left"

You may notice the position of the toy's sword changed in a few shots.  My son decided he was interested in the tripod, so I had to re-frame the photo just a bit part-way through the exercise.

So the point of this exercise is just to observe the effects of re-positioning an off camera flash.  It's really pretty basic, but it helps train your eye to identify the lighting on the subject.  I also made some vertical changes (not pictured in the above set), comparing how things change when the flash is moved higher and lower relative to the subject.  In the next exercise on the Strobist 102 series, I'll compare the variation you get by changing the distance between the light and the subject.