Sunday, August 11, 2019

How to use multiple speedlights to take your photography to the next level - Part II

In last week's blog post, I talked about using multiple flash units to take your photography to the next level. As promised, in this second part of that post, I wanted to let you all know how I then took my use of multiple speedlights even further.

Sometime around 2014, I was setting up for some corporate headshots at my home studio, when I decided that my Canon 600EX-RT speedlites would be a lot easier to setup than my big strobes, and give me plenty of light for the job. At this point, I now owned four of the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes (and a ST-E3-RT transmitter), so I could have a main light, a key light, a hair light and another flash pointed at the backdrop. The only thing is, I needed to set up each light in manual mode so that the light output would be different for each flash location. It was the first time I had taken the remote flashes and switched them to manual mode. After reading the manual and some trial and error, I figured out the lighting ratio that worked well for me. I loved that I could control the power to any of the remote speedlites from the transmitter on my camera.

Using the transmitter on my camera, I would set the flash on the backdrop to achieve the background color I desired. If I was using a white backdrop, I could adjust the power of the flash to get a very white background, but I could also lower the flash power to get a grey background. Using a black backdrop, I could add flash to the black background to determine how dark the background would actually be. Increasing the flash power, I could go from pure black to a dark grey.

I would also control the lights on either side of my subject's face to light them appropriately. My goal is to have one side of their face lit stronger than the other (which adds dimension to their face). Since everyone's complexion is different, I adjust the main light to match the skin tones of my subject.

As I mentioned, I also used a Canon 600EX-RT flash on a tall light stand to add some hairlight on my subjects. This light works great for people with a full head of hair, but does not work with people like myself who are, shall we say, follicly challenged.   A hair light on a bald person just adds a giant hot spot on their head. This is not a good thing. So...whenever I had a bald subject, I would run over to turn off that flash. I figured that there had to be a better way to do this. And, you know what, there is!

One of my friends at Canon asked me if I was using "Group Mode".  My reply was "What is Group mode?" Well my friends, Group Mode is yet another game changer for me.


Simply put, Group Mode lets me take full control of each of the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites from the transmitter on my camera (or another 600EX-RT on camera). With this mode, I can set some of the speedlites in manual mode, some in TTL mode, and even power them on and off from my camera. No more running to the remote flash to physically turn it off.


The group mode has really helped me when I photograph events, allowing me to have my on-camera flash in TTL mode (diffused with the MagMod MagSphere) while having my remotes (that are in the corners of the room) in manual mode. I usually power the remote flashes down to 1/32 and 1/64 so that they add light, but not too much. Depending on where I am standing in the room, I can easily increase the power to one or both of the remote flashes, or even turn them off if I am pointing directly at them.






Using Group Mode offers me another advantage. Now that I have 6 of the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites, I can set two remotes on each light stand, using the new MagMod MagShoe and MagRing. You might wonder why would I would want to have two flashes on each stand, and it is not to have double the amount of power. I set up two flashes on each stand so that I don't have to stop and change batteries during an event. I shoot the first half of the event on Flash B and Flash C, and then halfway through the party when I feel that the Powerex AA batteries might be running low, I turn those off and turn on Flash D and Flash E. Now I am shooting the rest of the event with cool speedlites and fresh batteries.

It does take some getting used to, especially when running around and shooting a party for a client. But with a little bit of practice, the group mode will become your best friend as well.

I hope that this inspires you to try out some new tricks with your flashes and takes your photography to the next level.


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