Photography News Issue 49


Photography News | Issue 49 |


Going full length

With a 50mm lens fitted on my Nikon I went for some full length shots of Em against a white wall while she threw some nice shapes. I had the speedlight camera left and the PIKA200 main light fitted with the same modifier to camera right, both about 45° to the model, and I zeroed the output of the two lights. The mass of white throwing back lots of light clearly threw the TTL system into some confusion and the first shot (near left) was underexposed. You can also see from the shadow that the output from the speedlight was relatively too much, giving a sharply defined shadow on the right side of Em. So, the test shot showed that more power was needed from the main light and a better balance too. I went +1EV on the main light (middle) leaving the speedlight alone for the time being. That was better but still a little dull so I then set +2EV extra on the PIKA200 before tweaking the speedlight to -1EV. That gave a better effect (far right) with bright whites and just a little fill-in from the speedlight so only one shadow was visible. Although I didn’t need it for this shot, the PIKA200 and CITI600 have a masking mode in the unit’s custom functions aimed at product photographers. Here, the background lights are in one group and the main lights in another and you get a subject-lit shot and then a background lit shot with the subject as a silhouette. Ideal for when you need to make masks in Photoshop. CITI600 in group C – I chose those groups on the simple basis of increasing size. Five groups are possible and 32 channels available. Before getting down to any serious shooting a quick test to make sure each group was working correctly seemed a sensible approach. This means selecting the same channel on each unit and the desired group, while on the trigger TTL mode was set for my three groups: A, B and C. Manual and off are the other two mode options available. In manual you can fine-tune output in 0.3EV stops in the range from full power to 1/128th power and in TTL you can adjust flash compensation to +/-3EV in 0.3EV steps.

With each group active in turn, I just fired the camera shutter to make sure both flash units were syncing and then I was ready to get shooting. I will come clean and say that I usually shoot flash manually and that is partly out of habit rather than any strong prejudice one way or the other. Shooting this feature using the Pixapro kit encouraged me to have a go at using TTL flash. I think when most of us use on-camera flash, TTL control is no problem at all and the sheer convenience of working this way has tremendous appeal and it is usually painless. TTL flash with a multi-light set-up is more of a challenge and not knowing precisely how the camera and lights react has put me off. Also, I think some of it has been the technology too. Some master flash triggers are the opposite to intuitive and seem to take lots of scrolling andmenu searching to get the right set-up and adjust power. It doesn’t seem fun. With the Pixapro set up, I seemed to be up and running very quickly, and as you can see from the commentaries on each set of pictures, I found adjusting output and balance between the different lights easy. As well as convenience, the PRO ST-III trigger with these lights meant working one- to-one with the subject is no problem either. I didn’t have to constantly walk to and from the lights to fiddle with output. It saved time too. Of course, I still had to move to shift lights around, but that’s the case until the day voice controlled robots are available. The shoot was at the Natural Light Spaces,, based in Weedon, near Northampton. There are two studios available for hire and you can use natural windowlight or the supplied flash or continuous light units. Our model is Em Theresa, an aerialist and part owner of the studio ( In this month’s feature, I focused on using two lights. To be fair, you can get some amazing effects with a two head set-up, and many photographers are happy not going any further. We’ll use three heads in the next issue.

The kit we used

Essential Photo is a leading specialist in marketing studio equipment to the photographic, film and video industries. Pixapro is its lighting brand and a full range of competitively priced products is available from speedlights and portable flash through to mains heads and generators.

I just fired the camera shutter to make sure both flash units were syncing and then I was ready to get shooting

Playing with side lighting

Above left I started with contrasty side lighting using only the softbox-wearing PIKA200 placed camera right of Em. The split lighting was contrasty, but there was some fill-in because light was bouncing off nearby white surfaces. Left Using the TTL trigger I turned on the Li-ION580II positioned on the opposite side to lighten the heavy shadow directly behind Em. After a test shot I changed the output of the speedlight to +1 for softer shadows. Above Predictably enough, setting +2 was even more evident. The effect was more balanced but too strong for my tastes so I went back to +1 on the speedlight, leaving the main light as it was.

Above The Pixapro Li-ION580II is a top spec speedlight, while the PIKA200 (right) offers power and versatility.

Next month: More adventures with TTL lighting

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