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Feature Image by: Daniel Linnet

Using Multiple Flashes by Daniel Linnet

19th December 2016

Once comfortable with using a single Speedlite off-camera, progressing to a second, third or even fourth Speedlite becomes much easier. Complex lighting setups won’t seem so daunting.

Base Exposure

First decide on your basic, non flash exposure. This could be either correctly balanced for the available ambient light or set at a specific exposure to eliminate it. The most important is to decide on what aperture you want to shoot at. This will be your main target around which all the lights will be adjusted. Let’s use f8 as an example:

Daniel Linnet
First the base exposure is set to make sure the important detail of the Cocktail sign is retained. Two Speedlites are then turned on and placed just out of frame on either side to create the symmetrical dramatic lighting. The flare was purposely left in the frame to add to the atmospheric quality of the environment.

One at a time

When setting up multiple Speedlites, I always like to test each one out individually first; fine tuning the position as well as the power to my pre-determined ratio. Take a shot to understand exactly what effect each one has on the composition and the subject independently before switching all on together.

Group your lights

To control and adjust each light individually from your STE-3 Controller or master unit, make sure to allocate each light to it’s own group (A,B,C,D or E)

  • Allocating the same group to more than one Speedlite allows you to control them all as one light.
  • Placing two Speedlites side by side at the same power effectively doubles the flash output.

The starting point

Start with the placement and adjustment of your main light, the 'key light' (think of it as the sun). Being the main light on the subject, this is normally adjusted to give you your pre-determined aperture (f8, in this case), although it is also common to to go slightly under (up to 1 stop) the base aperture for a moodier result or slightly over ( up to ⅔ stop) for a brighter feel.

The difference and ratios

Once you have determined the exposure of your key light, you can then then start thinking if you want your other light brighter or darker, and by how much.

When using in ETTL mode, setting the ratios on your controller is as easy as dialling in a +/- EV value for that particular group in relation to the key light. For manual flash adjustment just select the appropriate power value instead (Full, ½, ¼ —> 1/128). For example:

  • Flash A - Key Light at f8 (relates to Base)
  • Flash B - Rim Light at -2EV (f4)
  • Flash C - Background Light at -1EV (f5.6)

Daniel Linnet

Daniel Linnet
Four Speedlites arranged closely around the subject to confine the light to the shooting area. All lights are adjusted manually to retain consistency between exposures.

Quick and dirty lighting

You don’t always need to use shapers and bounce when working with Speedlites off camera. I find that often just a couple of simple bare heads on stands give the most realistic interpretation of a scenario.

The results have more contrast with deep dark shadows.

Daniel Linnet
Two Speedlites are used in a simple configuration. Both are bare heads to achieve the harsh style of arena lighting. Rear light is gelled magenta and aimed at the camera to replicate the feel of being ring side. The rear lighting also helped to highlight the airborne water.

Daniel Linnet is a Sydney based commercial, fine art photographer and educator, specialising in portrait, automotive and the environmental photography. A master of photography with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, Daniel also founded and runs Sydney Photographic Workshops

Don't forget to check out Daniel’s portfolio and workshops 

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