Photographers: What I’m about to tell you is, well… embarrassing. But it’s raw, it’s real, it’s messy… and it’s my story. You may laugh as you read. You may cringe a little. You may even see a little of your story as you read mine. I’m sharing in the hopes that, through a little honesty and vulnerability, we can all take a step forward together in our Flash Photography journey!
Imagine this… it’s wedding day. Saturday morning. You’re dressed and ready to go. Your camera is packed, along with your lenses, batteries, and SD cards. Your heart is racing with a mixture of excitement, the typical pre-wedding nerves, and… sheer terror. Why? Because last night, you attended the rehearsal for this wedding. When you arrived, you learned that the ceremony was taking place after sunset. In a dimly-lit room. In the dead of winter. (You also learned that a past romantic interest of yours would be there, further complicating the matter… but that’s a story for another blog on another day… ha!). And, the most fear-inducing reality of all begins to set in: you have NO IDEA how to shoot with flash. In fact… 4 weddings in to your photography career, you don’t even OWN a flash.
Yes, this really happened to me. Yes, I stopped at a camera store ON MY WAY TO THE WEDDING that morning (go ahead, laugh it up!) and bought my first flash. I remember, as I hastily scooped my credit card and new flash off the counter to rush out the door, hollering back to the guy behind the counter:
“Hey man! What’s your one tip to a photographer on his way to a wedding who just bought his first flash?”
“Just bounce the flash bro!”
“Bounce” the flash? What did that even mean?
The wedding day started off beautifully. The bride and groom were amazing, and there wedding party was a total blast! I was in my element, and finding my groove (despite crossing paths with the aforementioned past romantic interest from time to time).
Then the sun went down.
I could not for the life of me figure out how to “bounce the flash”. I cranked the ISO on my Canon 6D to a whopping 6400 (don’t try this at home kids!) and hoped for the best.
I made it work. It took hours and hours and hours of editing, but I made it work.
Now, though, it was reception time. And the reception space was even darker than the ceremony space. No amount of ISO cranking would save me here.
With the couple about to make their entrance to the reception, I knew this was a make-or-break moment for my young photography career.
I closed my eyes.
Took a deep breath.
Prayed. (or, more accurately, begged/negotiated with God for a modern day miracle)
I turned on my flash. Put it in what I thought was a “bouncing” position one. Final. Time.
It worked. Sort of. It wasn’t perfect, but the result looked better than anything I’d taken so far that day… by a lot. As the couple came in and started their first dance, I quickly started doing some mental geometry/physics/gymnastics to figure out what I might tweak to make the next better.
This shot was a step backwards. A BIG step backwards. (I never did well in physics class anyway… or gymnastics). The couple’s dance continued. I rethought things again. Took another shot. A little better this time.
Progress. This could work.
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.
I repeated this process all. Night. Long. Try something. See what worked. If I liked it, I tried to repeat it. If I didn’t, I tried to correct it. The reception lasted for 5 hours that night, so I had plenty of opportunities to experiment with what I was learning with each image.
Side Note: I should probably point out here that I 100 MILLION PER CENT DO NOT RECOMMEND this approach!
By the end of the night, I had built a foundation for flash. It wasn’t perfect, and I’d spend the next several years refining my process, but in one night, I went from completely clueless about flash, to having a foundation I could build from for the future.
I share all this to say… it’s ok to have NO CLUE what you’re doing when it comes to flash. It’s not ok to STAY THERE forever, but you’re not weird or dumb or inadequate for not knowing how that device sitting on top of your camera works. But it’s completely possible for your flash images to experience a transformation like this:
For all the incredible courses that are out there from folks like Amy and Jordan, and Katelyn James, there’s not much in the way of friendly, easy-to-learn content for people who are trying to learn to shoot with flash. And, if you’re a wedding or event photographer, you NEED to learn to shoot with flash… TODAY.
All my life, I’ve tried to pass on whatever knowledge I’ve learned. Growing up with two teachers for parents, I’m a huge believer that you’re always ahead of someone and always behind someone, therefore you should always be teaching and always be learning. From that first wedding shooting with flash, I was determined to conquer my flash fears, not just so I could take great flash photos for my clients, but so that I could help others do the same.
Never in my wildest dreams, though, did I ever envision that I would one day be teaching a Flash Course. Gotta give a huge, ironic, thank you to COVID-19 for creating the space needed to take the live workshops I’ve been teaching over the past year and convert in to something so much more robust and thorough… a tool that photographers across the country (I wanted to say “around the world” because we’ve got a student from Germany, but that felt a little disingenuous, haha!) have been piloting over the past several months, and seeing tremendous success with!
I hope my flash journey has given you hope for yours. I’d love for you to join us, and will be continuing to provide free flash content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to launch! The next post will be all about the ONLY 2 Flash settings You MUST know!
In the meantime, I’d love to invite you to join me for my FREE Webinar, “3 Secrets to Unlocking Your Flash’s Potential” on November 18 or 19 – pick whichever day is better for you!