Yesterday my first flash stick class began. We spent the first part of the class constructing flash sticks. Working with a student always helps one remember what is not so obvious to a newcomer after one has been working with a tool or technique for a while. We used a 7’ Cowboy Studio light stand for the flash stick. This is one that has screws on the three leg pieces so it is very easy to disassemble compared to others with rivets! Instead of using an old bicycle tube for the base of the hand grip, we used spongy shelving material, wrapping it around the handle several times to provide a soft base for the grip and securing it with little strips of electrical tape. We then finished that off, by inserting one corner of some black gaffers tape (http://goo.gl/Cs18Le) into the open end of the light stand and wrapping it at an angle to cover the shelving material. Adding a 1” rubber end cap secured one end of the wrap and the other was held in place by multiple wraps of black electrical tape. BAM! Voila! a new flash stick was born in less than 20 minutes! Next comes testing one’s camera to flash connections. One could use a 10’, coiled cable (http://goo.gl/gisu8j) to make this connection, but I prefer to use inexpensive radio triggers. I have had success with Cowboy Studio NPT-04 triggers (http://goo.gl/2YySoc) that usually sell for around $30 for a set of two receivers and one transmitter. I use them with my Canon 60D and either my Canon 580EX II, Youngnuo YN-560 II, or my very inexpensive, Neewer TT560 flash ($35, http://goo.gl/cFSlHM) and they work fine. However, students of mine have had different experiences. It seems the triggers are temperamental and don’t always work 100% all of the time (though, as I said, this has NOT been my experience!). We got a hook-up that worked and headed outside to try out the new flash stick.
It takes some practice to get used to holding the flash stick with a flash attached in one’s left hand while holding and controlling one’s camera in the right hand! To start with, I like to have people keep their stick short and simply take shots of things at waist or eye level, such as flowers or low-hanging tree leaves or blossoms. After getting used to just holding the stick and balancing it comes learning how to point it correctly at your intended subject. Since you are typically going to be working in full manual mode on the flash, I like to get a reasonably versatile power setting (say, 1/2 or 1/4), leave the flash set to that setting and do my lighting manipulation by varying how far I hold the flash from the subject and/or increasing and decreasing my aperture selection. If I want to make the background disappear, I generally leave my shutter speed set to my camera’s sync speed of 1/250 second. I also, typically, set my ISO to 100.
So class session one went well and next week we will continue practicing holding the stick correctly and fine-tuning aiming the flash head. In our third meeting, we will really get into becoming creative using the flash stick as our lighting assistant. We will work with a polarizing filter on the camera lens and using various, low-cost snoots to create special effects.
In addition to teaching scheduled photography classes throughout the year, I am also available to do one-on-one tutoring or small group lessons designed to meet YOUR needs and what you want to learn in the area of photography, using flashes, or the use of Apple products and software. Give yourself the gift of learning: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses! Check out my new special tutoring bundle: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses/tutoringbundle.php.