Using Speedlights using Grids w Michael Anthony
Learning to creatively use light is something that photographers can do to help make their portfolio stand out among their competitors. In the last 5 years, the number of photographers adding off-camera light to their technique has increased substantially. In addition, tools that help supplement our efforts as strobists have become increasingly available to us.
We use speedlights extensively in our wedding photography in Los Angeles. They are our most often used tool and contribute greatly to the differentiation brides see in our portfolio. Until recently however, speedlights have always been difficult to modify to our particular needs, especially when it came to control mechanisms such as grids or snoots. Just a few years back, while walking through one of the large photography industry tradeshows, I came across a company called Magmod. At first glance, I will be honest, I thought the product would be another gimmicky flash modifier that you see bundled with cameras from major retailers. That instantly changed as soon as I held it in my hands and saw the demonstration of the product by the Magmod team. I knew right then and there that Magmod would become an invaluable tool in our use of creative light.
While Magmod allows for easy modification of flash color, today I want to talk about control. More specifically I want to talk about the use of their grids. Magmod allows for a stackable grid that will narrow the beam of light emitted from your flash.
Take a look at the below example of a flashhead zoomed to 200mm without a grid, vs the same scenario with a grid.
One of the first ways you can tell that something is off in a photograph with off camera flash is the amount of that light that is spilling on things other than your intended subject. Remember, naturally our eyes are drawn to the brightest part of an image, and if an image has flash light spilling on the floor, wall, or anything other than our subjects it will be distracting to a viewer.
The easiest way to control the spill of light is to use a grid. A grid is a piece of material with numerous small openings that help direct the light into more of a straight line from flash to subject. Grids will give you more control of your light then snoots, and will allow you to place emphasis on your subjects easily.
We often use speedlights to backlight our subjects. When backlighting without a grid, you will get light spill on the floor, which will almost always detract from the look of your photograph. By adding a Magmod grid to the speedlight in the below photograph (along with a stackable colored gel) we were able to control the light spill perfectly.
In addition, a grid will allow you to add a hair light to your subjects without light spilling on the walls, which is particularly useful for bridal prep scenarios.
We also use grids on our off camera lighting during wedding receptions, which allows us to keep the spotlight on the subjects. Take a look at these examples from receptions where we used gridded speedlights.
The quality of photography is continuously improving at an exponential rate. In order to stand out in today’s market, it’s the little things that will matter in your work. Taking the jump into creative lighting is the first step, but refining your use of light will ultimately be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.