This week I went downtown to McNally’s Irish Pub to photograph Kenny Townsend, the bartender that Inside Columbia magazine just rated as the best in Columbia, Mo. I started off using direct flash (it’s for class, and I had to use both direct and bounce). Naturally, I used my new Panera-straw grid for the direct flash.
I used the grid to make him stand out from the dark bar, but without lighting up the entire place in a way that would be unnatural, especially for a tight shot. For a wider composition, I felt I had to bounce the flash off of the ceiling (below). But this gridded spotlight also made clear that the focus wasn’t just the bar, but the bartender himself.
Of course, the composition also leaves something to be desired. So I switched to a broader view, and was much happier with the result.
I’m at the point in a lighting class at MU, Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism, where it is time to leave the studio and venture forth into the world with one (or two, if Canon ever repairs my other 550EX), small speedlight. I have become enamored with hard light sources in the studio; softboxes have their place, but I thought that grids, snoots, and barndoors were my favorite to work with. I remembered reading at Strobist a couple of years ago about making a grid out of black straws (easily sourced from your local Panera…).
Mine is not pretty: in fact, I’m already planning on making a second one with a more refined technique of stacking and gluing rather than lining up in a row and sandwiching with gaffer’s tape. For now I’m attaching it with gaff tape, but will make a little cardboard housing for it soon so that it can be slid into place on the head of the strobe.
But what its present incarnation lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in performance. I will admit that I have not perfected the art of aiming the speedlight with this grid, but I love the effect. It makes for a very circular, “spotlight” effect, and the light fall-off is rapid and dramatic.
How dramatic? I took the flash with me to a get-together of friends at a bar last week and did some experiments with it. I only brought my TTL cord; next time I’ll just take the wireless transmitter, as its far less cumbersome. (Nothing scares your friends more than a zipline of TTL cord randomly roaming a table with the potential to knock over their beer.) More after the jump… Continue reading “A DIY Grid Light Modifier for portable speedlights”→