of Depth of Field, speedlites and recycle time….

01 August 2011
Mohammadpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh

while I was photographing Lamisa at the start of this month, I actually had something bigger in my mind… I was thinking of making a plan for some group shots in the coming Eid holidays… so, I was looking for some suitable places in the house and also the most suitable settings for such shoots…. group shots are some pain…. one of the hardest jobs to accomplish…. it creates some technical nightmares and also makes the actual shoot itself something of a challenge…. while experimenting, I figured out some problems that I need to rectify…. some of that I had found ways to overcome, while others had to be bypassed altogether….

1) the first thing that played in my mind was space…. if I needed to cover a large enough group, I needed enough space to cover the whole group…. a wide-angle would obviously require a bigger backdrop, and would also create problems related to distortion…. on the other hand, a longer lens, which might’ve flattened perspectives and would’ve made it easier to work with a smaller backdrop, would require a lot of space to shoot…. it didn’t entirely got solved, as there’s a space constraint in my house that I can’t rectify easily…. so, I needed to work with a smaller backdrop and resort to Photoshop, of which I’m an absolute dumb!!

2) the second problem was Depth of Field (DoF)….. a group would invariably require me to shoot f8 and lower…. that would put a lot of pressure of the flashes… speedlites would struggle to say the least…. well, this wasn’t a real problem as long as I could put the light source very close to the subjects….. but with a large group, you just can’t keep the lights that close, otherwise you’ll end up having lights in the frame!!…..

3) so, this created the third problem….. making a bigger light source, as the lights began to go farther away from the subject…. a nice big softbox will not produce soft light if its placed a mile from the subject….. it has to be close to the subject; its size needs to be substantial relative to the distance from the subject… but with a group shot, it becomes difficult…. the light source has to be bigger to keep it at a good distance…. and if the lights are farther from the subject, this creates another problem….

4) the fourth problem would be the power of the lights…. as the lights are placed at a distance from the subjects, the power of the lights need to be higher…. its a simple logic…. the farther the light, the more light fall-off there is….. so, a substantial part of the light would be lost by the time it reaches the subjects….. so, raise the power of the lights…… this brings to the next problem…..

5) the fifth problem is about recycle time…. the further you put the lights from the subject and the more you dial up the power, the more time its going to require to recycle each time you shoot…. there’s always a chance of missing out vital moments with the lights taking too long to recycle…. in a previous post, I was talking about making a baby pose in front of the lens, where I’ve given the tips on making every second count and shoot as many frames as possible within the window of opportunity…. but this would require fast recycle time…. and how is this going to happen if the lights are pushed to their higher power?…..

and all of these are of course taking the most important thing into assumption…. that your lights are at least powerful enough to properly illuminate the subjects….. if thats not possible, you have to find ways other than using artificial lights…..


so, whats the solution to the problems?….. 1) one thing was sure that I wouldn’t get more space than I know I would…. so, have to work with a smaller backdrop and Photoshop…. or alternatively, use other props to fill the frame and make it less dependent on backdrops….

2) use bigger light sources as main lights….. softboxes are good as long as you have powerful lights in them…. but if there is shortage of powerful lights, you have to use multiple lights…. and that basically keeps out most softboxes (at least, the ones I have)… use diffusion panels instead…. they can stand in front of multiple speedlites and create one big uniform light source…. this means, my DIY 4’x4′ panels have some work ahead of them….

3) increase the number of speedlites if you’re dependent on speedlites…. that way, you may be able to shoot at a bit lower power…. 1/4 or 1/8 power is certainly better than 1/2 or 1/1 power…. since then, I’ve acquired a couple more YN-560 speedlites, which may give a great support….

4) use powerful studio lights whenever you can…. they’re real useful in creating that DoF…. and solves most of the problems cited above…. the Elinchrom Ranger unit (1,100 w/s) and a Simpex monolight (250 w/s) unit would be real handy…. the Simpex though, would be dependent on main lines…

anyway, the shootout went well…. I started with one main light, as shown above, and then added another light to cover the two subjects in some more space…. the speedlites did struggle to put enough light in there, though I was shooting only at f8… I didn’t push the aperture down to f11 or lower, as the flashes were shooting at high power (1/2 or 1/4) already; and missing some of the exposures…

every shoot is a problem-solving exercise…. if there’s no problem, that may mean that you’re no really putting an effort into it…

more to come soon….

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About Ideas_R_Bulletproof

Photographer, Entrepreneur, Writer, Blogger, Market Researcher, Consultant; goes by the title of Ideas_R_Bulletproof
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