Multiple off-camera flash with film?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by MrBaz, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. MrBaz

    MrBaz Member

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    I've been intrigued by The Strobist's blog and all of the multiple off-camera flash setups.

    Unfortunately, trial-and-error isn't the best strategy for film.

    I've found the Nikon SU-4 that can be used to trigger off-camera speedlites and still retain TTL metering. I may give that a try.

    Anyone else have experience with manual configuration of multiple off-camera flash with film?
     
  2. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    I do. I use canon and a similar setup - the STE2 to fire up to 3 speedlites in different modifiers. I did learn on a digi - so no pointers from me as far as starting in film. Studio lights are always tricky.

    I have found that I don't like my usual light setup with B&W film though - I prefer either a single hard light or natural light.
     
  3. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    How about a hand-held light meter.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Two words: flash meter.
     
  5. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I have used for years used multiple flash, usually studio strobes. I use a flash meter, would be hard to do without.
     
  6. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    TTL/ETTL II isn't imposible but it can be fooled if you aren't well versed in reflectivity.
    I usually use older Sunpack/Norman or Lumedyne in manual with modifiers and a sekonic L358

    No surprises that way.
     
  7. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Trial & Error is the way to do it with digital. I have watched like 2 hours worth of video from Nikon about their so great TTL CLS system for multiple flash unit. And I learn that it's all Trial & Error. So with film just have everything in manual and use a flash meter like others have recommended. Using TTL for multiple flash setup I don't think it would work as I have not seen or know about someone who can set up such a setup and got the right result the first shot. It's always trial and error and if it is then the Auto TTL is basically just get in the way.
     
  8. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    I use an old Gossen flash meter, modeling lights (when available) and for complicated set-ups, I test with a DSLR (no different than Polaroid tests back in the day).
     
  9. Katie

    Katie Subscriber

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    The hardest part about strobes isn't how much light to use - yes that's easy with a Meyer - its where to place them effectively. Unlike continuous lights, you cannot see how they fall on the subject until after the shot. Hence the trial and error...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 28, 2012
  10. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I have the orginal White Lighting strobe with modeling lights. The modeling lights are not as bright as the more expensinve units however, they do help a lot.
     
  11. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    I use it all the time, using Pocketwizards and flashes (studio flashes and speedlights).

    I use a digital camera to gauge how the light actually is and to fine-tune exposure (it simply replace the old-style of using polaroid backs), then I shoot with my Canon 1v, Hasselblad 503 or my Mamiya rz67 II at the gauged aperture.

    I never use TTL, only manual mode and light meters.
    Automatic (TTL) flash takes away the control IMO,
     
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    When I learned to use strobes, I did it manually without a meter. I tested my strobes with each reflector or diffuser I owned using slide film to determine the guide number. I made diagrams and calculated the exposure and the ratio of the main light to fill. I had modeling lights so I could see the effect of the positioning of the light, and I could move the lights around during the shoot, but as long as I didn't change the distance between the main light and the subject, I didn't have to recalculate, and my exposures were always spot on.

    It's easier with a light meter, but there's a lot to be learned by going through the process of testing for guide number with film, diagramming the lighting, and seeing how it works at the shoot.
     
  13. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I think most of us here all agreed that TTL flash control isn't of much value. I was always amused when I read so many posts (especially in digital forum) that people were so scared of flashes that can't do TTL.
     
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  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The trick is to have the slave lights as fill lights; less powerful or farther away than the light controlled via the TTL circuit.
     
  16. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    As David points out, there are more "primitive" ways to do this that are probably much more effective & sure in the end. There's no mystery about a film's sensitivity, a flash's output and the inverse square law. It's just complicated. I'm yet to really take the time myself.

    All those Kodak data-books with their strange calculators, lengthy tables and heady discussion of guide numbers... yep, that's what this is all about... :joyful:
     
  17. rmolson

    rmolson Member

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    multiple flash

    Multiple flash

    Years ago I used multiple flash when it was with flash bulbs. No meters, no TTL etc. There was an amazingly simple way to determine exposure and placement. Once the main exposure light had been established ,usually by trial and error tests. The equivalent of determining film speed, which you should be with a new flash unit anyway. The other lights could be determined using the f stop scale as a guide Converting the f scale into feet ,if the main light is say 8 feet from the subject then 11 feet f/11 would be a 1:2 ratio. 16 feet f/16 would be a 1:4 ratio approximately. A few quick trials will establish the working values This even worked with color transparency film which had practically no latitude at all.
     
  18. MrBaz

    MrBaz Member

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    Full manual and a pre-planned measurement trial and error is all good, but completely useless for a mobile setup where you cannot control every aspect of the lighting.

    Utilizing a setup capable of TTL can still allow you to control the lighting via ratios without worrying about exposure as much. Yeah, all of you are so awesome when it comes to a studio setup where once you have everything measured out it never moves, but that is completely useless when it comes to a often-changed setup inside, outside, morning, sunny, beach, snow, etc. Digital gives you the flexibility of trial-and-error on the spot, but that is not capable with film.

    I can either setup everything and take light measurements for the next 20 minutes, which are pointless if the outside ambient light changes. Using a setup capable of TTL speedlights allows me more control than any setup you guys are offering.
     
  19. filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    I have had great success with three manually-controlled speedlights, off camera on light stands, triggered by cheapy Cactus wireless triggers. I incident meter with a flashmeter, plugged right into the Cactus transmitter.

    When it's really important, I can pop a proof shot on DSLR or with a polaroid back for the Bronica -- but I rarely make any changes because the flashmeter has removed any guesswork or trial-and-error. You know exactly what exposure you are getting, in what ratio. I find it's easier to tweak ratios by just moving the fill flash closer or further away -- especially on a busy location, sliding a light stand back a couple of feet is much quicker than wrestling with the digital pushbutton controls on the back of the flash.
     
  20. filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    I've done two (or two-and-a-half) speedlights on Nikon TTL, using SB26's and SU-4s. It works well, but it's not radio-wireless (i.e. the flashes have to see each other.) And while it's fine on a Nikon TTL body, I can't use it with medium format or my manual 35mm bodies.
     
  21. Jenni

    Jenni Member

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    Use a Polaroid back or a digital camera to test your position. Keep a notebook with lighting diagrams so you can duplicate your results, use a tape measure to record distance from subject.

    A good exercise is to shoot a test roll doing the steps above and based on the results use the set up you like best for your actual project. It's a really fun excersize.

    :D
     
  22. analoguey

    analoguey Member

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    Was thinking how did people actually figure out usage of multiple lights pre-digital. Let's say on location or shoots where they might not have access to hot lights.
    Would a flash meter also calculate for many flashes/lights as well?
    Or would one go by the official guide no or measured guide no and then set up flashes - say if using 3-4 numbers with slow speed film?

    Sent from Tap-a-talk
     
  23. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    It's not as simple as using multiple flashes and T.T.L flash metering which will give you correct exposure it's about being able to calculate the ratio of contrast produced in the picture by several light sources and their relationship with each other which requires a flash meter, because you can get the exposure correct but the lighting balance all wrong.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2014
  24. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    A few years ago I took a portrait lighting class, and one of the primary lessons in the course was how to use the flash meter. You take multiple meter readings to determine your main light and the ratio of the fill, accent, etc. lights. The meter will help you do this, but you have to do the calculations yourself. As Benji said.
     
  25. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    That's right Scott, in fact on modern studio flashes you can control theflash output in 1/10th of a stop increments and they have proportional modeling lights, and with the latest Sekonic Litemaster Pro http://www.sekonic.com/products/l-478d/overview.aspxyou can adjust the output of each flash with the light meter touch screen via the radio module from the camera position.
     
  26. analoguey

    analoguey Member

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    Indeed.
    Thats exactly why I asked the question. I don't use multiple TTLs myself. Figuring out stuff w digital itself is educating.
    So even with a light meter one would need quite a few readings.
    Hmm.

    Sent from Tap-a-talk