Linking Speed-lights for Dramatic Photography

Linking Speed-lights together is a fantastic way to increase the volume of your shot, dramatically emphasise your subject and tell a better story. When shooting events, frequently you are in a place with poor lighting. It’s your job as a photographer to make your subject look amazing no matter what the available light is like. This video will show you the basics of linking your speedlights to all fire in sync with your camera and how they can be controlled from your master speedlight.

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Shooting receptions and parties can be a lot of fun. There is usually a ton of action not to mention poignant emotions like love, and humor. Lot’s of shots from these events look like snapshots – overly contrasty and lit from a single source. Bouncing light off a wall or ceiling helps, but can only take you so far toward your ultimate goal of rich vibrant images. By placing speedlights at various points around the room you can greatly enhance the drama  of your shots.

Try linking speedlights to create different effects.

Hair-lights separate the subject from the background, cross-lights bring out detail by building contrast; background-lights fill in the background adding it to the story — especially in large open environments; and fill-lights soften the light on subjects, adding to their beauty. You can use a number of tools to place the lights where you want them, including a variety of stands and wall mounts. A photograph taken while linking speedlights properly will emphasize the natural drama of, say, a bride and groom’s first dance.

Link Speedlights for great reception lighting

Start with a master speedlight on your camera rather than a transmitter only. This will provide syncing capability, a backup light in case you have to grab a quick shot away from your setup and equally important the focus assist beam on your speedlight makes it possible for you to focus in very dark environments.

Using the link button, you can slave your disconnected speedlights to your master flash and once you have them linked, from your master flash you can set up your groups, change their mode, or turn them on and off. When shooting an actual event like a wedding reception, plan ahead for your most important moments such as cutting the cake or tossing the  bouquet. Discuss with the bride or DJ where these events will happen and plan your vantage and lighting accordingly.

Link Speedlights for amazing drama in dark locations

The best way to become skilled at linking speedlights is to get ahold of a few speedlights and go out and practice with them. This video shows you how to set up your speedlights to be in sync with each other, but being ready to shoot requires rapid deployment and changes to the settings. So, once your lights are set up, familiarize yourself with rapidly changing the settings on multiple lights. Learn to turn them up or down and on or off light – that way you can adjust or disable any lights that are causing you problems, or turn up lights that are making an effect you want to emphasise. Practice, practice, practice is the key to success with this technique. Pretty soon, making adjustments becomes natural, and you will see a significant increase in the drama and beauty of your photographs. Your audience will ask you again and again “how did you do that?” and “how come my shots don’t look like that?” and that, my friend is what makes you a pro.

Equipment List:

      1. Canon 600RT Speedlite
      2. Yongnuo Wireless Radio Trigger for Speedlights
      3. Tether Tools Rapid Mount SLX Speedlight Wall Mount System
      4. Tether Tools RapidMount Cold Shoe Elbow Mount
      5. Think Tank Urban Disguise 10 Bag

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Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert

Shelby and Nick’s Engagement Portraits in Phoenix, Arizona

Nick and Shelby’s Engagement Portraits in the Phoenix Arizona Desert from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

We started this engagement portrait shoot at Shelby’s parents home in Phoenix, Arizona and ended it in the desert as sunset.  Shelby’s parents home is in the shadow of the mountain about two and a half hours before the sun sets, so there is a lot of great open shade around the home, which makes for fantastic images.  The color and texture of the stones is quite nice to work with as well.  And of course, Shelby and Nick are a good looking and cool couple, so it was a pretty nice afternoon.

The night after the engagement shoot, I posted one of the images from the shoot on my Facebook Page.  The shot is below.  Shelby just happen to have a card board cutout of Jacob, from the Twilight Movie series in her trunk.  I remember trying to watch one of those movies on a 14 hour flight home from a wedding in Hong Kong and it was so bad, so poorly acted, that I shut the movie off and did nothing for two hours rather than watch that movie.  It was a lot of fun and the shot makes me laugh, every time I look at it.

We had a lot of laughs while we were making the shot.  And if there is one thing that is extremely important at an engagement portrait session, it is having a lot of good laughs.  It certainly makes my job more entertaining, and the by-product is that the photos look better too.

So, here is the first photo I posted, the night of the engagement shoot.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert with a cut-out of Jacob from the Twilight Movies

There were so many great shots from the afternoon.  I have posted a few of my very favorite shots below.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall

This was one of the earlier shots in the day.  The huge windows behind them make for some fantastic back light and the stair case made for a great angular element to hold the top of the photo together.  For those of you interested in the lighting on this shot, there is a shoot through translucent umbrella above, forward of and to the right of the Nick.  This light is giving the couple some volume by side lighting them, but we are not too dramatic, because it is at a 45 degree angle on them and it is a shoot through umbrella which softens the light a bit because the direction of the light is less defined.  The light was simply a 580EXII Canon Flash attached to a Radio Popper.  My camera is also sporting a 580EX flash with a Radio Popper transmitter and the flash is pounding up into the ceiling to give a little fill light throughout the room.  And then, of course, the window lights are providing shape of the stare case, and a little hair light for the couple.The shutter speed is at 125th of a second and the ISO is at 400.  This allows me to get a good blast from the ambient light outside and the aperture is at 2.8, which gives me that soft look in the background.  I am shooting on a fixed 85mm lens.  The 85mm 1.8 is not a very expensive lens, but it takes a beautiful image.  I love that little lens.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in Home Easy Chair

I love the reflection in the pool and the blue set against the yellow blooms of the desert trees.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona by the Pool

Of all the images at the house, this has to be my favorite.  The stone and the tree are fantastic and the tree frames the couple very nicely in the bottom left corner of the photo.  You have to love the color in this one.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall under a blooming tree

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona the Bride

I just love the expressions on this one.  Oh, and the composition.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall

Just behind their home, on the side of the mountain is an outcropping of rocks that was quite difficult to photograph.  Once we got them up to the rocks, I had to take position on the top of a wall to get the right angle on the shot, but how can you not love this one.  I was so happy with the image composition and then, Shelby put he elbow up on Nick’s shoulder and that made the photo!  I told her to keep that pose and “never stop!”  I think those were my actual words.  Way to go with this one Shelby.  Way to go.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the desert mountains

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert

I enjoy the quality of the light after the sun has gone down for about 15 minutes or so.  There really isn’t a better light.  I used to capture this kind of light on film, but I had to use a tripod, I was often shooting a 4×5 camera (those old accordion looking cameras with the dark cloths over the photographer’s head) and the exposures were 30 seconds and of landscapes.  I am so happy with digital cameras today.  6400 ISO?  No problem.  I could enjoy shooting an entire photo shoot AFTER sunset!  It really is the best light ever.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert

Sweet light.  Sweet kiss.  Sweet shot.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona a Final Kiss

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Shoot: Engagement Portrait Session
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, South Mountain
Slideshow Music: Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music