Tag Archives: Off camera flash

Off-Camera Lighting for Character Portraits Easy as 1-2-3

Recently we were working with a business partner who wanted to learn more about our products. He wasn’t a professional photographer and he was asking us lots of questions like:

What is off camera flash?

How many remote lights can you trigger?

Why is PocketWizard the best radio trigger?

Involve me!

Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” We took his advice and set up a photoshoot to show our partner how PocketWizards can be used to create beautiful lighting for creative character portraits. Since we are located in Vermont, we went to a local family dairy farm for the perfect backdrop. We created 3 different lighting set ups for 3 different portraits to show the versatility of our products.

1 – Single Off Camera Flash for a Natural Outdoor Portrait

Our first shot using off camera flash was taken outdoors and being early winter, the light was fading fast. A simple one light set up was all we needed to make our subject pop while allowing the ambient light to give the viewer a sense of place. Our flash was placed on one side of him with a warming gel, to light one side more than the other and mimic the look of the setting sun.  

2 – Two Remotely Triggered Lights for a Natural Indoor Portrait

For this portrait we moved indoors to the machine shop at the farm. While our subject worked, we set up 2 lights. The main light was set to one side of him, almost to give the appearance that he was working near a window. To create a moodier shot and create a rich depth to the contrast, we placed a black foam core board directly opposite the light, on the other side of our subject, which darkened the negative space. Finally, to add a little separation between our subject and our background, we added a rim light.

3 – Remotely Triggering Three Lights for a Dramatic Indoor Portrait

For this last shot we wanted to remotely trigger our lights to show the whole scene, so we used a slightly wider lens. We moved our main light back a little bit and eliminated the black board. On our test shot, we noticed that the truck was like a black hole – there was no light and it offered no detail. It was an interesting part of the machine shop, so in order give the scene a little more visual interest, we decided we needed just one more light. Luckily, we had an extra speedlight and another PocketWizard on hand. We placed the speedlight right on the engine pointing toward the hood to add an accent light to our image.

Universal Compatibility

One advantage of PocketWizard is that we are universally compatible and work with virtually any camera or flash on the market. We always encourage photographers to have a few extra PocketWizards in your bag and an extra light to boot! As you invest in lights, it’s nice to know that PocketWizard should be able to trigger all of them and you’ll be able to integrate your older lights with your newer lights when necessary. This might not be possible with some other brands that have proprietary solutions that require you to stay within a single brand. Luckily in our situation with PocketWizard, we were able to use multiple lights from multiple brands. Just one of the many reasons we think PocketWizard is the best radio trigger on the market.

Have you had a situation where you needed just one more light?  Nice that with PocketWizard – it’s possible!


PocketWizard’s Moonshot

You never know when creative inspiration will strike. Our Sales and Marketing Manager, Sarah Lavoie, was inspired by Michael Heeney’s amazing photos from Lone Rock Point and had the creative idea for an epic family portrait at this beautiful location.

Inspired by the PocketWizard’s E Release Range

The new E Release firmware upgrade is a simple way to get incredible range for off-camera flash and remote cameras. The extended range in regular mode is up to 5 times further than our legacy firmware. Sarah wanted to put it to the test by taking an epic family photo in front of a rising full moon. In this case, she wanted to be far away so that she could use a long zoom and she needed a flash to light the family at twilight. A zoom gave her the compression she wanted for the full moon appear closer and larger. PocketWizard Plus IIIs upgraded with the E Release gave her the power to trigger two speedlights from a distance.

PocketWizard Made the Distant Triggering Possible

The speedlights were triggered from a distance of about 2300 feet (700 meters). It is also worth noting that the distance was spread over water and with an elevation rise – both of which are notoriously challenging for any radio triggers. That is, any radio trigger other than PocketWizard!

Behind the Scenes Video with the E Release

Press play to watch this video to see how this photo was taken.

Tips for Long Distance Off-Camera Flash

  • Update your PocketWizard radios with the E Release. Learn more here.
  • Have a way to communicate with your subject(s). In this case, Sarah was so far away that the family could barely see her and they felt like they were posing for no one. They also could not see the moon and needed to know where to stand and when to smile.
  • Train your subject(s) on how to set up and test your flash and radios. Send them with spare batteries just in case.
  • Use technology to help you plan. Sarah used an app called PhotoPills to help her plan when and where the moon would rise.
  • These photos were taken in TxRx Mode – Sarah did not need to use Long Range Mode (LR) to get this distance. When using LR with a flash, you may lose a stop or two of sync speed. Sarah was using a 200-500mm lens on a canoe – she didn’t want to reduce her shutter speed any more than necessary – and she didn’t need to!
  • Be creative – the E Release opens a world of opportunity!
  • Tag us! #whypocketwizard

Explore the Possibilities!

With PocketWizard, we can help you Make it Possible!

Shoot this Look

3 PocketWizard Plus III Upgraded with the E Release:

  • Plus IIIe on the camera
  • 2 Plus IIIes attached to speedlights with a flash sync cord mounted on light stands

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Flash Friday

When you say…

I’m a natural light photographer!

do you really mean…

I don’t know how to use my flash! 

If you are like many photographers, you’ve invested a lot of money in your equipment, including a speedlight. Have you become friends with it yet? If not, we challenge you to get to know your speedlight a little better this weekend.

Check out this great example of the same portrait taken outside without flash, and then with a flash by photographer Fred Pompermayer.  Without the pop of flash, he would have missed this beautiful shot.

Yes – natural light is wonderful! But it isn’t always where we want it and you can’t control its location or its strength. By using the controls on your flash, you can adjust the strength and by getting your flash off your camera, you can control its location.

To start using off-camera flash, get yourself 2 PocketWizards to radio control your flash wirelessly. One goes on your camera, and the second connected to your speedlight.

Set your exposure on your camera to get the background perfectly exposed – then add your flash and adjust as necessary. By getting the exposure just right in camera, you will save yourself tons of time in post. No more bumping up the shadows and living with grainy photos.

Try adding a pop of flash to your portraits and tag us – #pocketwizard – we’d love to feature your masterpiece on our Instagram feed. The more you use it, the more you will like it – it’s like having a little sunshine in your pocket.