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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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28 Mar 2020 10:27AM   Views : 383 Unique : 140

By which I mean STUDIO flash – the units that plug into a wall socket and have built-in modelling lamps. A lot of people shy away from them, but they are really a wonderful tool. They give consistent, predictable and very bright light, with short recycling times, allowing the photographer to shoot faster than most of us ever want to, and with apertures that mean focus errors are extremely unlikely. No messing around at f/4 when you’re ten feet from the subject: raise the power output to maximum and f/11 is likely at 100 ISO! And they incorporate modelling lamps, so you can see how the pictures will look - in the unit illustrated, it's an old-fashioned tungsten lamp, but fluorescent and LED modelling lamps are now common.


I’ve owned the lights in the picture for over a decade, and they are still going strong. They come in a kit, with a couple of lightboxes (a SMALL lightbox on the unit on the left gives softer light than a speedlight can deliver), stands, leads and a trigger system – typically, this consists of a small unit that sits in the camera’s hot shoe, and maybe secondary units that plug into each light. Increasingly, though, a radio receiver is built into each body.

You control exposure manually, by adjusting the aperture and ISO. Set the shutter speed quite low – the effective exposure is around 1/100 second, even with very powerful units – that’s the duration of the flash. You do need to make sure that the shutter speed is low enough, though – set something too high and you will get cutoff on one edge of the frame.

How to find the right exposure? Try it and see! Back in the days of film, metering carefully was important: now, you have instant feedback, and minimal cost for wasting a frame.

There are several different standards for the connection between flash units and the accessories that fit onto them. The most common is the Bowens or S-type fitting – a three-stud bayonet which is robust and reliable – if you buy equipment from different sources, make sure that you retain compatibility! Fortunately, the fitting for attaching the lights to the stands is a common standard between manufacturers!


The bigger the softbox or reflector, the softer the light: but using smaller reflectors can give highly directional light for stark shadows. And, all the time, the modelling lamps give you a continuous preview of the effect you will get. To exploit this advantage to the maximum, it’s best to work in a darkened room, with all other lighting switched off.

Just don’t trip over the power leads.


The last picture shows the standard fitting for the light to attach to the stand: and explains what was in the image I posted a couple of days ago!


mistere Plus
6 6 3 England
28 Mar 2020 12:30PM
No messing around at f/4?. But messing around at less than f/4 can be a lot of fun Smile

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saltireblue Plus
10 10.6k 61 Norway
28 Mar 2020 12:37PM
I even use my Elinchromes for some macro work - the light provided by the modelling light in a softbox gives a very pleasing effect.
dudler Plus
16 1.2k 1646 England
28 Mar 2020 1:13PM
It's different if you choose to mess around at f/4... But having to use the largest aperture a lens has without the option - not so good!

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