Thinking outside the Box – Inside the trees

Environment is one of your greatest tools as a photographer….


Without flash, as above – or with flash as below….if you’re mind is on the right frequency, you should be tuned into how to use that environment to your compositional advantage.

 Southern Style Wedding photographer

Flash – or added light – has the opportunity to transform an average shady building – into a night time scene where a fairy is running between the trees….


This is not a complicated setup – the flash is about 10 meters away from the bricks, elevated on stand into the tree leaves. The Nikon sb-something-or-other shoe flash is popping at 1/4 power, I’ve lowered my camera ISO to darken the ambient as much as possible within the shutter range for flash 1/250th of a second.  

Exposure Explained:

  • Ambient exposure is 1/250th a second @ f2.8 - ISO 200
  • Flash altered reality is 11/250th a second @f4 – ISO 100

By dropping my ISO and increasing my aperture, I darkened the overall exposure of the scene by 2 stops.  That is enough to allow the light to make it’s mark – however strong you make the power settings on your flash unit will determine the contrast in the scene.


When you work with your flash off of your camera – the exposure values don’t change as you move closer to the subject or farther away.  Once you’ve freed yourself – take every advantage to work the envionment fully.

Listen to your shadows!

The shadows set the mood of your image.


Aiming your flash unit through the tree leaves gives you interesting and naturalized shadow shapes in your image.  So even though you are using an unnatural light source you have given it natural elements that help with the design and composition of your photo.  Draw your inspiration from these natural elements and build yourself a photo that exceed expectations!

rochester_DWF_08.jpg rochester_DWF_09.jpg 

As you’re listening to your shadows and you want to add that vintage golden distressed look buy and download the Golden Touch Texture Set from the create cart:

Golden Touch Texture Set

How well you listen and blend the natural elements and capture their essence defines your success:

Fall Bride

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Bare Bulb Lighting Technique 101

Soft lighting – it’s not an easy ideal to achieve

Bare Bulb Lighting tutorial 101

Head to toe – full sized window – incandescent lamp – all included in the frame!

Is this a lighting problem that would make your head spin, or cringe away and avoid another approach because you feel you don’t have the gear? Read on, you may be stopping before you start!


Light Control: turn the sky from white to blue

Before flash:

After Flash:

To what lengths: Rowell Photography

Jamie Loves Sarah- Part Three at Rowell Photography

I decided to feature a new category ‘to what lengths’ and I suppose this one should get featured in ‘mind like water as well’ that would just be a pun.

It’s fun to see what lengths other shooters go to, and I hope it inspires you to think outside the box, beyond what you considered normal or worthwhile and take a step to new creativity!

That’s pretty funny!

If you’d like others to see what length you’ve gone to… post a link the the comments, on my facebook wall, or my flickr stream.

Lighting a HUGE space – for anything that may happen

Let me just show you a big, bold wedding ceremony entrance:

Bride on top of second story balcony entrance

Read more to think outside the box in lighting large spaces for maximum creative impact…


Small softbox on location

Continuing my explanations from the gear I use - today again the small softbox:

Using a small softbox: neil setup

So I was out on an engagement shoot and had done all the normal stuff and wanted a little something extra…

Using a small softbox: setup testing

But the simple daylight angle was not very flattering and the busy environment of the playground rope piece made for a very messy image – cool – but a little too messy – what could I do quickly to improve the impact of my couple in the space…

Using a small softbox: Neil Shooting

Here I am climbing around searching for the right perspective….

Read on to see the final shot and read about my camera settings making it….

planet neil – tangents » my choice of flash modifiers

planet neil – tangents » my choice of flash modifiers

See why Neil VanNeikerk chooses to block the light coming out of his speed light, and what advantages that gives him in achieving soft light.

The lighting principle he utilizes is:
the larger your light source, the softer your light.