Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Perhaps the most important tool a photojournalist can master besides basic camera operations is flash. While covering a job fair in the dimly lit Koehler house, I found the need to balance highlight and shadow – to create the most accurate depiction of what was seen – by way no camera and lens alone could:

Tyler K. Cleveland/The Ranger

It was a shoot first, ask questions later situation. A girl walked through the backroom and into shadow, silhouetted by a brighter doorway while creating a reflection of her clothes on the hardwood floor, accentuating her business attire. But it was the man sitting in the front room that begged for additional light to properly illuminate him – and his situation. As he completed an application to help pay for a new house and raise a son, I had the task of creating a compelling visual of “the need for work,” I was also creating a visual of “the need for flash.”

I had to think fast to catch the girl where she stood in the background. Shooting in manual mode and exposing for the silhouetted girl, my settings read 1/125 at f5, iso 800 –optimal settings for the zoom lens I was using. I tilted my flash upward to bounce off the corner of the room so the light could catch the man yet remain contained to the front room, preserving the girls in shadow. The flash unit was set on TTL, which without compensation (set at -3 stops), normally would give out all the light it could in order to remove shadows. I tried the flash on each compensation level, and tilted in different directions, but finally found the best setting. While the final product came out well balanced – I always feel like a better picture goes unmade; we need to leave our comfort zone, try new things and go new places if we want to make it.

If I knew the best place to throw my flash (this was before last Friday's flash tutorial), I would have had a third element that could have turned this picture from good to great. For a moment, a man in a business suit was framed and exposed perfectly through the front window (where the greenery is seen) as he walked up to the house. And the man also lifted his eyes during this time, but my flash was slightly off and burned the front of his face! The girl seeking a job (with reflected attire) could have looked cleaner without the wall’s edge running through her profile!

Experimenting with flash helped me create an image that showed "the need for work,” and for “flash in photography,” but mastering this tool will ultimately help me - get “hired.”

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