I ordered my first hotshoe flash, and today it arrived in the mail. I'm so excited, guys! So, for those of you wondering what I'm talking about, DSLRs usually come with a built-in flash, like this:
Of course, I had to take some outfit photos to play around with the flash and test how much better it really is. I'll talk about the skirt at the end, but I had to nerd out about my new camera gear first! If you're not interested in this, just skip down to the words Now, The Sewing Part!
First, I set up the flash off-camera. There are several different ways to sync the flash with the camera when the flash isn't in the hotshoe, such as flash cables and radio triggers, but I used optical synchronization. This sounds a lot more complicated than it really is-- I set the built-in flash on my camera to fire, and set the other flash to fire whenever it saw another flash fire. I set up the camera on a tripod maybe 10 feet in front of me, and I set the flash on another tripod about five feet away and slighly above head height, forty-five degrees to my right. And...tada!
That approach gave me relatively harsh light, so for soft light, I took a different approach-- I put the flash in the hotshoe and rotated it so that the light would bounce off the ceiling.
Now, for comparison, here are some shots that don't use the new hotshoe flash. First, here's a shot using the on-camera flash:
Next, here's a shot that uses no flash at all, just the ambient light from the overhead lights in the room.
Now, for comparison, here are some crops of the above images to show close-ups of the skirt. Remember, 1 = off-camera flash, 2 = hotshoe flash bounced off the ceiling, 3 = built-in flash, and 4 = ambient light.
Here are some even tighter crops.
The second take-home point comes from the effect of the low light levels in the fourth picture. To compensate for low light, the camera adjusts the sensitivity of the sensor, which is measured by the ISO (or ASA). Low ISO, or lower sensitivity, gives more detail. Higher ISO, or higher sensitivity, gives less detail and a grainier image, but it allows the sensor to capture more light. The first three photos were taken at ISO 100; the fourth was taken at ISO 6400. The fourth image only came out looking as good as it did because I used a DSLR which is well-regarded for its low-light performance; if I had used my point-and-shoot, this image would have been completely unusable.
In conclusion, even if you have a DSLR, a hotshoe flash will help you tremendously if you want to take good outfit photos. You can still use an off-camera flash even if you don't have a DSLR, as the portrait and editorial photographer Zack Arrias so aptly demonstrates in this episode of Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera. (If you're not familiar with the premise, the host takes professional photographers and makes them do photoshoots using decidedly non-professional equipment. In this episode, Zach got a dinky point-and-shoot and a flash, and was instructed to shoot portraits on the streets of Hong Kong.)
If you're interested in learning more about off-camera flash, I highly recommend The Strobist. It's a fantastic resource. I can't wait to learn more!
Now, The Sewing Part!
This is another one of those projects I completed years ago and only just now got around to posting. It's a skirt made out of a transistor radio print cotton-linen blend. I love this fabric. Tiny vintage radios!