Many photographers start their careers by learning natural lighting techniques. Once these skills are established, complacency can set in and the photographer might choose not to stretch themselves to learn more advanced lighting skills. When photographers do this, they leave a significant amount of value on the table.
There are many ways in which learning Off Camera Flash (OCF) will elevate your value both technically and in the market as a photographer. This article will discuss the many ways in which OCF can transform your work and why taking the plunge into learning this skillset will transform the value of your work.
Technical Benefits of OCF
Controlling Lighting & Environment
When you use OCF, you are no longer constrained to the time of day or lighting conditions you are shooting in. This is because you are able to better control ambient light, direction and quality of the light, and the amount you want to light the environment. When these factors come together, you gain 100% creative control of the outcome of your product. This is not the case with natural light, where you are limited to early morning or evening hours when the light becomes ideal.
Bringing Dimension to Your Work
When you light your subject with artificial light, you are able to create separation between your subject and the background. This creates what some photographers call a ‘pop’ to the image. Essentially this is adding a new level of dimension that you are not able to create through other means to your image. This not only brings creative control of how you will contrast your subject against the background but also how you accentuate the subject in the frame. Ultimately, this leads to a very dynamic-looking image that stands out notably.
When you learn the skills necessary to be competent in OCF or artificial lighting, you open yourself up to a vast world of creativity. Not only can you control every element of your image, but you can add a multitude of elements that can translate your creative vision into reality. This might be colored gels to create a moody portrait. You might want to add additional lights to imitate the sunset or add a hair light to your subject to create an elevated look. There are a number of options that you can implement that essentially translates to creative freedom and allows for you to really communicate your vision into your work.
Marketable Benefits of OCF
In reality, you will find a separation of photographers in your local area: those who use OCF and those who don’t. You will also see a large segmentation of what the photographers using OCF are able to charge their clients compared to those who don't. This is essentially due to a higher quality end-product. This is not to say that natural-light images can’t be of high quality or aren’t of similar market value. However, it is to say that images created with OCF tend to have a more refined look to them, therefore can be marketed at a higher price point than other images.
When shooting with OCF, your portfolio will most certainly be enhanced with these types of images. You will have a greater range of services that you will be able to offer your clients, and therefore be able to increase your prices. This is a strategy by which you can differentiate yourself from other photographers in your market.
Tips to Get Started With OCF
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
If you are considering getting started with OCF, the key is to not get overwhelmed with the technical details of this skill. Don’t go and consume everything there is online about this topic, or you will easily overwhelm yourself. Learn the very basics of OCF from 1 or 2 YouTube videos and get out and practice!
Start With One Light & Modifier
There is a multitude of products on the market for all budgets to get started. Find a simple Speedlight or strobe that fits your budget and a simple modifier (like a softbox), and start with these as your basic kit. You will be surprised at the amazing images you can create with one light and a simple modifier.
Practice Practice, and Practice Some More
The sooner you can prove to yourself that with some basic skills you can elevate the images you are creating, the more confidence you will have to continue to develop this skillset. The fastest way to this milestone is by practicing as much as you possibly can. Recruit your children, spouse, friends, or neighbors, and get some initial practice behind you. Allow yourself to fail and learn from your mistakes. This skill will take a little bit of time, but once you have the basics down, you will be able to grow rather quickly.
Work With a Mentor
One of the best things you can do is find a more experienced photographer who has the skills you want and work with them. Ask if you can shadow them on a shoot or if you could assist them on a project. You will then have the opportunity to see how they do their work, and the reasons they make the decisions they do. As you progress, they can provide highly valuable feedback about your work and suggest how you might be able to improve.
Develop an OCF Portfolio & Begin Marketing
Once you have the basics down, begin to create a portfolio of images. It is beneficial to compare your OCF images to the rest of your portfolio to see the difference your new skills are making in your work. Further, you will need a basic portfolio that you can use to market your new skills to future clients. Be sure to raise your prices to accommodate your higher quality work and skills.
Learning OCF has many benefits, most importantly it elevates the quality of work you are creating as well as enhances your ability to charge more for your work. Through a little bit of research, purchasing a basic kit, and practice, you will be able to transform the work you are doing and become closer to the photographer you have always wanted to be.