Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan

About ten years ago I was gifted a set of studio strobes from a friend of mine who was closing her photography studio.  

I had always wanted to learn lighting, but looking at the strobe heads and soft boxes just stress me out.  It seemed hard and technical and not "my style".

So I told myself that lighting just wasn't for me, put the entire set up in storage and left it there for five years.  

During that time, I struggled with light.  

You see, I live in Seattle, and it's dark here a majority of the time.  When I was shooting digitally, I would just crank my ISO up to 6400 and make it work.  But when I made the switch back to film I knew something had to change.  If I was going to shoot film inside, in Seattle, I was going to have to learn how to use lighting.

So I did.  And it changed everything.

Since then I've become somewhat of an off camera lighting evangelist.  I sing it's praises every chance I get!  And every time I talk about it I hear the same reasons from photographers on why they don't want to use it.  So today I want to talk about the three myths that keep photographers form using off camera lighting and why they are just not true.

Here we go.

Myth #1: Lighting is hard

I used to think this too.  But it's not.  In fact, it's really, really easy.  Just force yourself to start.

Take your strobe or your flash, put it on a tripod, put a light modifier on it, and tell yourself it's a window.

Light is light.  

If you can do it with the sun shining through a window, you can do it with a bulb shining through a soft box!

Myth #2: You Can't Be Spontaneous When Using lighting

This was my biggest worry what kept me from using lights for year.  You see, I work with kids. And kids run and jump and move a lot.  I wanted to be able to capture that movement.

And I can.  In fact, strobes make it better!

The flash freezes movement, so you can capture a kid in mid jump and not get motion blur!  

#awesome

Sandra Coan Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights

Myth #3: Lighting looks fake. I want soft and natural.

This is the biggest lighting myth around.  Lighting, when done right, can look as soft and beautiful as natural light.  

This is how I do it...

I turn my lights down until I get a reading of F4 in the shadows.  That way I can soot at F4 or even F2.8 and have a prefectly exposed image that looks soft and just like natural light. 

Not sure how to meter with strobes and flash, check out my FREE guide on metering in all kinds of light!

Three Myths That Keep Film Photographers From Using Off Camera Lights by Sandra Coan for Little Bellows

Pro Tip: If you are going to be shooting with off camera lighting be sure to check your camera's sync speed.  The sync speed is the fasted shutter speed recommend for your camera when working with a flash of any kind!

Shooting Your Rolleiflex With Strobes | Sandra Coan

For a little over a year now, I have been obsessed with shooting Rolleiflex in studio with strobes.

A few weeks ago after I shared some Rolleiflex images, I received a question from a reader asking about how I sync my strobes with to the Rolleiflex.

Click the video below to see my reply!

Sandra Coan how to use a Rolleiflex with studio strobes

Do have a question about using lighting with film cameras?  Feel free to ask in the comments below.  I'll be sure to answer! 

4 Reason I Love Shooting Film With Strobes

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

When I started using strobes it was out of desperation.  I wanted a way to be able to shoot film through the winter.  Thats it.  It was intended as a temporary fix to get me through to the spring. And then something unexpected happened.

When spring finally came around, I found that I liked using my strobes more than I liked using natural light.  Crazy right?

Well maybe not... here's the thing.  

  • Strobes are consistent.  When I use them, my light is the same at every. single. shoot.  My meter readings are always the same, regardless of the weather.  Using artificial light has allowed me to shoot film 100% of the time and has freed me from stress.
  • Strobes bring out the best in film.  Film loves light.  And strobes give the perfect amount of light every time.  So my images are always perfectly exposed and beautiful.
  • Strobes do not have to look "flashy".  I love strobes, but I HATE images that look artificial and "flashy".  I want my work to be soft and airy and, when used properly, my strobes give me that look.
  • Strobes are easy.  Seriously.  I know that they seem complicated, but they are not.  Everything I do is done with one light and one light modifier.  Thats it.
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting
Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

I encourage you to give off camera lighting a try... and stay tuned, I'll be sharing a series of post here to tell you just how to do it step by step.  It's not hard, and it will absolutely change the way you shoot film, for the better!

If you can't wait and just want to dive into off camera lighting right now, check out The Missing Link: A Film Photographer's Guide To Off Camera Light.  It's is a complete how-to... everything from what equipment you need to lighting set-ups- full of text, diagrams and video tutorials! 

Sandra Coan on Little Bellows | Film and Off Camera Lighting

 

 

 

 

Studio Lighting For Film Photographers

Almost every single photo I take these days was captured on film, using strobes.  

When I started using studio lighting several years ago, it was really just a way to make it through the dark days of winter.  Now I use them all the time.  

Studio lighting has allowed me to shoot film all year long.  It has given consistency to my work, helped me define my style and build my brand.  I couldn't do what I do without it!

I'm often asked how I set up my strobes during newborn shoots.  So at my newborn session this morning, I decided to step back and snap a quick photo of my set up.

This is my typical set up for photographing newborns and toddlers on my white bed.

I have my strobe (an Alien Bee 1600) and light modifier (a 5 foot Photoflex Octodome) set at 45 degrees to my subject.  This is a digital capture, but I did photograph the baby on film and my settings were ISO 400 (I shoot Fuji 400h film) at f2.8 1/60

Sandra Coan, Studio Lighting for Film Photographers

Please let me know if you have any questions about shooting film with studio lighting.

 

have a wonderful day!
Sandra

Sandra Coan: Strobes and Film!

Last week on Facebook, I asked photographers who shoot film with studio lights to share their images on Instagram using #strobesandfilm. I have to say... the work that popped up in my feed as a result blew me away! Film loves light!  And studio lights and film together are just a match made in heaven.

Check out what these amazing artist are creating.

Kim Hildebrand
Erin Campbell Hughes
Sandra Coan Photography
Christian Zen
Heather Chang
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@carriegeddie

Do you use studio lighting and film together?  If you do, we want to see!  Use the tag #strobesandfilm for a chance to be featured.

And if you want to learn how to use strobes and film, click the link below!

Strobes or Sun?

It has finally happened. After months and months of shooting nothing but film with strobes, I've come to the point where I think I prefer the look of strobes over natural light.

Saying that out loud feels a little scary, especially to a community of film shooters, but hear me out:

  • Strobes are consistent.  When I use them, my light is the same at every. single. shoot.  My meter readings are always the same, regardless of the weather.  Using artificial light has allowed me to shoot film 100% of the time and has freed me from stress.
  • Strobes bring out the best in film.  Film loves light.  And strobes give the perfect amount of light every time.  So my images are always perfectly exposed and beautiful.
  • Strobes do not have to look "flashy".  I love strobes, but I HATE images that look artificial and "flashy".  I want my work to be soft and airy and, when used properly, my strobes give me that look.
  • Strobes are easy.  Seriously.  I know that they seem complicated, but they are not.  Everything I do is done with one light and one light modifier.  Thats it.
Sandra Coan Photography: Newborns on film with strobes

Are you interested in learning to shoot with strobes?  I'd love to teach you!

Sign up for my list and be the first to know about new classes!

Have a great day!

Sandra Coan

Sandra Coan Photography: Film with strobes

Studio Strobes: NOT Just for Studio Photographers

Earlier this year I released my workshop style PDF, The Missing Link: A Film Photographers Guide to Studio Strobes. My intention for the guide was to give film photographers the foundation they need to be able to shoot film 100% of the time.

But what people have done with the information has truly blown me away!

Think strobes are just for studio photographers?  Think again!

Check out what these amazing creatives are doing with artificial light.

So inspiring!

Isabelle Hesselberg: Film and Strobes
Isabelle Hesselberg: Film and Strobes

Love these detail photos by Isabelle Hesselberg of 2 Brides Photography.  So stunning!

 Fuji 400h. Processed and scanned by Carmencita Film Lab

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Newborns on film make me swoon.  This image by Jennifer Capozzola Photography is absolute perfection!

Fuji 400h.  Processed and scanned by Indie Film Lab.

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Photographer (and bravest mom in the world) Carrie Geddie ambushed her kids with this early morning lifestyle shoot.

Fuji 400h.  Processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.

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So impressed with this lifestyle photo by Jen Golay.  Strobes in the bathroom!  No problem!

Fuji 400h.  Processed and scanned by The Find Lab.

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And because who doesn't love a Polaroid photo of a creepy doll?

 Martin Garcia took this photo with strobes on an Instax Camera!  So cool!!

If you’ve been wanting to learn how to shoot film with strobes, now is the time!

The New Normal

My transition back into film was not a smooth one. My first hurdle was figuring out indoor light, and how to make shooting film in studio work for me, even in the dark Seattle winter.  In the end, learning how to use studio strobes was a life saver, and with no more fear of inadequate light, my problem was solved.

The second hurdle, however, was much harder.

When I was shooting digitally, my sessions were fast and fun.  I could fire away without care and never felt that I was missing a moment. It was not unheard of for me to complete a family session in 20 to 30 minutes.  And in the end I would have 500+ images to cull and edit.

The slowness of shooting film, however, was another story.  My sessions no longer had a comfortable flow.  Sessions started taking longer; up to an hour, sometimes even a little more. I was constantly worried that I was missing moments.   It also stressed me out that after an hour of shooting, I was walking away with only 64 images (four rolls of 120) to choose from.  I went from giving my clients 100 or so images per shoot to 30 or 40.

But I stuck with it.  I love the look of film, and I really didn’t want to go back to my digital gear.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I had a super fun session with a six year old, and four year old twins.  I did my thing… pausing to talk to the parents and kids when I stopped to change rolls, and taking my time, slowly progressing through the shoot as I do now with film.

At the end of the session the mom turned to me and said “thank you!  that was so fun and relaxing!  I can’t wait to do it again”  I smiled and thought… “OMG… It WAS fun and relaxing… when did that happen?”  And just like that I realized that I’d fallen into a new normal.

My new normal is slow.  There are pauses and down times in the sessions.  I don’t rush to make sure I’m catching every. single. adorable. moment.  Instead I’m trusting that when I choose to hit the shutter, something special and beautiful is going to be captured.  I’ve given into the process… and I love it!

Are you struggling with transitioning to film?  What are your hurdles?  Do you have a new normal?  I’d love to hear about it!  Post your comment in the space below, or join us on the Facebook Film Forum group!

Happy shooting!

Sandra

Sandra Coan Photography
sandra coan photography
sandra coan photography
sandra coan photography

All images by Sandra Coan.  Shot on a Contax 645 with Fuji 400h and strobes.  

Processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab. 

Cat Thrasher on Rembrandt Light and Consistency in Style

While visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I was blown away by how closely Rembrandt's portraits resembled black and white film. The exhibit, Late Rembrant, featured portrait after portrait in the same, lit-from-the-side, north-light style. The man was truly talented at seeing light. Watch the video to hear a few knee-jerk first impressions on Rembrandt, north light, and his consistency in style.

- Cat Thrasher

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Studio strobes on location

A few weeks ago I woke to this email in my inbox: "I would really love to learn to shoot with strobes, but I mostly work in client's homes. For on-location photography, are you hauling a lot of lights and gear? Is shooting with strobes more applicable to working in a studio set up? Or is it something I can take with me when on the go?"

Well, it just so happened that I had a shoot in a client's home the same day I received the email.  So I decided to document shooting with strobes on location and share just how easy it is to take your lights with you.

The image below shows everything I take with me when I'm going on location.  I have a medium (5 foot) OctoDome (and speed ring), an Alien Bee 1600 (and power cord), light stand, radio trigger and receiver, light meter, Contax 645 and film.

sandra coan portable studio

Here is the Alien Bee, Contax, light meter, film, trigger and receiver and power cord in my camera bag.  As you can see, I have room to spare!

sandra coan portable film studio

And here is my camera bag, OctoDome and light stand, all packed and ready to go.  I was able to carry all of this (along with my Americano) to the car in one trip, no problem!

sandra coan portable film studio

Once I got to my clients house, I went to the room we were planning on shooting in and took a meter reading.  Despite the huge north facing window, it was pretty dark!  Shooting at 400, I was getting a reading of F2 1/15, way to slow for working with a baby and a four year old!  So I set up my light... it took me less than five minutes.

With the light set at a 45 degree angle to the bed, I was able to move around and shoot from different angles.

sandra coan strobes and film on location

Here are the results... beautiful, luminous images!!  So glad I brought the strobe!!

sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film
sandra coan strobe and film

Questions about shooting strobes on location?  Please ask!  I'd love to help.

And to learn all about shooting strobes visit this page to get newsletter list.  That way, you'll be the first to know when the new guide is released!

Jen Golay: Rockin' the Strobes!

Last Thursday I wrote about the agonizing wait we film photographers endure after we've shot our film and sent it into the lab.  It can be maddening! I expect this now when I shoot for myself, but I didn't expect to feel it so intensely for others.

The Missing Link, The Film Photographer's Guide to Studio Strobes has been on the market now for two weeks.  And in that time, I know many who have bought the guide, shot a few roll with strobes, and are now waiting for their scans to come in.  Well, I've been waiting too.  I've wanted to see their results.  And, as I'm not a patient person by nature, it has been hard!

So yesterday when I was notified that Jen Golay had tagged me in a post about scans on Facebook, I stopped what I was doing and ran to the computer to see.

And holy moly, did Jen rock it!

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Pentax 645, HP5, FIND lab, Einstein strobe

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Contax 645, Fuji 400h, FIND lab, Eistein strobe

"I used strobes before, but not with confidence or intention, more like a wing and a prayer.  But because I had experience with strobes, it was very hard to decide whether to spend the money on something that I wasn't sure would teach me anything new. I ultimately decided to take the plunge and buy the guide because I loved the idea of having a community of other film & strobe shooters in the Facebook group.", said Jen.

"The Missing Link really was my missing link.  For me, the most valuable part of the guide was learning to meter strobes correctly.  I have always metered color film and black and white film the same way. It was very revolutionary for me to try metering differently for different films. What I love about this knowledge is that it makes sense and is repeatable. I can now shoot with intention and know what I'm going to get instead of shooting and hoping it will come out as I imagine."

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Contax 645, Fuji 400h, FIND lab, Eistein strobe

"The other cool thing about The Missing Link is that it works with natural light. I used the metering technique with Tri-X and window light and finally achieved a look I've been trying to master for the last four months!"

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Contax 645, Tri-x 400, FIND lab, window light

Yeah!!!  Stunning!! Way to go Jen!

See more of Jen's work: website | facebook | instagram |

Do you want to learn about shooting film with strobes?  

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