I will be shooting team portraits for my son's rugby club this week. I have done this before using rented Einchrom 500 BRXi kit with no issues (most challenges were organisational getting players there, with kit, posed and out without damaging the gear). These monos were really dialled down from memory (seemed to have way more power than I needed).
I now have two SB 910s and thought these might do to shoot 3 rows of 9 or so people but on a test with my son and daughter (outside 3m in front of a plain wall and 2m from the flashes) or inside a large room with plain walls and low white ceiling) I found I had way too little flash power. Only went to 500 ISO on my D300 (I am conservative here) and only using my 18-70mm kit lens - but at f3.8/f4.5 and supposedly full power I got underexposed shots with umbrellas and then naked speedlights. In post I could salvage raw shots (exposure plus 1.6 in Aperture and some shadow boost), but I was disappointed that my SB 910s didn't give me more.
I use Eneloop batteries and thought these might be a limiting factor (but surely not ... just take longer to build a full charge?)
I have booked the trusty Einchrom kit again so no risk to the shoot, but wondered, am I unrealistic in my expectations of the speedlights or am I missing something? It looked like I would need at least another two SB910s and even more if I wanted to avoid hard light issues. Yet the Einchroms handled this without even getting up to half power?
The best thing would be to post a couple of photos with the EXIF data so we could see what happened. The situation you're describing should have easily been lit by the SB910's so it appears that something is amiss.
"Red is gray and yellow white, but we decide which is right ....and which is an illusion"
Sun 29-Jul-12 11:51 PM | edited Mon 30-Jul-12 01:46 AM by galway59
I thought I must be doing something wrong with my speedlights.
The shoot went ok. I will be better for the experience after a two year break from these (more teams this week). The Elinchrom kit was good except for the lousy softboxes that gave me real trouble with hot spots. Used about 30% of the 500ws on each.
An example of my twin SB910s test (the same spot, just wiithout the chairs and players, so much less white from faces and jerseys). No real effort put in - just TTL to check the power, Aperture priority, frame and shoot. The insufficient power lights flashed, so I removed the umbrellas and got the same result so assumed it was too much for them.
An example of what I got from the Elinchroms also.
I have another team shot to do on Saturday early afternoon and plan to use the speedlights for fill light.
Exif data from my test shot added as a screenshot.
Also, no rattle sounds from either of my SB910s. They seem to be excellently built (even after a good shake).
I'd be interested in how your SB910s were setup. Did you use Command Mode? What were the camera settings?
Unfortunately, these types of shots are not suited for bounce flash. I only have one SB900. "I" can't get that much width with the one SB900. I try to limit group shots like this to 6 wide for the SB600. Not an expert, but if I was given the assignment; I would put diffusers on the flashes to spread the light (in TTL Mode the diffusers force the SB900 into wide angle mode). Then I would keep increasing the flash output until it is sufficient.
Once you get the flash close, you could try bracketing to make sure you get the correct power.
There are some others on here with farms of flashes that will help better than I can.
The SB910s were on 2.8m stands pointing down at about 45 degrees (a vanilla set-up for what would be 3 rows of people on the night I'd have thought), initially shooting through white 36" umbrellas and then directly with no diffuser, commander mode, TTL.
I don't recall the zoom setting, but given the lens was at 24mm I assume that the SB910s were also. f3.5 ISO 320 then f4.5 ISO 500 (I used f8 ISO 200 ultimately with the Elinchroms).
No FEC - the insufficient power lights blinked so I didn't see any point in trying to boost exposure. Matrix metering (but since I got the low power warning this is probably not my issue).
You can see from the three spots on the wall in the test shot with just my daughter in it that I also added the pop=up flash. The focus point was on her face.
I will run another test all manual when the weather clears.
>>"I try to limit group shots like this to 6 wide for the SB600."<<
I meant to say SB900. I was trying to confirm your use of 2 SB910's.
Once again, I'm no expert, but I would have used a diffuser to get a wider dispersion of light & help somewhat with possible red eye probs. I wouldn't have thought that shooting through umbrellas would be a good idea. Just from my bad experience with large groups.
I hate to act ignorant, but from where did you get the "the insufficient power lights" blinking? Also, what is FEC? I'm old and sometimes forget abbreviations, and words for that matter. I did start with a Kodak Brownie & won my first photo contest in 1958/59. Pre-PostProcessing days. Okay, I did do a little dodging and burning in the dark room.
I also do not think I would use the "pop=up" flash. Using Commander mode requires the built in flash to be in the up position (At least on the D7000). Then you set the built in to be --. I think using the built-in with the two off camera flashes will just confuse the issues.
BTW, I like that you posed the group (front rows with arms crossed). But, why is everyone looking in different directions? I usually give the group a specific spot to look at, usually a little higher than the camera lens. Mainly, you do not want them to look at the flash.
The umbrellas were just a trial after reading strobist and other material about apparent light size and softness etc.
The insufficient power warning is just the ready light flashing three times after the shot (you can recall the info on the lcd screen too but a bit fiddly if the unit is up on the stand). FEC = Flash Exposure Compensation (from memory) and is the plus or minus adjustments that can be made to each unit to get the balance to fit the shot. Don't take this to imply any expertise beyond a reading of the manual (definitely not an adept yet).
Pop-up was only added to test maximum available illumination. I would not plan to use it generally.
Yes, stargazing seemed to be de rigueur. Muscle flexing and funny faces kept in check though. A good group of guys, just impatient to get back to training I think.
Michael, Just for grins I took my D7000 into a totally dark bedroom (at night) and shot this off-camera flash photo using CLS. OK, so I did cheat a little and used a flashlight about the size of your finger to get the autofocus to work and granted there was bounce from the walls, but it was from 21ft.
Here's the data - D7000, SB 700, off camera using CLS, ISO 320, 1/200, at f8, 0EV.
That's why I'm surprised that your photo is so dark at 2M. I would think that two more powerful SB 910's would have an issue.
One thing I did not see mentioned in this thread was trying to move the flashes closer to the subjects, using a slightly higher ISO and using a longer shutter speed. Some combination will allow properly exposed photos. Naturally the much more powerful strobes are ideal.
I kept the lights back in my test to allow for the 3 by 9 or so rows of players in my intended shot (I know, I would get more light reflected back from all these players on the real shot but still surprised I struggled to light up a litl'un).
Shutter speed shouldn't help me when there is no ambient light I believe: all flash for these shots. I just need to make sure that I have not nobbled my SB910s inadvertently.
Over to me to test some more.
Thanks for your thoughts as I bumble my way through this. Thankfully this is a hobby and so no real cause for stress, just an interest in getting it right.
It does not seem that you have solved your problem. I think we need a little more information. How did you fire the flashes? Did you use cls? How were the flashes set up? Did you shoot with the flashes in TTL, manual, .... How far away were the flashes and where they in the center, or the out side edges ? These two flashes certainly should have been able to provide the illumination for this group. I look forward to your response.
Mon 06-Aug-12 01:53 AM | edited Mon 06-Aug-12 01:56 AM by galway59
Flashes were on 2.8 metre stands about 2 metres back from where my first row would have been in my intended team shot and about 2.5 metres either side of the camera (which was another 2 metres back, pointed inwards slightly and downwards 45% (intended to hit what would be my three rows of players as evenly as possible). So, about 4 metres away from my daughter in the test shot. This is from memory, but is consistent with the shadows in the test shot.
Commander mode, flashes turned to remote and set to TTL, even pattern, Camera set to auto exposure (pattern or matrix), ISO 320 f3.8. I wanted o see how CLS handled the shot.
I will try it all again with manual flash, manual settings on camera. If full power gives enough light then I will have another go with CLS.
Try mounting a flash in the hot shoe, set the flash to ttl and see if the flash fires. See if you are getting a good exposure and light. Let me know, and then we can go to work on the off camera flash aspect of the problem.
The flashes both fired, I could see and hear that. I even stood in front of them myself as subject for one shot and they looked bright to me (but then I am not a light meter). There was almost no ambient light at all so all light came from the SB910s. Both flashes had the rapidly blinking insufficient illumination warning too.
Both flashes fire in the hotshot and in commander mode off camera.
Just need a dry night to get out and try manual at full power then back to CLS.
Check the flash compensation in the camera. I was testing with a SB 600 and put in a minus 2 flash exposure compensation and got the flashing lights of the flash and an under exposed image. If you do not know how to set flash exposure compensation, press and hold the flash symbol under the pop up flash button and move the front wheel. You will see the flash comp symbol on the top screen It looks just like exposure comp, except it has the flash symbol next to it. Hope this is the easy fix for your images.