Canon Flash Primer –

I’m in the middle of a rather large corporate facility / product shoot taking place over the next several months using Canon Speedlites (I can hear all the nikon guys laughing in the background). The last time we did this was about five years ago and I hired a local pro who used film and typical studio strobes for most of the shots. Although the images turned out great, the process was fairly disruptive to the employees due to the size of the gear being lugged around and the lack of adequate electrical in the areas we planned to shoot. It was also a very expensive undertaking and in today’s economic climate we needed to come up with a much less intrusive and less expensive approach.

BTW – I know some pro shooter is going to read this and flame the living #$%^ out of me for doing this work “in-house”, but with the economy as it is, you gotta do whatcha gotta do!

So we’re going to take a page (or two) out of Mark’s buddy Joe McNally‘s latest book The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes and shoot everything using small strobes combined with natural light and controlled with some basic, low-cost light-shaping tools. I’ll tell you right up front that I’ll be stealing every good idea I can from Joe McNally and David Hobby (Strobist) with a little bit of Kirk Tuck‘s “minimalist lighting” techniques thrown in for good measure.

As I finish each type of shoot (small products, large products, facilities, manufacturing processes and (some) corporate portraits, I’ll post some articles on each situation with things that worked and things that didn’t. I expect to make several hundred (million) mistakes so it should be entertaining at the very least.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II

For those of you interested in using Canon’s flash system here are a few good articles from to get you started.

11 thoughts on “Canon Flash Primer –

  1. Pingback: Product Photography Using Small Strobes « Serious Amateur Photography

  2. In Texas you need a carry permit (concealed weapons) to use on-camera flash and the paperwork required when it goes off by accident is a pain in the butt.

    snicker snicker.

  3. Hi Jeff, good luck with the shoot, I’m sure you’re going to learn a huge amount.

    I’ve got a 580exII and I used it at my sisters wedding (there was a pro too so no pressure). I found it indespensible for indoor shots against bright backgrounds but in my haste I completely forgot to bounce it which lead to a few over exposed shots, particularly at the reception at night. So I wait the results with eager anticipation, especially if you use a lot of single on-camera flash (I’m guessing you won’t though).

    • Blair,

      Thanks for reading and for your comments. I rarely use on-camera flash and then only in self defense. In Texas you need a carry permit (concealed weapons) to use on-camera flash and the paperwork required when it goes off by accident is a pain in the butt. I shot a few weddings back in the 70’s but had to give it up after the photos were used in the divorce proceedings. I generally find it safer to photograph wildlife and nature since these subjects rarely sue for defamation of character but I was feeling brave last week when I agreed to this assignment.

      I’m not usually this much of a smart-ass but you caught me right after reading Joe McNally’s latest book and I just couldn’t resist. Thanks again for reading and for putting up with my sense of humor.


  4. I CAN’T WAIT to see this project! And good for you, Jeff! Screw the pro shooter that wants to flame this post. Not only do you “gotta do what you gotta do” in this economy, but you’ve proven time and again what a great photographer you are. Why NOT do it yourself to a) help yourself get better but b) do some work for the company. Just because you may not shoot full time on someone else’s schedule doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to do this type of work. That “pro shooter” that wants to flame this better just get off his ass and find the next job, not complain about one he missed. Maybe THAT person needs to read a bit more about the Joe McNally’s and Chase Jarvis’ of the world. It’s all about the hustle and flow.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m going to keep this comment on my Macbook’s desktop in a folder called “READ THIS WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS”. I’m both excited about this project and scared shitless. Thank goodness I work for the company president and he knows most of my photographic work is nature and wildlife. He is fully supporting my efforts and since we’re doing this “in-house” the schedule is very flexible.

      I’ll be posting the good shots as well as the stinkers and asking for advice and evaluation online. Talk about baring your throat for the wolves. I’ve been avoiding flash photography like the plague since the late 70’s. I hope all this E-TTL stuff really works. I’ve got too much invested in Canon lenses to jump ship to Nikon’s CLS.

  5. I am with montucky as I get calls to do this sort of thing more often, now. However, I think it is a little easier with Nikon but (truthfully) that is simply bias by reputation rather than actual experience.

    • Michael,

      I appreciate the words of encouragement. It should be a fun project with lots of laughs as I try to record my lighting setups, good and bad results and frustrations along the way. At least I don’t have to lug 300 lbs of gear back and forth.


    • Thanks Terry!

      It should be interesting to see if I can get Canon’s E-TTL II system working as advertised in lots of different situations.


Comments are closed.