Professional Images with a Point-and-Shoot
Like many of you, I don't always like to shoot with my DSLR, because of how bulky and heavy it can be. Sometimes, I just want a good point-and-shoot. But to get a really good photo, lighting is so important. I'm a big lover of strobist techniques, so using them with a point-and-shoot was always something that I wanted to test out a bit.
Technique for Shooting a Product
Using the Olympus XZ-1's hot shoe, I was able to trigger a 430 EX II wirelessly. First, I attached the Powersync transmitter to the hot shoe, then I tightened it into place. For maximum control over the image, I switched the camera into manual mode.
Then I put the DC receiver onto the 430 EX II's foot, and turned the units on. For more control over my light, I attached a large Rogue Flash Bender onto the flash head. The reason why I chose the large Flash Bender is because it can easily mimic the look of a softbox, reflective surface, snoot, etc. depending on how I configure it. The Flash Bender, 430 EX II and receiver were set up around one foot away from the Sony NEX VG10, camera-left, as seen in the photo below.
I set the flash to 1/16th power. The XZ-1's settings were 1/500th, f/2.8 and ISO 100. Because a point-and-shoot has a different type of shutter than a DSLR, it can supersede the Powersync16's ability to only sync at 1/250th of a second with your DSLR. Using 1/500th of a second allowed me to get rid of the ambient light a bit more. The 430 EX II had the Flash Bender pointed straight up and lying flat to reflect the flash output onto the Sony NEX VG10 above. I felt that this was too much power.
I closed the aperture down to f/8 and got this pretty cool look, but I decided to experiment some more for the sole reason that I was having a lot of fun.
Here's the image when the flash was powered down to 1/32 output. As you can see, there is a lot more contrasty lighting, and the shadows are more prominent.
Finally, I lowered the power even more, to 1/64th. Now the image became too dark. As it is, I was happy with the image that 1/16th power gave me.
Do note that another way of doing this is to use the XZ-1's own internal remote control flash system, which works with flashes meant for Olympus, like the FL-50R.
I have a newfound obsession with beauty dishes. So instead of using the Rogue Flash Bender for the portrait test, I brought out my own special hack, which is: putting a Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible on a speedlite, and then shoving the entire thing into the back of an Interfit Beauty Dish.
So I took the hacked beauty dish, XZ-1 and the Impact radio triggers into the studio. The flash was set to 1/4 output, ISO at 100, the shutter speed to 1/320th and the f-stop to f/8.
The beauty dish was set up camera-left, and raised a bit. In fact, Joey is looking right into it. This gave me that gorgeous catchlight in the eye that photographers love in their portraits.
Then I repositioned Joey and fired another shot using the same settings, with the beauty dish around the same distance away from him. Once again, the XZ-1 was able to capture a wonderful photo when combined with the right light.
For people that want to take better portraits in their own home, this is a combo that is really hard to beat. This goes to show that with the right lighting, even smaller-sensor cameras can take very attractive images.
So why did I make the exposure choices that I did?
1/320 – In cinematography school I learned to light by using one light at a time to achieve the look that I want. The single speedlite with a beauty dish was able to deliver all that light that I needed. Because I didn't want any more light in the photo, I needed to kill all the ambient light, and shooting at such a fast shutter speed allowed me to do that.
f/8 – Since the flash was set to 1/4 power, I needed to control the flash exposure. That's what f-stops do.
ISO 100 – This offered me the least image noise, and also ensured that very little ambient light leaked into the image.
There are some gorgeous orchids In the lobby of our building that perhaps go unnoticed by many, but that will astonish those that stop to smell the flowers. Using the Rogue Flashbender, I set the Olympus XZ-1 to Macro focusing mode and went to work.
In my first attempt, I set the flash to 1/64 output and had the Rogue Flash Bender flat and facing the orchid from above and to camera-left around one foot away. I saw that the image was very overexposed, so I stopped the lens down.
The photo above looks better and the details of the orchid are preserved and very visible. In the background of the image, you can see the reflected light from the Flash Bender shine down on the orchid. Then I tried it with the camera's on-board flash.
With the camera's on-board flash, the orchid itself is well illuminated, but the background is still very dark. Raising the ISO and adjusting the shutter speed may have saved it, but I wouldn't have been able to get as even lighting as I do with the Flash Bender.
So what do you think: Is it the camera that makes the photographer, or can a point-and-shoot with a tiny sensor create attractive images in the right hands? Please share your thoughts in the comments.