A friend who’s running for a state-level office had made arrangements to take photos with Texas Governor Rick Perry at an event and asked me to take the pictures for him. While milling around I was shooting candids using my flash for some fill. I got wildly mixed results — some shots looked great, sometimes faces were blown out.
I noticed some pro photogs also shooting with flash so when one of them was taking a break I asked him how he was using his flash — What modes, settings, etc. He was more than happy to discuss it and pulled me off to the side so he could explain the way he worked. I thought I’d pass on his tips to you. On a side note, after he pulled me aside he commented “I really like the way you carry your camera”, referring to my recently acquired Black Rapid RS-4 strap (which I completely love — check one out sometime).
First, some description of the shooting conditions: Mix of complete shade, mottled shade from trees, and some completely sunny areas. It was about 8:30am, sun still relatively low which caused a half-moon effect depending on your shooting angle (full sun on half the face, shaded on the other). It was very easy to get blown-out highlights on the sunny side.
The way both of these pros typically shoot in conditions like this is as follows (probably obvious to you experienced photogs). Flash in E-TTL (both were Canon shooters). Camera set to shutter priority mode with a shutter speed of 1/250 (max sync speed). One used a sync cord to move the flash off-camera, the other had his on-camera. Both dialed in -2/3 flash exposure compensation and only changed that if they weren’t getting good results. One of them explained that he would try to catch 6-7 frames of a situation (for example taking a shot of the Governor shaking a hand) in relatively rapid succession in order to bracket his flash exposure. Basically the first shot gets full flash and subsequent shots get varied flash power depending on how much the flash had recharged. He picks the best exposures in post. Not very scientific but he’s been shooting 50-ish years…must be effective and certainly is easy when shooting digitally (I didn’t ask him what he did in his film days). The other photog that I talked to said he pretty much shoots this way also. I was already finished shooting and about to head out so I didn’t get a chance to try this out myself.
For anyone who wants to check out this guy’s work, check out harrycabluck.com. Here are some of the very cool pics you’ll find on his website: Carlton Fisk celebrating his winning home run in the 1975 World Series (most of us old folks have seen that picture many times), Franco Harris with the “immaculate reception”, Terry Bradshaw in the Steeler’s locker room. Amazing stuff.
I found an article about him and it said that he was in JFK’s motorcade when he was assassinated and has taken photographs of every president since then. He’s covered “more Superbowls, World Series, and national championships games than he could remember”. What an interesting (and very pleasant) guy. He gave me his card and I think I’m going to call on him one of these days and see if he’ll trade a lunch for some stories.
One parting piece of advice Harry gave me: Keep your non-photography job so you can afford to keep taking pictures