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Tips & Tricks

Packing Small & Shooting Big: Professional Results With Speedlights | Joseph W. Carey

By Kishore Sawh on January 5th 2015


What’s one way to please a tough photography crowd, and have them think what you say actually carries some weight? Well, even pros who are getting lots of work for model agencies and editorials are often subject to that horrendous mentality we as photographers have towards another’s work (I’m a culprit too), and that is one of the first things that comes to mind, is ‘I could shoot that.’ That so hastily discredits someone’s work and ability. Some of these people have so much to teach, to share, but many won’t listen if they feel their technical mastery of all things photo-related isn’t quite paramount in their bag of tricks. Not that they care much, mind you, it’s not their loss. So what’s the way to get some instant credibility with most photographers? Show some proper understanding of lighting – specifically off-camera and studio lighting.

No, really, this is the consensus a few of us have come to, and laugh about, because for some reason, when you have some sort of studio flash out, or remove your speedlight from the hotshoe, in many people’s minds, you know a lot about photography. I’m not going to get into that debate, but I think this is a ‘thing’ because so many people are clueless when it comes to it. The fact remains, however, that it needn’t be that way, as the mechanics of it all are pretty straightforward, and if you’ve managed to grasp lower school algebra, you can grasp this, and wield it well.


That it seems daunting from the outset is understandable, and it can be really disheartening and even more daunting the first time you get your speedlight and try to shoot something, then look at what you’ve taken with squinted eyes because it’s so terrible. Well, for this reason, we are putting together our Lighting 101 and 201 workshop DVDs, which is going to take you from an un-evolved lighting amoeba, and have you crawl out of the primordial ooze with haste, into an edge of the envelope, multicellular photographer. In the meantime, this video brought to you by the good folk at B&H should break you into it, and also get you excited about shooting with speedlights.

[REWIND: Off Camera Flash Is For The Birds, Literally]

Speedlights are the more affordable route to take with lighting compared to studio gear, especially with newer offerings like the Sb-500, and Sb-700, nevermind the third party ones. But they are also incredibly flexible, and travel well. While some will say that speedlights can’t compare, there’s certainly a lot that can be done with them, and you only have to look at someone like Joe McNally or, in this instance, Joseph W. Carey, to see how effective they can be. While his style may not be what you’re into, it’s still good to see how he does it, and then you can adapt to your liking.

Here, Joseph talks about the advantages of speedlights, circumstances where they are best used, and how they are best used, with some really good insight with accompanying imagery. No doubt some of what he says here will be challenged, such as the real use of high speed sync, but there’s no denying that you can get big results from small lights – even one or two.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Shaun Powell

    Video has been made private :-\

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  2. Basit Zargar


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  3. Stephen Heppell

    Great vid and article. Lighting and specifically hot shoe flashes are where I need to improve… Can’t wait for the lighting 101 and 201… Any timeline for putting us out of our misery :)

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  4. Austin Swenson

    I have never had the chance to work with a high speed sync flash before, but this kind of makes me want to.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      It is the coolest thing they invented in photography in the 21st century!

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    • Rafael Steffen

      Thanks for sharing such a cool video. They key is to get close to the subject when shooting High Speed Sync.

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  5. robert s

    a silver porsche..nah, you got to be kidding..if you would have said red, then Id know you were serious…but silver..nah, now I know for certain you made that up..

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  6. David Hill

    One of best tutorials I have seen. Not too long but very informative. Thank you for sharing! Dave

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  7. David Hall

    Very good video for those wanting to learn off camera flash with a speedlight.

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