Once you’ve figured out getting your flash exposures right, the next step is to get creative with it. Usually, a straight-on flash gives unflattering and flat lighting. Investing in a professional flash unit can open up a whole new world of lighting for you. Leading camera manufacturers produce ‘dedicated’ flash units, meaning the flash functions can be operated from the camera menu, wirelessly. Third party manufacturers offer such flashes too, for different cameras. Secondly, you could get a few ‘slave units’. Slave flashes are inexpensive units that are fired off by the key flash.
Take a look at this image of singer Ameeth Thomas, as photographed for a demo to KAPA students.
This was photographed using off camera flash and slave units alone, no studio lights. The major disadvantage using flash units is you are shooting ‘blind’, and your positioning of the flash is crucial. Here, the key flash was kept to the left and slightly above eye level, pointed down towards the face. A tripod for the key flash helps keep its position in place. Next, secondary slave flashes were added on the opposite side, and behind (notice the edge light). You can add color gels on the accent lights to create even more of an atmosphere. Similarly, you can use diffusing material on the key flash to soften the light; however in this case hard light was used without any diffuser (hence the hard shadows).
Such a set up cannot replace professional studio lights, but it can definitely give you creative artificial lighting in a matter of minutes, from equipment that you can carry in your camera bag…