It happened over and over again in 2022.

My brand clients and I would comb through location options, settling on a final choice that matched their overall brand vibe AND seemed workable in terms of light & space. 

And then we’d step on set, and the light was NOTHING like the listing photos. 

Sometimes it was due to the weather. Gloomy clouds + rain all day = less light. 

Sometimes it was due to misleading listing photos. Yeah, that photographer DEFINITELY shot those real estate photos on a tripod + dragged their shutter. 

Whatever the cause, my anthem for the year became “get the lighting bag out of the car.” And GRACIOUS, did that bag save me!

Off-camera flash for brand photographers | Abby Grace

When I first started my business, I clung to the title “natural light photographer” like it was a shield- I can’t be expected to know how to use sophisticated lighting, I’m a *natural light photographer!*

Have you ever heard that Kelly Lee quote? “If you argue for your limitations you get to keep them.”

I could cling to my natural light title for as long as I wanted, but the fact of the matter was… I allowed it to limit me from learning a new skill. I was afraid of off-camera flash (OCF). I was afraid of feeling like a beginner, of not knowing what I was doing.

But you know what’s worse than feeling like a n00b?

Disappointing a client. 

I’m saying this because I want you to thrive: when you show up on a set for a brand shoot, having promised a client a certain result, it’s your job to provide that result… regardless of whatever forecast Mother Nature’s served up. 

That means knowing how to make a location work when the natural light just isn’t cutting it. 

Learning to use off-camera flash doesn’t mean you have to trade your light & airy look for Glamour Shots vibes. In fact, the more versed you are with OCF, the better you’re able to emulate the look of natural light. 

Don’t believe me? Check these results:

Off-camera flash for brand photographers | Abby Grace

ALL of these were shot with the assistance of OCF. 

Repeat after me, all you nat’l light photogs:

Flash doesn’t have to feel flash-y.

I could fill several hours with OCF know-how (and teach a whole class on it inside the Lighting Elective for my Brand Photography Academy students!), but here’s the skinny of what you need to know:

  1. How to use a one-light set-up. This foundational knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’ll take you SO far! Start here with this easy tutorial from my client Katelyn- it’s the easiest possible introduction to off-camera flash, and you can slowly start to up the ante by simply changing out that umbrella for a softbox.
  2. The basic principles of light behavior– mainly, how the size of your light, direction of your light, and intensity of your light affect your frame. Google those terms- read Wikipedia pages and blog posts, watch YouTube videos. You can’t shortcut learning the theory. 

You don’t need to know everything in order to get started- you just need to understand the basics.

You don’t need EVERY light, every softbox on the market- you just need one of each to get started.

Because when you understand the underlying laws that govern how light behaves, it isn’t a matter of guessing and checking, praying that you’ll somehow stumble upon the exact look you’re hoping to achieve. 

And that confidence of knowing you can achieve the look you’re going for, no matter what kind of natural light a location might serve up, means you’re able to command higher prices for your work because you can guarantee results

You’re not at the mercy of optimistic listing photos or the weather- you can show up and perform no matter the circumstance, because you, my friend, control the light, instead of allowing it to control you.

>> Want to hear more on this subject? Check out the podcast episode where I go into more detail!

>> Looking for more photography education? Binge the archives!

Why “being afraid of OCF” isn’t an excuse

February 7, 2023

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