Did you cringe just reading ﬂash and photography in the same sentence? I sure used to. Until I realized that ﬂash is so amazing, and also one of the most under-utilized tools we have at our disposal as photographers.
These days, I think ﬂash is synonymous with the term “ﬂashy” and completely artiﬁcial-looking 80’s photos with harsh shadows, blown out skin, and beady little catch lights. Photos where it’s blatantly obvious the photographer has used ﬂash. But it doesn’t have to look that way. This tiny little rectangle can put out a crazy burst of light, and it can look fantastic or it can look terrible. It’s all about how you use it.
Moving Out of the Studio and Into Client’s Homes
A few years ago I decided to move my business from studio sessions to in-home sessions, as friends helped me realize that’s where my heart and passion were. I had already been shooting ﬁlm again for a while, and I had been using strobes in my work forever. As I quickly learned, shooting in-home sessions in Seattle, notoriously dark Seattle, was going to be a challenge if I wanted to use ﬁlm.
I did a ton of experimenting for over a year… I pushed ﬁlm, worked with super close window light, took my strobe around, but nothing felt totally right. Pushing film and working with window light still had variable outcomes out of my control, and I didn’t like that. (Hello, 1 second exposure by the window in the middle of the day in November.) The strobe worked, but being a fan of architecture and design, I really loved shooting around peoples homes. Often in tight spaces, the strobe was too big and clunky for what I wanted. Insert light bulb moment here.
My Aha Moment
I had been experimenting a bit with ﬂash, and, while at a model family session, I had an ‘aha’ moment. Their home was amazing. Mom was a thrifter and designer, and I walked from room to room saying, “We have to shoot here.” Then, saying it again once I walked into the next room. I even wanted to shoot in her bathroom (hello, vintage 70s wallpaper!). I knew I could bounce ﬂash, but hadn’t yet tried it against a window to mimic window light. So I did it. And it was amazing! And now I’m hooked. So much so, that I even use it in the summer. I ﬁnd that I get a consistent look, consistent color balance, less motion blur, and the list goes on. (I use the LumoPro LP 180 Manual Flash. Find it on Amazon here.)
The Benefits of Using Flash with Film for Indoor Family Sessions
What can ﬂash do for you?
Add light – any kind of light you would like – soft, hard, backlight, etc.
Add contrast and drama
Change the color or quality of light
Give you consistent results
Allow you to shoot the stock you want to shoot regardless of the situation – ﬂexibility
What I Learned on My Journey to Shoot Film with Flash
Other things I was surprised to learn in going through this process:
There IS a learning curve. Flash is tricky because you can’t see a modeling light. I always do some test shots with my digital camera to make sure I like the pattern and quality of light in the images.
Once you get it – it’s SO easy! Seriously. I kinda feel like a one-trick pony now.
It DOES NOT disrupt your session any more than changing a roll of ﬁlm. Once you get your process nailed down.
It will BLOW YOUR MIND. Seriously. You can thank me later.
Learn More Through My Lighting for Lifestyle Online Course
I am also teaching about this and doing a LIVE demo with a model family at FILM CAMP this Sept. 11-14th! You’ll be able to practice using flash, and I’ll help you troubleshoot. (Equipment provided by my friends at Lumopro.) Learn all about it here: https://www.ﬁlmcampphotoretreat.com. I hope you can join us in all the fun!
Additional Resources for Shooting Flash with Film
Grab my Free Equipment list by going to my IG feed here.
Check out all of my ﬂash placement examples and pullbacks on my blog here.
If you have questions, you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thank you so much, Kim! To see more of Kim’s work, visit her website and Instagram feed. And Shoot It With Film is thrilled to join on as a sponsor for Film Camp! Where you can learn more about shooting film from some amazing instructors, so definitely go check it out!
Check out all of our film photography tutorials here, and if you have questions about using flash for in-home family sessions, leave them below in the comments!