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Gary Fong Light Accessories Part I

The Gary Fong Lightsphere has been a favorite accessory amongst wedding photographers and photojournalists since its inception in 2004. Gary Fong being a wedding photographer himself found an inventive and effective way to deal with the harsh and unflattering shadows created by on camera strobes, both pop-up and hot shoe.

There is now a plethora of Fong products to choose from based on your needs as a photographer, The Whale Tail, Lightsphere I, II (Clear or Frosted) and the Puffer to name a few. I’ve tested several Fong products in the field namely the Lightspheres and The Whale Tail.

The Whale Tail upon inspection looks like a basic light modifier but it is one of the more complex of all Fong products. Its super powers include high modulation, the ability to accept colored gels, compartmental bounce cards and a creative mounting system. The Whale Tail is seemingly the most versatile of the Fong products I’ve tested.

The Lightsphere products have inverted domes that snap into place, which creates the softening effect we photographers crave. The inverted dome can be shot on or off the Sphere. If you use the Sphere with the dome on it intensifies the light a bit more, dome off is going to give you a softer light as more light escapes the dome bouncing off the ceiling.
Product: Lightsphere II- Clear, with snap-on inverted dome.

The Fong Spheres were ideally designed for wedding and journalist photographers but they perform pretty well shooting basic table top also. I suggest you tap into your creative powers when using the Gary Fong products, which in my opinion are useful and must have tools in any gadget bag.

Table top example shots:
Left: direct flash, right: w/ Lightsphere II
Left: direct flash, right: w/ Lightsphere II

Tip: When shooting a wedding or event it would be a good idea to observe the ceiling color and distance. Ideally you want a white or close to white ceiling to bounce off of, a dark colored ceiling isn’t going to reflect much light if any. If you have the convenience to take a couple of sample images, do it. Play around with the positioning of your bounce flash to get the desired effect you want.
~ Michael Reese

Gary Fong Light Accessories Part II

The Gary Fong products work better than a naked bounce flash because they extend the bounced area, intensify the light, and even out the reflected light. Using one of these makes your subject pop while eliminating harsh shadows.

 Natural Light

Left: Direct Flash, Right: Regular Bounce Flash

Lightsphere II: Clear - Left: w/o Dome, Right: w/ Dome

Lightsphere II: Frosted -  Left: w/o Dome, Right: w/ Dome

Shot w/ the Whale Tail

Click HERE For more information on Gary Fong and the line of products.  Click HERE to shop KEH Camera's selection of Gary Fong products.

Ring Flash and Macro Lights

A ring light is a flash that encircles a lens and produces a 360 degree output of light onto a subject. A large ring light produces uniform light that is shadowless. When the subject is close to a backdrop or wall, it also will produce an even, all over shadow around the subject as if lightly outlining it. Ring lights are often used in fashion and beauty photography.

Below: Digi-Slave Ring Light
A macro flash is similar but on a smaller scale and is used for shooting smaller images, close up. Both types of flashes are also often used in medical and forensic photography. Ring lights can come in both florescent and LED bulb lights.

Below: Canon Macro Light
Large ring flashes aren't cheap, but there's tutorials for making your own homemade version out of multiple light bulbs, and attachments to re-create the effect with your regular off camera flash. While macro flashes are made to be used for macro work, they can still be used for portraits as well. The flash output won't be as strong, so you won't be able to capture quite the same effect as a large ring light in a fashion shoot, but there is other ways to utilize the macro flash for shooting people.

Another effect of using a ring light is the circular catchlights that are seen in a persons eyes. These catchlights are basically a reflection off of the eyeball of the light source that causes specular highlights. The highlights illuminate and make the eye stand out. See the small white rings in the eyes above?
Notice the even light on the subjects face above, with no harsh shadows. Notice the faint, even shadowed outline around the subject. Both of these are typical results from using a ring flash. The blue highlighted vignetting is caused from attaching a macro flash onto a wide angle zoom lens, and zooming all the way out. While this effect is not "supposed" to be captured, there are many fun things you can do with a ring light/macro flash such as this to add another dimension to a photograph.  The best advice is to experiment and then experiment some more!

Simple Tabletop at Home

Even if you don't have a studio set-up, you can still produce a great looking tabletop shot. Here, a few basic tricks to get the job done, at home and cheap.

The final shot.

For this shot, some pretty cookies are stacked up on a teacup saucer, and placed on a seamless backdrop of fabric. What you may not notice from this photo, is that the fabric is a regular small piece from a local fabric store, nothing fancy. The fabric is actually clamped with a couple of large binder clips onto the back of an office chair.

It was shot with an open aperture (small number F-stop) to let in more light, and to throw the fabric out of focus. It was placed near a window with natural light as the primary source of lighting. Also, a bounce flash was used (flash pointed up towards ceiling, thus being bounced back onto subject) to add a little extra light and eliminate any unwanted shadows.

Pulled away from the mini set.

Super simple, quick, easy, and cheap! You probably already have most of the things you would need at home!


1. Camera (w/manual, or AV settings)
2. External flash unit with bounce feature
3. Fabric or paper
4. Chair (or table and back prop)
5. Window with natural light

Jumping Off For Dramatic Lighting

Taking a strobist approach (off camera flash, aka "jumping off")
Tips to create an easy, dramatic lighting effect film noir style

What you will need: a piece of black velvet material, an off-camera flash unit, either an off-camera shoe cord or a flash slave set which includes a transceiver and receiver unit. You will also need to understand the principles of film noir, which you can read about here.

Black velvet is the perfect material for a back drop for this kind of shot. It soaks up light to give you a deep, rich, black background, and won't bounce back the light from your flash. You can get a piece of black velvet at any fabric store. If you don't have stands to hang it from, you can attach it to a wall with thumb tacks, or method of your choosing.

The basic idea is to get a dramatic lighting effect that increases tension and contrast. Instead of shooting with a flash attached to the top of your camera, we're going to take the unit off, and shoot the flash from a different angle and location.

There's a couple ways you can set your flash unit up. 1) on a stand with your slave units- easiest hands free method. 2) hand-held with off-camera cord attached. The stand/slave combo. will give you more effect options, and a larger area of placement options. It is also the "safest" for your equipment. The hand-held option is a little trickier to juggle, but if you're not someone who ever shoots with slave units, it's the cheaper option for you.
flash unit (on mini stand, for table top use)
off-camera shoe cord

slave unit transceivers

Position your flash off to the side (of camera and subject) and below where your camera will be, and face flash upwards. Keep it at a close distance, but not too close. This will create harsh shadows, supply hard directional light, and if done properly won't blow your image out. Try different positions and experiment. Controlling your aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO will also play an important role in this process so that you don't allow in extra light from other sources. If you're not as comfortable with these, then I suggest shooting in a space where you can control the amount of available light easily, and just use a slightly dim light source so that you can focus properly, but that won't throw a bunch of extra light onto your scene.

Now that you understand the lighting part, the styling, mood, and models are up to you!

© Jenn Alexander Fletcher more shots here


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