While watching a live performance, whether a concert or a play, it is easy to forget that the performers only make up a very small fraction of the people who make up the whole production. There are literally dozens of people working behind the curtains making sure that the show goes on without a hitch. The audience might not get to see them, but they’ll definitely know if they weren’t there. For example, if the person manning the spotlight decided to take a pee break at the most inopportune time, I doubt if any one wouldn’t notice that.
I am a fan of beautiful ambient light. I use an off-camera flash here and there to exert a little control over it. I have talked about the possibilities that a single hot shoe flash can afford you in a previous post. I believe that it’s hard to miss the contribution of the main flash in a picture. Quite often, it is as clear as day. In this post, I’d like to honor the unsung ‘backstage’ flash. It’s the light you sneak in to do a very specific job, and you wouldn’t actually miss it unless it wasn’t there.
I shot John, a fellow photographer, for a personal project I was working on a few months ago. Here’s the picture I selected from our session.
Initially, I intended to just use just one off-camera flash in making his portrait. However, I found the resulting picture lacking in some way. I used a second flash to complete the image you see above.
Can you tell where it is and what it’s doing in the picture?
Think about it before I show you the picture with the second flash turned off. Done? Scroll down and see if you got it right.
I clamped it to one of the tables inside the small room just behind John, gelled it green and fired it straight into the white ceiling. For me, this did a couple of things —
- First, it revealed more of the detail inside the room.
- Second, it separated the subject from the otherwise dark background.
- Third, it also appears as if the light is just streaming in from a window on the far side of the room.
It still surprises me how a small pop of light in a scene creates such a big difference to the overall image. And you’d only miss it if it weren’t there. A round of applause for the backstage flash.