So I finally got around to buying Joe McNally’s book The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes and have been reading it religiously (that is to say, not often enough). Joe’s got a lot of experience, a great sense of humor, and tons of practical tips (if you’re lucky enough to be a Nikon user, that is). If you own a Nikon DSLR and a speedlight, buy his book today.

Joe McNally's The Hot Shoe Diaries

Joe McNally’s The Hot Shoe Diaries

I followed some of his advice and bought a few new toys, including a HonlPhoto filter kit, HonlPhoto speed strap, and the most excellent Lumiquest Promax System. The gel kit is great for balancing the color of the flash with the ambient light and the Lumiquest 80-20 is AMAZING at giving you just the right amount of light. So far I’ve used it for some experimental portraits (see below) and one birthday party shoot with fantastic results.

 

Before and After shot #1

Before and After shot #1

But anyway, what I’m sharing today are a few before-and-after portrait shots that I shot outside the other day with the help of my very cooperative model. These were all shot on the D90 with an 18-200mm VR (which, oddly enough, is selling for more on Amazon these days than the newer VRII version for some reason). I used the full cut of CTO from the Honl kit with the Lumiquest Promax over it. With the Lumiquest, I has the gold insert in combined with the diffuser. This created a very soft, warm light that I raised up high camera left with a Manfrotto Magic Arm (which is quickly becoming a whole lot more useful than I’d ever expected–how else would I have been able to mount a flash onto the metal porch railing and not give a second thought to it hanging precariously over a second-story apartment balcony?) to give me that 3/4 Rembrandt lighting. I also had a gold reflector sitting right to the left of my model to soften the harshness a bit more.

Before and After shot #2

Before and After shot #2

I have to say that I was pretty pleased with the effect I got, and balancing the light did make editing a lot easier to control in Lightroom. I was so happy that I even posed for a portrait myself and, despite looking a bit dorky, I’d have to say it’s a pretty good photo.

Before and After shot #3

Before and After shot #3

So what all did I need for this? First off, buy Joe’s book as it’s a great place to start and a fun read. I got the HonlPhoto color correction filter kit, HonlPhoto speed strap for shoe mount flashes, and the Lumiquest Promax System all from Amazon. Normally, I would recommend the older 18-200mm VR lens over the newer version seeing as the only thing of value it seems they’ve added is a focus lock switch that keeps the lens from sliding back to home when it’s extended to 200mm and pointed straight up (not really worth the extra dough to me), but since the older one is more expensive to buy new on Amazon now, I’d recommend either buying the new VRII model or scrounging around craigslist for a better deal on the older lens.

Who's this ugly mug?

Who’s this ugly mug?