I'm a flash photographer. I love flash, I like sculpting light (well, as best as I can, which probably isn't much
), and my ultimate goal is to start using flash, not because its dark, but because I want the light to look exactly how I want it to look.
But, flash isn't always necessary or practical, in fact, in a lot of ways, flash can actually hurt the final photo rather than enhance it. So, it isn't the be-all and end-all, certainly not.
In terms of practicality, flash has fairly limited use cases, i.e. either in a studio, bouncing off a white wall or using it as a straight on fill for existing light. As a wedding photographer, I shoot mainly Hindu weddings. The nice thing about Hindu weddings is that most every wedding follows a very similar pattern, i.e. people sit facing the east, the mandap (kind of like a stage) is where most of the action takes place, so you can set up you're lights in advance and create a mini-studio. So, these weddings are well suited to flash photography.
On the other hand, temples, where weddings usually take place, are alarmingly dark, even during the day. The reason for this is because of the design, with dark wood trimmings and furniture. Further to that, the halls are usually decorated, which means a cloth (of several colours) is draped over the ceiling and the walls (so no bounce flash for you, unless you like having rainbow coloured skin
Also, quite a bit of the ceremony happens late at night (since the wedding spans as much as 5 days), with only the Vivah Sanskar/Wedding-day, actually taking place during daylight. On most other days, activities start around 7 p.m. These other days, usually have small family gatherings of up to 50 people.
The problem with using flash in pitch darkness is several:
- If you do have a white ceiling/wall, tradition dictates that this will be covered up by multi-coloured cloth. If you use straight flash, you're subject is lit, but the background is pitch black or significantly darker (not a nice look).
- You have to stay fluid for large parts of the ceremony, so setting up lights isn't always easy or practical (I do it anyways as the puja
take place in a fixed spot), because people will move around.
I've tried to overcome these limitations by either using straight on flash (and I really, really try to avoid it), or using my 50mm f1.7 wide open and the slowest possible shutter speed and highest ISO I'm comfortable with (typically 3200). The latter works well, ( I typically convert the shots to B+W because the ambient light tends to be all over the place as those wall and ceiling decorations also cover all the lights, so, everything looks like a in a club, which is fine for a couple of pics, but looks out of place at a religious ceremony).
Anyways, I'm thinking I might need to change tactic a bit and start thinking about getting more fast glass in my kit. For Sony, there is a wide choice available, but I'm most interested in:
- Zeiss 135, Zeiss 85, 35G
- Sony 70-200G, Zeiss 24-70, Zeiss 16-35,
I'll be getting the Zeiss 24-70 for sure, but I might also get the 135 f1.8 in lieu of the 70-200 because of the 1 stop advantage. The 85 and 35 would be redundant, and the 16-35 isn't a focal length I use a lot.
This will give me far more options when the light goes west and overcome some of the aesthetic and practical limits of flash photography when moving fast in a constantly changing scene.
What do you guys think? Is my theory a plausible one, or is there some other techniques worth exploring?
Also, I have great difficulty in changing lenses
which is one of the problems I might have if I get too prime lens heavy, i.e. I have to change lenses too frequently and end up either dropping something (which I haven't done yet, though I have come close), or missing an important shot (and at a Hindu ceremony, something that seems insignificant could mean the world of difference.). Was thinking I probably need a holster or lens carrying system to help me in changing lenses quicker. Any suggestions there?