TUTORIAL:OFF CAMERA EXTERNAL FLASH USING SMARTPHONES

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by John Fantastic, Dec 6, 2020.

  1. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Hello Fellow Forumers,

    I am reaching retirement age and My plan after that is to devote my time doing photography. Teaching has always been my passion, unfortunately Its not a good paying job so I settled to being ang engineer. But I do plan to teach for free when I retire. I want to do things that I was never able to do when I am still working. :)

    My approach to photography has never been technical and I am more driven with photos that I like rather go into the technical part. I am also not inclined to pixel peep and as long as the picture looks great , I don't care about the ISO or aperture and shutter speed. The immediate feedback given by the screen after every shoot has helped me a lot in my photography. during my film days , I spend a lot on polaroid backs to get my lighting right. :)

    My approach to photography has been to use many low power off camera flash as light sources that enhance the image. I used a low end DSLR, namely a Canon 600D and multiple Yongnou Flashes in many of my photographs and a Ultra wide angle lense, a 17-40mm L lense and a 70-200 mmm L Lense.

    Lately because of scoliosis I am no longer inclined to carry the heavy stuff. And have long wanted no use smartphones, but the absence of External Flashes for the smartphone has prevented me to embrace smartphones as my main photographic tool. I have the GODOX A1 but its limitation on sync speed left me unsatisfied.

    Things change this year when Innovatronix, the maker of the Explorer series of Battery powered packs released the CPFlash 550W. For the first time there is an Off Camera Flash that works reliably with a smartphone. Because it is a short burst of continuous LED Light, It will sync with any smartphones at any shutter speed. I have actually tried synching it up to 1/10,000 of a second.

    The CPFlash 550W is a powerful Tri-Function FLash and works as Flash for smartphones, a Flash for DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras and as a video effects light for videographers. Its power is equivalent to a 60WS speedlights the likes of the Canon 580EX and the Nikon SB900, Yongnou and Godox speedlights.

    It also comes complete with accessories such as magnetic filters , Smartphone camera trigger, DSLR/Mirrorless Hot Shoe Trigger, bracket and charging cable.

    The manufacturer claims that it works with all iPhones and Android SMartphones and it also works with all camera native and downloaded camera apps for all smartphones. So far I have tested the unit on my wife's iPhone 11 Pro, My Son's Samsung S10 and OPPO Smartphones and of course my Huawei P30 and it all works flawlessly.

    Please feel free to ask your questions as I love to teach and hopefully you will learn something new from me. Also for the studio and flash experts here, please correct me if I make a mistake as I am not an expert nor a professional photographer. :)

    Here is a picture of the CPFlash Kit:

    cpflash1.jpg


    Here are some picture using multiple External Flash Taken during my DSLR Days .

    lores Going Home.jpg
    Canon EOS 600D F8, 1/125S , ISO200 28mm

    lores Kapurpurawan.jpg
    Canon 600D, F8, 1/100S, ISO100, 50mm


    lores Bantay Kalikasan Volunteers.jpg
    Canon EOS600D, F11, 1/50S, ISO200, 10mm

    lores Pinoys love tocelebrate.jpg
    Canon EOS100D F4, 1/60S, ISO800, 17mm

    lores Bagmakers.jpg
    Canon EOS400D, F7.1, 1/30S, ISO400, 10mm

    Aside from a lower resolution image compared to a DSLR/Mirrorless image, There are 2 remaining areas where smartphones are not recommended. This will probably change in the next few years as camera development for the smartphones are progressing in a breathtaking speed.

    Here is a picture (not mine) that won second place in the very prestigious HIPA Photography Contest. As you can see in the picture. Background blurring via computational photography has come a very long way and that smartphones can now mimic a large aperture lenses with a few hand strokes. BTW this shot was grab in Facebook and I am sure the original resolution is much higher.

    129514581_10219983476637561_8671566923949620160_o.jpg

    People always think that using an OFF CAMERA FLASH Involves studio shots only but as some of my pictures have shown, it can be used very effectively outdoors.

    If not for this pandemic, I would probably be out in the field shooting pictures with my OCF and smartphone, but in the meantime I have to content myself with shooting in the studio. :)

    So what type of smartphones are suitable?

    I would suggest that you use a smartphone with at least 2 camera lenses and a smartphone with a manual mode. If your smartphone does not have a manual mode, you can purchase a camera app with a manual (sometimes called PRO) mode.

    Lightroom can be downloaded for free for both Android and iOS phones and there are hundreds of camera apps that cost from Free to US$10 for any phone. A manual mode is very important as it is very hard to control the lighting of a smartphone (Similar to a DSLR/Mirrorless) in program mode.
    The CPFLASH does not have FLASH TTL Capability.

    Here is my basic Gear for my Smartphone OCF Photography
    1. Huawei P30 Smartphone ( It has a built-in Manual mode- no need to download any camera app)
    2. 4 CPFlash 550W
    3. A snoot ( to limit the focus of the light)
    4. A Softbox
    5. Godox Bowens Adaptors
    6. 2 light stands (Generic)
    7. A Tripod or a smartphone camera mount adaptor.

    lores Equipment Used.jpg

    My preferences has always been to shoot at a shutter speed of at least 1/100 and if it is not achievable then I would rather increase the ISO up to 400 . Please take note that a smartphone aperture cannot be adjusted and fixed with a value from f1.3 to f2.2.


    So to start with my tutorial here is a shot that i recently took in a studio. This is a 2 off camera shoot. One off camera is used as a hair light the other off camera flash was used as a main light.
    Main light power was at 30% while the Hair light power was set in the smartphone at 100%.

    lores IMG_20201119_161211.jpg
    Huawei P30 , F1.6, 1/200S, ISO 400, 6mm


    Here is the diagram of the shoot.
    Bench  Diagram.jpg

    Here is another variation of that shoot. :)

    lores IMG_20201119_160014.jpg
    Huawei P30, F1.6, 1/200S, ISO400, 6mm

    Here is a diagram of the shoot.

    Bike  Diagram.jpg

    Here is the smartphone shoot without off camera lights.

    lores bicycle without flash.jpg
    shot in automatic mode Huawei P30, F2.2 1/17S, ISO1000, 2mm

    BTW the CPFLASH has a built in replaceable single Industry standard 18650 battery. It is good for about 100 full power flash so I bought additional batteries in Amazon for about US$5 each. But it is also very convenient to use a power bank to extend the life of the batteries for the duration of the shoot. In this photo I used a power bank and was able to use the CPFlash without interruption for the whole duration of the shoot.

    lores power bank.jpg



    Next time I will be showing you more examples of my shoot. I would love to hear from you guys and If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask me. I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. Thank you and this is it for now. I hope you follow this thread. :)


     
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  2. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Here is an interesting article and tutorial by David Selby about using a single CPFlash 550W with an iPhone XS using a lightroom camera app. :)

    How to shoot one-light portraits with an iPhone - Lighting Rumours

    He discussed how to take portrait shots using a single flash. All photos done by David Selby and grabbed from the lighting rumours website. :)

    Rembrandt style lighting:

    portrait-800x1067.jpg
    iPhone XS, f2.4, 1/50S, ISO25, 52mm (35mm equivalent)


    Low key

    low-key-800x1067.jpg
    iPhone XS, f2.4, 1/60S, ISO25, 52mm (35mm equivalent)

    High key

    high-key2-800x1067.jpeg
    iPhone XS, F2.4, 1/60S, ISO25, 52mm (35mm equivalent)
     
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  3. alexthenewbie

    alexthenewbie TPF Noob!

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    This is a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing it.
     
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  4. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    You are welcome alexthenewbie :)
     
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  5. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Here is a 1 flash set-up I took in an almost empty Bazaar. It took me less than 3 minutes to take this shot. :)


    lores IMG_20201119_165316.jpg

    Huawei P30 F/1.6, 1/80S, ISO 100 , f27mm (35mm equivalent)

    Below is the diagram of the shoot

    Bazaar Diagram.jpg
     
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  6. alexthenewbie

    alexthenewbie TPF Noob!

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    Hello John.

    I really love your shots and your photography style. Looking forward to more tutorials like this from you.
    I just want to ask, how do I know what ISO, shutter speed and aperture should I select ?
     
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  7. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Good question Alex. :)
    Let us discuss them one by one:

    Aperture - with smartphones, you cannot select any. It is fixed. The maximum aperture of a smartphone ranges from f1.3 to f2.5 depending on the lense and the sensor and the camera you have. But it is fixed so you don't have a choice. Luckily because of a very small sensor, Smartphone cameras have a very wide depth of field. Sharp focus from your subject to the background is not a problem. When you need to blur the background, current smartphone apps can do it for you very easily even without any knowledge of any editing software. Just like the bird photo I used as an illustration above, the actual photo probably has sharp focus from the subject to the background, but computational photography will allow you to blur the background at a level that you can select via a slider.

    ISO - Its best to set it at the lowest setting. In most cases that would be ISO 25, but you have to consider shutter speed. Usually I prioritize shutter speed vs. ISO . I prefer to use a shutter speed of 1/100S or higher then adjust my ISO accordingly. Please take note that the CPFLash because it is a short burts of continuous LED Light, It will allow you to sync your smartphone at any shutter speed. I have tested it and I have no problem synching the CPFlash at shutter speeds faster than 1/10,000 of a second. The CPFLash because it is a High energy burst of a very powerful lightwill sync at all shutter speed, whether you use a smartphone or a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera.

    Shutter Speed - I prefer to work with shutter speeds of 1/100 S of faster. But if the ISO needed for a shutter speed of 1/100S or higher is more than ISO400, then I scale down on the shutter speed and can go as low as 1/25S and use a tripod. :)

    Alex, just to give you an idea of the cpflash , here is a nice youtube video as discuss by Divan a respected photographer. It will give you an idea on how the CPFLASH works. :)

     
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  8. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I dont know if I was able to answer your question Alex but just to illustrate further. Here is a shot i took , the ISO and shutter speed I selected made the whole image quite dark without the CPFlash.

    lores A108.jpg
    iPhone 11 Pro, f2.4 , 1/250S, ISO200, 14mm (35mm equivalent)

    Here is a similar shot with the external flashes enabled.

    lores A040.jpg
    Huawei P30, f1.6, 1/250S, ISO 200, 33mm (35mm equivalent)
     
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  9. Law Lawrence

    Law Lawrence TPF Noob!

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    Hello John,

    When do you use a snoot and a softbox?
     
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  10. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Hello Law Lawrence, Thank you for your question.

    This is a snoot. It reduce the beam of your light to a small portion of the image. Usually a snoot is used for hairlights to make hair glow and separate the subject from the background. Some photographers also use a snoot to limit the spread of a light, like a spotlight. If you noticed in the picture there is a grill, that people call a honeycomb. The purpose of the honeycomb is to prevent even more light scatter. The disadvantage of using a snoot is you need more flash power to use it.

    If I remember correctly I bought the snoot for about US$20 and the mount is a Bowens S-Mount. :)

    Snoot.jpg


    Now the snoot is attach to a Bowens S-Mount it is an industry standard mount first developed by Bowens of UK. Unfortunately I think Bowens no longer exist as a company. Please correct me if I am wrong. :)

    Now the Innovatronix CPFlash for Smartphones fits perfectly on the Godox S Mount. I bought the Godox S-Mount for US$20. The Godox Bowens compatible S-Mount can be fitted with a snoot, it can also be fitted by an umbrella or a softbox. Many other photography gadgets will fit into the standard Bowens S Mount. Of course at the bottom of the mount you can fit a monopod or a tripod.

    Its advisable that you use a standard mounting for all your accessories. In this way you can interchange and borrow gears of your other photographer friends. :)

    61QXVHBXUlL._AC_SY355_.jpg

    This is a sofbox fitted on an S Mount. It is called a softbox because it gives soft light and it looks like a box. :)

    A softbox will produce very soft shadows and is much more pleasing to the eye. It gives you the impression of a shot taken in a window sill lighted by the afternoon sun. If you don't have a softbox in hand you can tape translucent coupon bond paper in front of your CPFlash 550W. It will achieve the same purpose.

    softboxes comes in many sizes, and usually the bigger the box, the softer the light. There are many brands of softboxes available in the market. Some are very expensive, some comes very cheap. Some swear that they have the best softbox brand and the light coming out is really soft. But for me, I am not brand conscious and I am okay with any softbox. (again many photographers will debate this). Its just like driving a Toyota versus a Mercedes, you arrived in your destination fresh for both cars. The rest is just psychological. I think I bought my softbox for about US$30.

    softbox1.jpg

    Now aside from softboxes, Some people uses an umbrella, because it is more portable. Again there is a huge debate which one gives a softer lighting. An umbrella or a softbox. Most Professional Photographers use a softbox specially in the studio. Maybe because it looks more professional than an umbrella, ergo you can charge your customers higher fees for their portrait shots. :)

    Personally I like to use a softbox in a semi permanent location and an umbrella when I travel because its easier to fold an umbrella. Take note that there are 2 types of umbrellas, a reflective umbrella and a pass through umbrella. If you look at the Godox S mount picture again, you notice that there is a hole in it. That hole is where you insert the umbrella. an umbrella would cost you from 5-10 US$ . :)

    I do not want to start the debate so I would like to emphasize that the type of light softener gadget that a photographer use is a personal preference and depends on so many factors, like price, portability , quality, general availability and so on and so forth, so buy something that you prefer. There is no wrong or right answer in selecting your gadget :)

    In the photo below, you will see a softbox and a pass through umbrella. :)

    shutterstock_292140461.jpg


    Here is an example of a reflective umbrella used as a softbox. Some reflective umbrellas has a diffuser inside and makes the light even more diffused. When I was a starting photographer, I just bought an ordinary umbrella which is black on the outside and silver on the inside. Then I just remove the handle. An ordinary umbrella would cost about US$2-4. It works fine btw. :)

    376925e5c64f3826beb05202899d9bd0.jpg

    I hope that I answered your question Law Lawrence. :)
     
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  11. alexthenewbie

    alexthenewbie TPF Noob!

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    Thank you John for answering all our questions on this thread. Do you use White Balance when you use your smartphone ? How do you determine white balance? :)
     
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  12. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Hello Alex, very good technical question. :)

    My short answer is I default my white balance to Daylight. I never use AWB because I do not know what corrections the camera did for you. You can always change the white balance in software if there is really a need for it. I am lazy to correct my White Balance besides I like exaggerated results. In my case I always use Daylight for my white Balance and I am happy with the results. :)

    But, here is the qualifier, there are types of photography such as product photography when the rendition and colors needs to be very accurate, like for example an expensive bag made by Louis Vitton or Hermes , thats when Your white balance becomes very critical.

    Luckily I am not a PRO Photographer and I like it simple. In 99% of the cases I am happy, setting my white balance to Daylight. :) Please take note that the CPFLash has a color temperature of 5,500 Degrees Kelvin.

    Here is an article in the net that explains in better detail ( Definitely better than I can explain it to you. :) ) . How to set your white Balance. Although his example is with a DSLR, it will apply with a smartphone as well.



    As my personal experience, Here is a shot I took in automatic mode with AWB. :)

    lores IMG_20201119_164702.jpg

    Huawei P30 , f/1.6, 1/40S, ISO320, 27mm (35mm equivalent) , AWB

    Here is a shot in manual mode with a White Balance set to Daylight

    lores IMG_20201119_164642.jpg
    Huawei P30, f/1.6, 1/100S, ISO400 , 27mm (35mm equivalent) White Balance Daylight

    Which picture shows the correct white balance ? It depends on the vision of the Photographer and what he wants to achieve. Don't feel overwhelmed with what white balance to set. In 99% of my photos I selected Daylight and I love the results. BTW the CPFlash white balance is daylight. :)

    I urge you to avoid AWB though, because it will be harder to correct because you would'nt know what white balance your smartphone selected. :)
     
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