SB-800 Turorial – 3 Fashion Shoot Setups

Ok, I feel like Santa Clause right now! The sun is out again (after almost a full summer of rain), I can swim in my river, take out my canoe and eat on my pick-nick table watching the chickadees and hummingbirds buzz around me. It just doesn’t get better than that! All I would ask for more is to share my lunch with David Hobby from Strobist, Joe McNally and Chase Jarvis. 😉 One day…. one day.

So as Santa, I’ll give you 3 shoot setups in one article! How’s that! 🙂 All three were done in Calgary during my 2 week stay there. All 3 are very different in terms of setup and flash lighting so I thought they would fit nicely together. Ok, enough babbling! Let’s get to it.

Shoot Setup #1: The Glass Wall

This was a great shoot. It was quick, fun and Kaley was a joy to work with. I saw the wall within the first few seconds of the workshop and knew I wanted to shoot silhouettes there. So between sessions, I asked Kaley if she wanted to show off her legs a bit and she gracefully obliged. We started with the dress and quickly ditched it for the bikini.

I set up an SB-800 flash with a blue gel and with a shoot-through umbrella on a stand at about 6 feet high and 2 feet behind the wall. Since I was using my pop-up flash to trigger the SB-800, I first tested it out to make sure the signal was received and it worked like a charm.The SB-800 was on manual mode at 1/2 power.

The next step was to get proper exposure. I asked Kaley to stand where I would shoot her and with the Nikon D300 ISO default of 200 and my shutter speed at 1/250 sec., I played with my aperture until it looked good. My final aperture was f7.1.

I took a few shots and found the bottom of the image to be too dark so I put a second SB-800 on its AS-19 stand and placed it on the floor 2 feet from the wall. I also added a blue gel on it (a bit more purple in it for those who noticed the subtle color difference ;)). This SB-800 was used without an umbrella at 1/4 power since it wasn’t diffused.

Here’s a diagram of the setup with the final shots.

One of the participants, Cory Smith, took a short video of me shooting this setup. It’s not much but you get a nice view of the wall! 😉

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Shoot Setup #2: The Brown Wall

I was asked by the organizers to set up an impromptu “How to create a quick studio setup with SB-800 flashes” for the Nikon crowd and teach them how to properly use the power of their camera to trigger and control the flashguns. So the teacher in me couldn’t resist!

So the first thing I did is teach them how to navigate into the menus of both the camera and the SB-800 and set them up. I then explained the difference between channels and groups. (I’ll have a full video on that in a few weeks!) Then we got to the setup.

So we have this small room and brown walls, yuk. The first thing I wanted to do was change the wall color. I placed an SB-800 flash 2 feet off the ground behind the model and I slapped on a blue gel and tested it out. Not bad but not blue enough so I put on a second one. Better! Since this shade of brown had some warm tones to it, I changed my white balance to Tungsten (incandescent). Perfect blue wall! Great!

Now for the main light. I placed an SB-800 on camera left at roughly 6 feet high. Now since my white balance was on tungsten, I added the tungsten gel that came with the SB-800 (the orange one) on it to get natural skin tones. Done!

We could have left it at that but since we had a 3rd flashgun lying around, I figured we should put it to good use and have some fun with colors.  So I set it up on camera right at 90 degrees and added a red gel to create a contrast with the blue background. I avoided doing the typical back light hair light thing and splashed some red one her face as well. I had Kiyoko stand in for the test shot. 🙂 She was a good sport. All flashes were direct without diffusers.

Jackie was our model for the sessions and did a great job! She was bubbly and very patient! Here’s a shot with the red gel and one without.

To vary a little bit, I went and changed the gels on the background to get more of a leafy green.

My camera settings were: ISO 100, 1/250 sec., f7.1  I didn’t write down my SB-800 settings and I can’t remember them for the life of me! But remember, expose your background first, then your other lights.

Shoot Setup #3: When Nature Calls

Last but not least, a fun outdoor shoot, again with beautiful Jackie. So Jackie, my trusty sidekick Sander and myself went hunting for a nice county back road on the outskirts of Calgary. Once found, Jackie got all perdy while I used Sander as my test model. 🙂

The sun was low in the sky and I wanted to exploit that as much as possible. For my main light I would use one or 2 SB-800 shot through an umbrella held by a flexible and quite mobile, Sander stand. 😉

Since the light intensity in the sky varied a lot as the sun went down, it’s impossible to share my settings since they changed almost every second shot. But remember to always expose your background to your liking first and adjust your light accordingly. For the most part, the sun was my side or back light.

And when the sun went down, we noticed we were out of gas so since Jackie’s a fitness competitor ans was in way better shape than both of us combined, she was elected to fetch some gas. 😉

So there you have it! 3 very different shoots with SB-800s. I invite you to visit and join Yanik’s Photo School’s Flickr group to comment on this shoot or you may comment here as well. 🙂

10 responses on "SB-800 Turorial - 3 Fashion Shoot Setups"

  1. semperlex

    the Nikon CLS system is great if you’re shooting in dark or close quarters. At dusk, I was able to trigger my SB-800 at roughly 40 ft.

    If you’ll be shooting in bright environments, you’ll need to get remote triggers like PW or other cheaper ones like the Skyports or even the “poverty wizards” on Ebay from Gadget Infinity (they do work well. I have them for my studio).

    But also remember that the receiver on your Sb-800s isn’t the red part in front but the smalll black circle on the side. Make sure that’s pointing towards your camera.

  2. This was awesome! I currently have a D300 w/ 2 SB800’s. Thinking about getting a 3rd, maybe a 600 or the fancy 900. Problem I have encountered w/ Nikon wireless system, is getting them to fire. It is a distance thing and last I tried it was in a park, late afternoon, and my distance to the left stand had to be no more than 18-20 feet. I would love further instruction in set-ups and power control through the camera. I would even be willing to pay for a DVD. I have also thought of getting a Pocket Wizard to fire my flashes for greater distance…costly though…
    Again, thank you for your time, knowledge and willingness to teach others. It is greatly appreciated!

  3. This is by far one of the best tutorials I’ve seen..

  4. Awesome tutorials! I just bought 2 SB-800s to supplement my existing SB-600 so I HAVE to justify the cost to my wife! Thank you! More please. 🙂

  5. Wow…I love your tutorials…..I have a D200 and 1 SB-800. I struggle so much with lighting because I can’t figure out how to do it….this makes me think that rather than spend money on big lights…I should invest in one or two more SB-800’s… hmmm…
    love your photos…very nice work.

  6. Great series, your setup sketches are great too, @Alex – you can buy coloured gels in most craft shops worldwide, just clip then on the end of your strobe and away you go, keep in mind that some are thinner than others and as such you have to either put two ontop of each other to get enough colour. The other thing is that obviously lights get hot so try not to melt them.

  7. These were GREAT!!!

  8. I want to know more about these gels! Please mail me or write here!

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