Yanik's Photo School

SB-800 Tutorial – RockBand Shoot

So, there I was. In Calgary the day before the workshop and I had been playing Rockband for roughly a week as the lead drummer. I played so much that I was getting blisters on my fingers . A bunch of 30 somethings recreating high school dreams of sex, drugs and rock&roll baby! And then I get a flash (no pun intended)!

“Hey guys! I just got an idea! Let’s get 4 of you all dressed up with whigs and stuff and bring the RockBand gear out in the street at sundown and get busy with some SB-800s!” 😀 And the answer I got…. “Where are the whigs!!!”

So we brought the game outside (+ one cool silver guitar for the 4th rocker… he had to accessorize with the boots!), I got my 2 SB-800s on my little cheepy portable tripods and put them on each side of the photographers rock stars at around 5 feet from the ground. I set them to Remote group A. I then set my friend Peter’s SB-800 with a shoot-through umbrella  on another tripod close to me on camera left at about 6 ft from the ground. I set the flash to Remote group B so that it would be controlled independently from the other 2. Here’s my lighting setup diagram.


If you’ve read my 2 other tutorials on SB-800s (here and here) you’ll know that the first thing I do is to make sure that my background is exposed to my liking (basically exposing to the light I can’t control). For this shot I wanted dark, gloomy clouds so, in Aperture mode, I used my EV button and set it to -1EV. Perfect! So my settings were ISO 200, f5.6 at 1/60 sec. with the WB (white balance) set to Flash, using my Nikon D300 and my Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens.

All I had to do now is ajust the SB-800s’ power output to match my settings. What’s great about the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) is that I can wirelessly control the flashes’ power output right in my camera using the popup flash to trigger the other flashes (setting it to Commander mode). So after a few tests, both side flashguns were at 1/4 power and the main at 1/2 power.

We did have a few setbacks at first because of a few nasty gusts of wind that knocked over the flashes onto the hard and unforgiving pavement. OUCH! Man, those SB-800s are shock resistant! Love them. 🙂 My umbrella didn’t fare as well though. Kaput! Luckly I had 2 (and with 8 other photographers, I was covered :)) After a few falls, I figured out that I needed human sandbags so I got 3 other guests, down for the workshop, to play the ever so important role of the sand bag. They performed brilliantly , I must admit.

I could have shot this with only the front SB-800 with the umbrella but my rock stars’ black clothing would have faded into the background somewhat. And it also gave more definition to the faces. The 2 sidelights act as rim lights to “cut out” the subjects from the background. You can see it here on a few crops. The first one showing the rim light’s effect and the second one adding depth to the face.

And here are the final images for your enjoyment.

I would like to thank my model rock stars (left to right): Wies Plompen, Peter Marlin, Sander van der Veen and Joey Lawrence.

7 responses on "SB-800 Tutorial - RockBand Shoot"

  1. Great shots and great tutorial! I’ll have to give it a try.

  2. hi!! great tutorial! i recently had to shoot a band in an industrialized setting and very short notice, i just wished i came across your tutorial before that to borrow some ideas. It would have saved me a lot of time doing photoshop on it. But since i still got the band bug so i am still browsing around to improve on that technique, lo and behold, Somebody Smart that lives right above us showed me your site!!!. Keep up the good works sir. I learned a lot from you in my 30 minutes of reading than my eight months work as a studio photographer.

  3. Awesome! Very nice tutorials! Thank you so much! Made me buy another speedlight today! (nearly bought two but it got a bit expensive… hmmm, maybe… :P)

  4. i like the suburbia in as the backdrop …
    must have been playing in the streets while the rest of us were in the bar …

  5. cool, love the background and the lighting is great. what was the shutter speed to stop motion for people jumping ?

  6. Looks like you guys had a lot of fun!
    You mention “SB-800 with a shoot-through umbrella.” Do you have a recommendation for decent, but economical, shoot-through umbrella, since they seem prone to death-by-wind? smiles – Ann

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