Laura Tillinghast: Using ShoeMount Flash for Success in Bad Weather

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It happens to us all. The day of your outdoor photo shoot comes and the weather is gloomy with clouds filling the sky. While rescheduling is always an option, if you are able to save the day, you will not only impress your clients, but also prove to yourself that you can succeed under difficult conditions.

The week leading up to the shoot had been sunny with lovely weather but the day of my assignment, the sky was overcast and grey. In the example below, you can see in middle photograph that the natural light was even but very flat. Since all the light was coming from above (not a lot of bounce from the ground happens in overcast conditions) unflattering shadows were created under the brow bone and nose, making my subject look tired. Adding a Canon Speedlite with a Photoflex XS OctoDome soft box added just enough light to improve the image without affecting the exposure. In the image on the far right, you can see that the shadows under the brow bone and nose are softened and the overall skin tone is improved. Using this technique also pops the subject out more from the background, creating a more balanced image.

If you are dealing with overcast weather and it starts raining, the Photoflex XS OctoDome ShoeMount Kit allows you to move inside and keep shooting. And with a backdrop like the one shown below from Serendipity Backdrops, you can recreate a natural light bokeh look. For this shot I had the Canon Speedlite and XS OctoDome placed slightly to the right of the subject and close enough to the backdrop to allow some light to fall on it. I shot at f5.6 to make sure the backdrop would be in focus and since we were shooting in-studio with complete control of the light, I set my camera to ISO 100 for maximum detail.

Another way that I use the XS OctoDome ShoeMount kit is when I need to add more drama to a photo that I'm shooting with primarily ambient light. In the example below, which was shot during a photo walk at WPPI, the weather was very windy and had started sprinkling rain. At that point I moved the model under an overhang to keep us both dry. This allowed us to keep shooting but the light was even more flat in the shade and the background was kind of messy. In the image on the left I balanced the Canon Speedlite and XS OctoDome with the ambient light (f5.6). This isn't a bad image but the quickly fading light lacked depth and I felt the image was a bit boring. To increase the drama in the background and make the image more appealing overall, I choose to kick up the Speedlite and under-expose the background by 2 stops. I set the Speedlite and XS OctoDome to f11, which was 2 stops brighter than the ambient light at f5.6. This resulted in a much more dramtic background and more dynamic shadowing on the face. You will also see an increase in how dramatic the catch lights are in the second image.

The Photoflex XS OctoDome ShoeMount kit saved the day for my recent shoots and now I always keep it in my car when I am shooting on location. You never know when you may need that extra kick of light to take control of your images back from the elements. Happy shooting!

Born and raised on the West Coast, Laura began making art at a young age. She explored many mediums until finally discovering photography when she was 17 years old. From that point on, she knew she had found the tool she was looking for to bring her imagination to life. What makes Laura stand out from others is her willingness to work as hard as it takes to make the best images possible. It's easy to work that hard when you absolutely love what you do. See more of her work at her website:

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