Nikon Speedlight Home Run With SB-910

nikon sb-910 back
Nikon fields the SB-910 just in time for Christmas - by Nikon

Nikon is gearing up to ship an upgrade to their SB-900 powerhouse external flash in the form of the SB-910.

Set for a release in time for Christmas, the SB-910 promises compatibility with Nikon’s i-TTL system metering on camera or on wireless control. The SB-910 can operate as a hot shoe mounted speedlight, a remote unit, or wireless commander.

The SB-910 has an extended zoom range from 17-200mm and three illumination patterns for more control over flash coverage, including center weight and even mode which diffuses the light across the photo frame for more even lighting of group photos.

Another big improvement is the SB-910 is heat management. If the earlier models get too hot, they simply shut down. If the SB-910 starts getting hot, it slows down the recharge times.

The SB-910 is compatible with all FX and DX format SLR digital cameras and sports a recycle time of 2.3 seconds with LR6 NIMH batteries.

The SB-910 comes with hard incandescent and fluorescent color filters included, with a digital feedback to the camera that automatically adjusts the camera’s color temperature settings.

On the back the unit has an ultra-large LCD screen with clear menu systems. For bounce capability the flash can be tilted up to 90 degrees and down to 7 degrees, and rotated 180 degrees to the left and right.

nikon sb-910
Large and imposing the SB-910 occupies the hot shoe - by Nikon

Photographers will appreciate the lighted buttons when working in dark areas and the easy to read LCD menus.

Many photographers who thought the SB-900 was a winner, won’t be disappointed by its replacement in the SB-910. I’ve always had a high opinion of Nikon Speedlights and with this model, they look to stay on top.

Available for pre-order at Amazon for $549.00.

Polaroid Fields New Dua External Flash

Polaroid PN 160D
Polaroid new dual lighting system for flash and video - by Polaroid

Polaroid announced the availability of a new type of light that can be used as a flash for stills or constant light for video.

Aimed squarely at DSLR shooters, the Polaroid Dua packs two different types of light sources into a TTL compatible strobe with a power zoom head that tracks with the lens zoom and a separate LED pack for video lighting.

In addition to the power zoom, the flash offers the usual 270 degree pan and tilt capability. On the software side it’s got power save and built-in internal red eye reduction features. It works as the primary flash with TTL support for Canon, Nikon, and Pentax, but also has a slave mode to function as a fill.

The LED video light can provide up to an hour on a full charge. Button controls and a back lit LCD screen on the back, along with a built in diffuser and bounce card.

Produced in two versions the PL 150 and PL 160 the Dua is already on store shelves at B&H and Amazon and currently retails for $199.00.

There have been many times this type of flash unit would come in handy. Any time you’re switching from stills to video in a tricky lighting situation, it will be great to have. At a price point under $200, Polaroid looks like it might have a winner.

Funny Canon never came up with anything like that in their own strobes.

How The Pros Do It – Portable Lighting For Wedding Photography

Ac 3
The PocketWizard AC3 paired with the MiniTTL for Canon

My nephew got married recently, an event I was unfortunately not able to attend, although my high tech family managed to send me pictures of the event. One picture that made my teeth grind was one with the wedding photographer in the background, trying to light a dress shot with a dinky external flash.

This was the photographer with a killer web site that my future niece felt she was lucky to get, but there was no way the results displayed on the web site were captured with the camera and flash combination in that photo. Judging by the pictures I’ve seen so far, she was duped by a slick web site with, at best, a tenuous connection to whoever took the promo pictures displayed there.

To contrast the difference between that lighting setup and the real pros, I went to see Karl Leopold at Images4Ever near Melbourne Beach, Florida. Karl has been shooting weddings longer than most photographers working today have been alive, has won more awards than I can list here, and is the president of the Atlantic Professional Photographers Association. I wanted to see a real pro lighting setup and wasn’t disappointed.

Karl builds his portable lighting kit around a pair of Canon 580 EX ii Speedlites, pairing those with a PocketWizard FlexTT5  for Canon. The trigger on the camera is a combination of the MiniTT1 matched up with an AC3 Zone Controller for changing the power settings on any of the flash units on the fly wirelessly.

“I can change the power by 3 stops on any of the flash units right from here,” Karl explains, dialing back the power with the AC3. I watched him flip through the power settings while shooting nearly continuously, much faster than making the change through the camera menu.

The arrangement provides the flexibility to mount the fill flash on a monopod and let an assistant adjust the location and height to fit the situation. If he’s working alone he can mount the remote on a light stand and adjust it himself. Instead of being tethered to the camera, he can also move the key off the bracket handle if the situation calls for it.

Lighting set up
How it all comes together - One Speedlite on a standard bracket, the other a remote that can be mounted on anything

It’s all about speed, reliability and flexibility, with added bonus of being able to light the world.

“The big advantage is you can put a light behind the subject for those nice, bright highlights,” Karl explained. The radio triggers work around corners and even when concealed behind foreground objects.

Equipment isn’t the only factor separating the pros from the posers, but having the right gear is definitely a bonus.

In the days to come I’m planning to work with Karl and Images4Ever on more articles on studio lighting, exposure, and working with models on commercial shoots. Stay tuned.

The ABR800 Ringflash

The ABR800 Ringflash is a solid performer - by PC

I’m probably going to date myself a little, but I still like big ring lights. The ring flash look hasn’t really been big in fashion photography since the 70s, but a good ring flash is still one of my favorite keys because of the versatility. Ring lights gained fame for lighting that eliminated shadows on the subject and the distinctive catch light in the eyes.

My weapon of choice for a ring flash is the Alien Bees ABR800, made by Paul C. Buff up in Nashville. There have been some criticisms that the light is a little off in some of the Alien Bees line. If that’s true, it’s not in the ABR800. It’s got plenty of power, travels well and is incredibly versatile.

Paul C. Buff himself - by PCB

Most often you’ll be using a ring flash with the lens poking through the center of the ring. The lighting surrounding the axis of view creates an edgy, high contrast look that almost completely eliminates shadows on the subject, but can create a shadow halo around a subject near the background.

I like being able to move in close and change the perspective without moving the lights around for every shot.

Even if a ring flash isn’t right for a particular shot, nothing stops you from putting inside one of the 30 or 56-inch moon units and using it as a key or fill, or just bounce it into an umbrella. I really like the moon units, but agree that those can be tricky to set up.

I’m not the only one who likes the ABR800.

Tips for Photographing Skin Tones

My idea of quality skin tones
Skin tones can one of the hardest exposure challenges in photography - by dbking

As long as photographers have been taking pictures, they have been chasing the perfect skin tones.  What I’ve discovered over the years is that we’re actually chasing a look that’s better than real life.The look of human skin is not necessarily improved with more detail and the “perfect” exposure is not always the most technically accurate one.

The other problem with human skin is the tone can be wildly variable, depending on genetics, lifestyle factors, age, makeup, and the natural amount of oils in the skin.  Skin tones are, literally, like snowflakes; every one is different and each presents unique challenges.

I’m not above working in post until the subject’s skin looks pure as an Antarctic snowdrift, but I’m going for the absolutely best look I can get out of my Canon 7D to cut down the amount of post processing I have to do later.


Background is key for getting quality skin tones.  If there is too much contrast between the subject’s skin tone and the background you’re going to spending a lot of time in post masking off the subjects face and trying to correct under-exposed skin tones.

You want some color contrast, but not in terms of luminosity.


Whether indoors or out, I’m looking for the most diffuse and even lighting I can find.  The single hydrogen ion key light, located 93 million miles from the subject, filtered through 100 miles of Mark I water vapor filter can be difficult by itself.  I’m looking for reflected sunlight or indirect light in a shaded area.

Most often I’ll still use a diffused fill flash and a reflector at a 45 degree angle.

If I’m shooting indoors, I’m using soft boxes and a snoot for highlights.


Sure, I’ll meter the whole scene, then spot meter my subject and background.  I’ll even pull my incident light meter out of the bag.

In the end, however, and I’m not too proud to admit this, I cheat.  When I’m shooting a portrait, I bracket the daylights out of the shots.

It’s not pretty, but it works.