I was recently out with a group of photographers from a local camera club. The aim was to photograph some unusual plants – orchids, however they’d finished flowering weeks before. I chose an alternative plant and carried on shooting.

Step 1 – how does it look with ambient light only

Initial shot - no flash

Initial shot – no flash

I usually take a picture first with just the ambient light, no additionally “available lights”. It shows me how the subject will look for the parts that I choose not to add flash to. I wasn’t keen on the bright patch in the background but liked the specular highlight on the berries – that would be my aim to replicate with flash, and it tells me where to position the flash too.

Step 2 – add the flash

Setting the shutter speed to 1/200s eliminates the ambient light - this is almost totally flash lit

Setting the shutter speed to 1/200s eliminates the ambient light – this is almost totally flash lit

I added the Speedlite 600EX-RT to a tiny Photoflex soft box and hand held it really close to the subject but just out of the frame. This particular softbox has a white interior making it even softer and less contrasty than silver ones. Distance of the light from the subject also plays a big part; a small light up close is much softer and also gives a lot of control over what is lit by flash since the flash falls off quickly.

1/25s shutter speed lets the ambient and flash blend naturally

1/25s shutter speed lets the ambient and flash blend naturally

Step 3 – run out of hands

Since the berries were located on the side of a steep bank I had the camera on a tripod but no real place to put a light stand and have the light in the right place. I used myself as my own VAL (voice activated light stand). Then of course I couldn’t reach the camera shutter button either. Fortunately I just used the remote release feature that is possible with the Speedlite 600EX-RT. This ensures that the pictures are shake free – I didn’t touch the camera on the tripod – and the flash can be exactly where I want. Move the light too far away and the specular highlights will shrink in size as shown below.

Flash positioned further away reduces the size of the highlights on the berries

Flash positioned further away reduces the size of the highlights on the berries

To use the remote release function on the Speedlite 600EX-RT, just press the button under the soft label MENU1 and then you will see the REL, MODEL and TEST text above the first three buttons on the flash. REL is the shutter RELease, MODEL triggers the MODELling light and TEST is the same as pressing the test button on the back of the master flash.