Sometimes the answer is a lot of light. Sometimes all you need is a splash. It’s a splash, dash, modicum, a touch, a pop–call it what you will. It is tiny but powerful. It speaks volumes, in a small voice.
Speedlights are perfect to execute a splash. They are de facto small, and easily governed to affect a small area. You can fire them via radio, TTL light pulse, or old-fashioned manual slave mode. What this little extra piece of light does is enhance the conversation your picture is having with your viewer, or, even better, direct the conversation. In a subtle way, this accent of light is saying, “look here, this is important.”
Like the cross above. The amazing Pastor Grier is lit in straightforward fashion, via a gridded Ezybox up and slightly right of camera. But the brass cross is the heart and soul of the picture. I put a Speedlight accent on it, with a warm gel, and all it does is draw attention. Generally you need to play with these accents in terms of power. I often find something around a +1 EV rating will do the trick, without blowing up the area in question, exposure wise.
Likewise the cross in the picture below. A Speedlight, with a small snooted grid, and a bit of warmth. Mike lost his cousin on 9/11. That cross is made of WTC steel, and is the emotional center of the photo. A snooted, gridded Speedlight give the cross a tiny bit of additional attention-getting highlight.
Then of course, you can use enough splashes to make the whole pool! There a lot of Speedlights in the below pic. About a dozen, as I recall. None are really doing much to affect the overall scene. Not the place for a big umbrella! All lights, including the main softbox, a Lastolite EzyBox HotShoe softbox, are gridded to control their spill. Grids, gaffer tape, and gels were the watchword of the day in this old garage. And of course our wonderful character up front, Evan Kaminsky, who looks right at home with an oxyacetalyne torch in his hands.
Shot this in San Francisco, and heading back there, not to this garage, but to Samy’s San Francisco, for a town hall meetup with photogs in the area at 7:00pm on August 1.