I thought it would be useful to post this image and walk through what I did to get the shot. From talking to a lot of photographers I know that flash is a subject that many find quite daunting to the point that they never learn it but for portraiture, in my opinion, it's essential. Natural light can be great but why not have the ability to bring your own light and put it where you need it. I’ll add this right now... I am no expert, I just learn from doing and observing the results, rinse and repeat… as well as a healthy dose of YouTube flash tutorials.
So this shot was taken at Play Expo, Event City, Manchester with Captain Amelia Cosplay as Alice in Wonderland and we took a short walk across the road to the Trafford Centre to do a shoot.
This was shot with a manual flash, a Rogue Flashbender diffusion panel (basically a portable softbox that folds flat) on a short lightstand positioned camera left. With a manual flash you dial in the power yourself, from 1/128 to 1/1 (full power) and as far as I understand it, manual flashes are more suited to static subjects where the subject to flash distance isn't changing.
First thing, I took a test shot without the cosplayer or flash to get the background right and dialed in 1/160 (my flash sync speed is a maximum of 1/200s), f8, ISO 200.
Then I moved the cosplayer and the flash into position. Now, because I was shooting at 11mm I had to put the flash quite far away, maybe about 6-8 ft (normally I position it a few feet away) otherwise it would appear in the shot, so I set the flash to full power and took a test shot. That was way too powerful, so I reduced it to 1/2 power and that looked fine. And that's it, once you've dialed in your settings, they stay roughly in that location and the ambient doesn't change, you can just shoot.
So even in daylight, bringing your own lighting can be incredibly useful when on location. Without flash this wouldn't have worked as well, it was an overcast day and the lighting was just too flat. So next time you're out, I recommend you go ahead and try it.
We discussed several issues including photography etiquette, so ask before you shoot and always show them the photos when asked, something that seasoned convention togs do as a matter of course, but may not be familiar to everyone.
The littering problem around the ExCel was brought up, which is always going to be an issue with an event that size and you’re never going to eliminate it completely, but we can all do our bit to minimize it.
Of course the issue that did get a lot of discussion were the new rules about photography, I say new, these rules have always existed but now they have been put into print. I must admit it is good to have the rules in writing as back in May the rules were rather randomly enforced and no one really knew what they were. Now it's pretty clear, no lighting stands and all equipment has to be held by the photographer, oh and you can't get around the rule by getting someone to hold the lights for you as that's not allowed either (and it would defeat the point of having the ruling). In addition, possession of a Press Pass doesn't grant you any special privileges either.
It's not all doom and gloom though as there was talk of setting up a shooting area for photographers at future conventions, not in time for this October's MCM London though.
So it all begs the question of what photography will look like at future MCM conventions, the photos certainly won't be as good as images taken with off camera flash (in my opinion) but maybe that's the idea. I do understand that they don't want us to compete with those that pay a lot of cash to set up photography booths in the convention hall. It will be interesting to see how photographers interpret these rules and if some mild 'bending' of the rules will be seen at London in October. I mean, hand held is open to interpretation... You could hold a flash on a boom which would be within the rules, but outside of the spirit of the rules. Such rule bending is likely to see the rules tightened further, which is my concern.
So, after much thought I will still be going to MCM London, if not just to hang out, have a good time and catch up with cosplayers and photographers. I'm sure there'll be much discussion on the ground. Hey, if all else fails, there's always video...
© James Bissett | Photography