Blog: Flashtube Malfunction, Don’t Let It Slow You Down


By Andy Shafer,
Click photos to enlarge
Figure 1Figure 2
Food photograph…it’s what I do. In a recent assignment, I was at the clients location ready to fire up the soft-box and get started….with a small surprise, no flash.
Most people would panic. Fortunately, I try to always have a backup plan with backup equipment. I mounted a second head and began to test again.
Boom, no flash. Now panic?? Well, not exactly, I just ordered a backup flashtube ($224) with me for this exact reason. After a third test, I sadly discover that both heads are malfunctioning.
Panic doesn’t help.
It’s time to get creative. Both tungsten-modeling lights were functioning, so I decided to change the concept of the shoot by switching camera settings to tungsten white balance.
I set the scene for low-light drama. After the first tests, the client is pleased with the new look. It is very unusual for two heads to fail at one time, but Murphy’s Law makes life exciting.
Figure 3Figure 4
The switch to the modeling lights and a different angle enhanced the texture of the products. Depth of field is another key element to the setup, as the client needs to emphasize different portions of the products.
In a six-hour shoot, I fired off more than 1700 digital images in “Program mode”, adjusting the shutter speed and depth of field. Two-thirds of those frames are brackets.
My usual practice is to bracket 2/3s stop above and below my exposure setting. It’s never failed, because the light and darkness of the product can tricky for the meter measure properly.
I’ve found it a mistake not to bracket. Yes, most of the time the client and I agree on the normal exposure…but a third of the time, the bracket exposure is better.
It’s a good lesson for creativity and experience working together. It could have been a disaster or a shoot cancellation with equipment failure. A missed deadline is not something the client could accept. Have a good backup plan.