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by Patrick Murphy-Racey

As an event photographer gains knowledge and their photographs improve, at some point they are faced with a dilemma: “to flash or not to flash.”

Shooting available light can be very effective for certain assignments but if you lack the gear and skill required to get to the next level, shooters can be caught in a rut.  Learning how to effectively overcome a fear of flash is often a benchmark in a career where a photographer can look back and say, “yes, this is when I really began to make money and express myself more creatively.”

Early on in my own career in the early 1980’s,there was a moment when I used a light bank and a light stand for the first time. I was in college and I’ll never forget looking at the color slides when they came back from the lab.  The images were incredible and filled with soft, beautiful light.  People seemed to actually glow in my images.  I was hooked.

Fast-forward over thirty years and I’m still hooked on making people look their best by doing my best as a photographer.  The tools of this craft of lighting have changed a little as time has marched on.  A power pack and three heads back in the 80’s would set you back maybe $2500.  Then you had to buy extension cords, cases, a kart to move it all with, and a radio slave system for another $1500.  That time is gone now, and one company out of China has emerged in the last five years as the leader in flash design &manufacture, and is delivering amazing value to photographers trying to learn and become proficient at lighting:  GoDox.

GoDox makes effective tools for the modern shooter that wants portability, quality, speed, versatility, and excellent quality of light in the subjects they illuminate.

I’m going to walk you through two of my favorite GoDox flash units in this post, the GoDox AD200 and the AD400PRO.  

AD200

First, here are a selection of images I shot on a mission trip down in Haiti last year:

By using 50 ISO, shooting wide open (or nearlyso), and using high shutter speeds (HSS), the backgrounds go blurry so the subject jumps out as the main object of each image.  The strobe’s actual size goes from 1.5 x 3”to 3 x 4’.  What you end up with is a portable sunset at the beach on every shot you make.  When uneducated (photographically speaking)people see an image shot in this style, the most often thing you photoshopped in the backgrounds because they say, “it doesn’t look real.”  

Put simply, doing this kind of portrait work is simply making a double exposure each time you shoot a photo.  You have the balance between the ambient light of the sun opposed to or working with the artificial strobe light that you are producing to make an image.  

AD400PRO:

The HSS ( high speed sync) feature of the GoDoxstrobes allow you to be freed from the typical 1/200th or 1/250th sync speed of most older cameras these days.  You can soar up to 1/8000th if you want to but… The higher shutter speed you choose, you drop the output of the strobeat the same time.  This is why using speed lights for doing serious outdoor lit portraits is not going to work, long term.  You can get away with using as peed light for direct flash as long as you are close to your subject, but once you move back a bit, include more of the environment in the frame, and raise that shutter speed up, you need more firepower. This is where GoDox comes in. Having 200 w/s or better yet, 400 or 600 w/s of power allows you to really get things done when you are outside and wanting to use large light banks which tend to eat all of your output up.

The HSS ( high speed sync) feature of the GoDoxstrobes allow you to be freed from the typical 1/200th or 1/250th sync speed of most older cameras these days.  You can soar up to 1/8000th if you want to but… The higher shutter speed you choose, you drop the output of the strobeat the same time.  This is why using speed lights for doing serious outdoor lit portraits is not going to work, long term.  You can get away with using as peed light for direct flash as long as you are close to your subject, but once you move back a bit, include more of the environment in the frame, and raise that shutter speed up, you need more firepower. This is where GoDox comes in. Having 200 w/s or better yet, 400 or 600 w/s of power allows you to really get things done when you are outside and wanting to use large light banks which tend to eat all of your output up.

My second set of images comes from the GodoxAD400 Pro, which I got from Dury’s me a couple weeks back.  I was commissioned by a law school to make a series of portraits of some of their alumnus for an upcoming magazine cover story and series of profiles.  I knew the AD400Pro would be a perfect choice for these images.  The added power (twice as much as the AD200)came in handy shooting against the super-bright Spring skies here in Tennessee.

As these images only had one person per image, I was able to open up the aperture all the way to f/1.4 for most of the seimages.  I used the 50 and 85mm lenses primarily, and these worked great for the project.  Using only one light keeps things simple but you have to know where the sun is (my back light), and manipulate the subject so busy backgrounds are not a problem.  I have learned to see at f/1.4 over the years, so I can assess a situation and pretty much pick an angle and background that will help me along the way as shown in these photographs:

In my experience using Godox flash units, I’vefound them to give me consistent results across the board.  I’ve grown to trust their output in terms of power as well as color.  The new AD400PRO is an excellent value and I feel like it gives me 90% of what the AD600Prooffers without the added cost and weight. You can check out the entire lineup of Godox flash units at Dury’s any time you like, and if you don’t live in Nashville, just call and ask for alighting specialist as Dury’s has many.  

Last, Dury’s just recently began selling Godoxand they are excited and eager to help you figure out what works best for what you shoot and where you are at in your growth as a photographer.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone at the store with your questions and to get good advice on reaching the next level in terms of your work.  

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