Nick Fancher: Run-and-Gun with Hard Lights

Columbus, Ohio-based photographer Nick Fancher shoots for JackThreads, which means manic spurts of product, apparel and shoe photos. To that end he shoots guerilla-style, scrounging multiple locations and setups on the quick.

Which is no problem, as he travels light with RadioPoppers and speedlights, preferring to work without modifiers. This means he can light at modest ranges and easily match or overpower the sun as needed.

Check out the vid above, in which we follow Nick through a typical multi-product day of shooting. Neat stuff -- I like the multi hard-light look. He tends to crank the flashes to 105mm for extra punch, which also restricts the beam for a cool fall-off.

And if the name sounds familiar, Nick was featured a little ways back for his Mad Men-themed engagement shoot. If you haven't seen that, it's worth a look.

(Thanks, Mark!)



Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos

Comments are closed. Question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist


Blogger Krishna said...

The technique used is very simple yet very effective and short yet very informative for the beginners like me.. Thank you for the share.. Loved the Photographs.

November 10, 2011 1:38 AM  
Blogger Seul said...

Great video, but one question: @2:31 = »shutter speed 1/5000«
How did that sync?

November 10, 2011 2:03 AM  
Blogger Andor said...

The hardlight-look is awesome indeed, so as this 'guerilla-style' product photography: looks way greater than a simple studio solid-bg. product shot.

November 10, 2011 3:05 AM  
Blogger Gautier Pellegrin said...

keep it coming ! this was of great help, i love how light the setup is and how creative you can get like this. thanks !

November 10, 2011 6:36 AM  
Blogger tommy said...

Thoroughly enjoyable video.

November 10, 2011 6:58 AM  
Blogger tommy said...

Very interesting video , might have to buy some more speed lights, and move away from London to a country where the sun can be used as a rim light

November 10, 2011 7:00 AM  
Blogger Awesomefest said...

@Seul If you have a master flash unit on your camera, you can trigger your slave flashes at faster shutter speeds. My camera (Canon 5DII) has a max shutter speed of 1/8,000. Instead of using a master flash, I opted for the cheaper Canon ST-E2 transmitter which acts as a mast unit. The communication between flashes is infrared which is very unreliable at much of a distance so I use the Radiopopper PX triggers which translates the infrared communication into radio and so they work just as effectively as Pocket Wizards.

November 10, 2011 10:06 AM  
OpenID said...

I've always been puzzled at how dudes can use raw, un-diffused speedlights/speedlites and get this quality of light. I watched the tricoast guys do the same thing with the same setups and get that same not-so-harsh light quality. I wonder if it's in the post processing techniques to even out the contrast?? Cool vid!

November 10, 2011 10:07 AM  
Blogger Keigo Kato said...

I'm confused. How's he syncing at 1/5000th, and on a Canon??? Am I missing a trick with Radiopopper triggers or something?

November 10, 2011 10:27 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Nice trick, radio popper + ST-E2. Does the radio popper master have an infra-red eye, or is it using a cable to get the signal from the ST-E2? Great video, thank you.

November 10, 2011 11:56 AM  
Blogger Awesomefest said...

@Greg The way the Radiopopper works is that it needs no cables or anything. I velcro it to the transmitter, just above the infrared sensor. It does the rest. Not sure how it works that easily. Little Strobist angels perhaps?

November 10, 2011 12:51 PM  
Blogger BRIAN BULEMORE said...

This is the kind of strobist-related job I want...great simple video! I've been doing some of this, using Pocketwizards tt1 and tt5, but always use modifiers...time to try some hard light stuff! Thanks!

November 10, 2011 2:42 PM  
Blogger David A. Harvey said...

Yeah - this is the kind of vid I love - short-sweet-to-the-point get it done kinda photography. No big production, no vans full of strobes and equipment. Sold me on radiopoppers - they are the sh!ts. Awesome!

November 10, 2011 3:06 PM  
Blogger For Better World said...

Wow, if Canons can sync at that kind of speed, you won't need ND filters. Do Cannon users still use ND filters to be able to shoot wide open with strobe during day?

November 10, 2011 3:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

very nice... i like how he was able to bump up his sync speed to 5000 vs 200. how is that possible? can i do the same with my canon 5d using pocket wizards?

November 10, 2011 3:42 PM  
Blogger Lagged2Death said...

Regarding the high sync speed:

He can use FP/HSS with off-camera flash because he's got the ST-E2 flash commander. He can do it in bright sunlight because he's got the pricey RadioPopper PX system (not the Strobist darling JrX system) to translate weak infrared signals to reliable radio signals and back.

A ton of batteries are involved - AAs for the flashes, AAAs for the radio system, and the goofy, rare, non-rechargable 2CR5 for the ST-E2 - but no cords.

FP/HSS murders the flash power, so he gangs up all three of his flashes, fully zoomed in, to compensate.

November 10, 2011 4:13 PM  
Blogger wilsonongphotography said...

Hey guys...use high speed sync on your flash and hyper sync on your pocketwizards to sync above 1/200. easily done.

November 10, 2011 5:18 PM  
Blogger Bryan Leighty said...

For those that are mystified on his ability to shoot hi-speed sync with the radio poppers --- the radio poppers simply turn your CLS/infared flash controller into a radio transmitted signal and then back to CLS/infared and pulse that light into the speedlight receptor. This can absolutely be done with just using the built in flash controller (that some camera bodies have) or using a flash as the controller. Or, buy using the pocket wizard system that allows for this. It is simply hi-speed sync but he is using a much more reliable transport of the signal with the radio poppers. If you are not sure what the hell hi-speed sync is.. you probably should start clicking through Dave's 101 and 102 links.
Awesome video BTW!!!

November 10, 2011 5:41 PM  
Blogger Sam I Am said...

great video! what lenses were you using?

November 10, 2011 6:26 PM  
Blogger Matthew Walton said...

That was killer! Great vid! I love that out of just a few small lights, you can create several different moods. Just shows that it's the amount of imagination, not illumination that counts! Thanks for posting DH!

November 10, 2011 8:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Yager said...

You're welcome, David. I should mention that I originally saw this on

November 10, 2011 10:35 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Um, yeah. That would have been nice to know. ;)

In this case, I saw your tweet to me last night at ~11:30pm, and reworked today's front to get it up.

But normally, I try not to pick up stuff that has just run somewhere else. Nothing against the other sites, just not really into the photo echo chamber type of thing...

November 10, 2011 11:55 PM  
Blogger Andi said...

Great work. But one question: how can he set the speedlight's output to half power manually AND use hss at the same time (1/5000th)?

November 11, 2011 7:59 AM  
Blogger adam.duckett said...

This video amazed me. I love it when you see a photography using a pretty simple set-up but use it in a way to get far superior results.

Also, the video was short but extremely informative!

November 11, 2011 10:08 AM  
OpenID damnuglyphotography said...

I gotta say...even I'm impressed by the whole synching at 1/5000 second thing! Who sez ya can't teach an (exceptionally) old dog new tricks?!!

November 11, 2011 2:47 PM  
Blogger Yugo said...

What a great video! It's impressive how quickly he sets up his angles and ratios and then only has to make small adjustments. Even more so with live models and bare rimlights zoomed in all the way!

On his "Mad Men Engagement" shoot, the diagrams show more light mods (snoots, maybe grids, and even a CTO gel!). Is this because it's an indoor shoot and he needs more control over spill and color?

November 11, 2011 4:43 PM  
Blogger ModifiedPhoto said...

Looks great. I've done some similar work using undiffused speedlights before and find them great for bringing down a harsh, sunny day if you can keep them fairly close to your subjects still. The advantage is clearly size and portability.

Good video, thanks for sharing.

November 11, 2011 5:50 PM  
Blogger Andi said...

Hi folks - once again my question: how does he manage to set the output manually and fire with high speed sync at the same time?

November 12, 2011 4:03 AM  
Blogger Tom Legrady said...

David - Have you seen this?

November 12, 2011 11:38 AM  
Blogger Igor Marić said...

If I'm not mistaken - that looks like 24-105mm Canon lens, which I feel is the most used lens in fashion and street/life photography. But, as many other people, I too loved the simplicity of the shoots where Nick produced some great shots. One of my favorites was the Entree brand.

November 12, 2011 7:34 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Um, yeah. That same video ran here a little over three years ago. :)

November 12, 2011 9:45 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

Thanks for the informative video.

The lighting looks almost like a small (square) beauty dish - probably due to the positioning of the 3 lights to almost make 3/4 of a beauty dish once the spread of light from the reflectors is taken into account. Hence the soft yet hard looking light.

November 13, 2011 7:04 AM  
Blogger Awesomefest said...

I have three lenses. 1: 24-70 f/2.8L 2: 70-200 f/4L 3: an 85 f/1.8L

November 13, 2011 1:11 PM  
Blogger said...

Love this vid, thanks for posting. I'm currently using pocket wizard p2's on a 5dm2 and am wanting to get to the 5000s sync speed. Would I be best selling the wizards and getting Radiopoppers and an STE2? Or would there be a cheaper alternative route that I should consider? Ie is there any new pocketwizards that will allow this type of sync speed?

Any help welcome ;)

November 14, 2011 1:06 PM  
Blogger Seul said...

Thanks for taking time to explain, awesomefest!

November 15, 2011 4:31 AM  
Blogger diehappy said...

Even though there is this ongoing myth on strobist that Canons would not not be able to sync above 1/200th, HSS with Sync-Speeds up to 1/8000 is possible with Out-of-the-box canon gear (exactly as it is possible with Nikon gear).
And as long as you use TTL-Communication, you can use manual HSS mode and you can dial in 1/2 power. As it is HSS, you just loose a lot of light, so 1/2 power will be more like 1/8th to 1/16th of power when using HSS.
The radiopoopers only translate the Canon_TTL IR rignal to radio without adding additional functionality. Instead of using the radiopoppers, you could also use pocketwizzard mini TT1s/flex TT5s with HSS.

November 15, 2011 12:51 PM  
Blogger brianmilo said...

Hey Andi,
I had the same question as you and could not find out the answer in any manuals, st-e2 or 580 ex II manuals. I emailed Nick and he just got back to me. His answer was "When it is in slave mode, hold down the mode button for three seconds." This works, it switches it to manual output and you still have hi speed sync. Pretty cool, this was one of the reasons I was against the radio poppers px, I have the jrx system. Hope this helps you out. Take care, Brian Milo

November 17, 2011 1:46 PM  
Blogger Andi said...

Hello Brian,

Thanks for your post, and thanks for asking Nick.
I knew about the possibility of setting the output manually in slave mode, but thought it would be overridden as soon as it jumps into hss mode.
I just tried it again - and it really works, that's great!

Greetings from Switzerland, Andi

November 18, 2011 3:31 AM  
Blogger Lola said...

Hi , great post and so informative thank you awesomefest! Can you please tell me if there is anyway I can get the ST-E2 to work with my PW IIs? or does this only work with the radiopoppers? Also are you able to give any tips on the post production you did? looks like you changed the colours or tones somehow?
thanks again!

December 02, 2011 3:26 PM  
Blogger animalpeaches said...

Who makes the flash
bracket in the opening shot that holds 3 flash units with the radio poppers?

December 06, 2011 5:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Radical video. I love that you added in an overview diagram of each shoot with the details.

December 12, 2011 3:17 PM  
Blogger Awesomefest said... That is what I did. The Pocket Wizard Flex Minis are so unreliable that they re relatively worthless.

@Lola: Unfortunately no. You have to switch to Radiopoppers to use your ST-E2. And as for the Lightroom presets, you can check them all out here:

@animalpeaches: It's called a Four Square bracket and is made by Lightware Direct.

December 16, 2011 12:57 PM  
Blogger itsjohnny2 said...

There is a rechargeable 2CR5 battery for the ST-E2. It's made by Lenmar. You can buy it as well as other batteries (enloops) and charges at thomasdistributing dot com. I have had mine for 3 years and it has saved me money.

December 17, 2011 7:50 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home