flash photography techniques

01 ± natural looking flash

flash photography techniques intro page ~ natural looking flash ~ flash & ambient light

Making flash not look like flash: I use flash very often in my professional work and personal work. But I try and make the use of flash not appear intrusive in the photograph. I nearly always have an on-camera flash, but I try to diffuse it or bounce it wherever possible. I use as little direct flash as I can, except outdoors where I try and use available light, and use flash only to lift the shadows and reduce the contrast. However, sometimes it is just best to overpower the ambient light with flash ± but still try to make it look natural, ie, not like flash. Let¶s start off with these few photos. They were all done using flash on camera. You¶ll note that there is no discernable flash shadow. I absolutely loathe a distinct flash shadow. So that¶s the ideal that I always strive for ± that it shouldn¶t be obvious that I didn¶t just use existing light. It isn¶t always possible, but that is what I try for in every photograph.

This was shot at f2, with flash bounced directly behind me into the open room to just help lift the shadows. Note, there is NO flash shadow.I purposely didn¶t use a diffuser dome / Stofen omnibounce here, since it would¶ve thrown too much flash directly forward. I needed all the flash to be indirect. specific settings: Nikon D2H Nikon 85mm f1.4 1/125th @ f2 @ 400 iso manual; matrix metering TTL flash: -1.7 exp comp My choice of settings here were dictated by the available light, and I just used a hint of flash by bouncing it into the huge room behind me. At f2, and as fill, I didn¶t need to blast a ton of light from my strobe.


Flash bounced over my left shoulder. Note that there is NO direct flash, and hence no flash shadow.specific settings: Nikon D2H Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 1/250th @ f4 @ 400 iso manual; matrix metering TTL flash: +1 exp comp The high shutter speed was a specific choice so that the stained-glass window wouldn¶t be blown out, but instead retain the colours. The bride was entirely lit by bounced flash, so by controlling my shutter speed (for my chosen aperture and iso), I could match the exposure for the window. I bounced flash off that sand-coloured brickwork, and this did affect my colour balance ± but since I shoot in raw, correcting the WB was no effort.

With those two photos different flash exposure compensation was set. In the first image, the flash was used as subtle fill-flash, and therefore the flash compensation was dialed down. In the 2nd image, the bride¶s face is lit entirely by flash. Hence my flash is my main source of light. So I would have to start somewhere around 0 EV compensation. But from experience I knew that the lighter toned face, and white dress and the backlighting would influence my flash exposure. So I dialled in more flash exposure. In this next image, I bounced my on-camera strobe off the wall directly behind me. One of the best pieces of advice I can give regarding using bounce flash, is not to get stuck on the idea that you need a ceiling above you to bounce flash. Look around for other surfaces that can be used. By making my light source larger than just the area of the small flash tube, I am immediately making my light softer. And this is exactly the reason why we bounce flash.

nor spoil the ambient light. Tangents 02 ± flash + ambient light flash photography techniques natural looking flash ~ flash & ambient light ~ dragging the shutter Here I want to illustrate a particular point for those who disdain flash and prefer ambient light only ± even if flash would¶ve helped. specific settings: Canon 24mm f1. Then I positioned the couple.Because I wanted to move around. With raw. I fixed it in postproduction. eval metering TTL flash: -1. it was little effort to create two images with different WB settings. and understanding of some essential techniques.7 exp comp The slow shutter speed is to allow the city lights to record. . I decided to use TTL and not manual flash ± but this meant I had to bracket my exposures and ride my flash compensation.Before setting this up. Because the flash and the city lights are vastly different in colour temperature.4 1/20th @ f4 @ 640 iso manual. using flash need not look unnatural. With a bit of thought. I made a few test shots to see that the city lights are correctly exposed. and then combining them with layers in Photoshop.

The church was large. This spilled enough light onto the couple to improve the image. I could bounce my flash straight towards the church interior wall to my left.8 IS 1/125th @ f2. (I did this specifically for presentation here). making sure my ambient exposure is correct. . I had time to make a comparison shot without flash. It looks natural. The one with flash. By using flash. *I* controlled the light. (Starting with an image that is very close to the ideal exposure and WB will really speed up your workflow) The settings were: Canon 1Dmk2N Canon 70-200mm f2. since I didn¶t want flash to spill forward for the series of images I took here. I could use flash to lift the shadow areas and make it a better image than it would¶ve been without flash. and a hell of a lot better than the ambient-only shot. and the ceiling high . The shot with flash had the WB slightly adjusted...By metering for the ambient light . ie. and didn¶t merely shrug my shoulders and complain that the ambient light wasn¶t ideal. Note that the flash shot has NO flash shadow. So here are two shots in succession. and the one purely ambient light. As the parents walked down the aisle. I did NOT set my flash to 45` since this would not have been a correct angle to bounce at. but by shooting in a vertical position. eval metering TTL flash: 0 exp comp I purposely did NOT use an omnibounce / Stofen attachment. Exposure settings remained the same.8 @ 1000 iso manual. the other is directly out of camera. and I didn¶t touch up exposure in raw either. and make my post-production time much less. Have a look at the following photo : I bounced flash off the church wall.


this distance would be the distance from your light source to the subject. we have two completely different beasts to consider ± manual flash. since their behaviour and how you control the exposure for each. are fundamentally different. and risked blur as they move and from camera shake. distance. Here we have three controls for our exposure ± shutter speed. And with this I am also daring the ambient-only purists to tell me that the image with flash doesn¶t look a lot better than the ambient shot. more of the ambient light is allowed to register and influence the final image. balancing manual flash with ambient light: Looking first at manual flash ± we have 4 controls: . I could¶ve set a slower shutter speed. Tangents 03 ± dragging the shutter flash photography techniques flash & ambient light ~ dragging the shutter ~ bouncing flash balancing flash and ambient light dragging the shutter When balancing flash with the available light. aperture and ISO. the advice is often given to ³drag the shutter´. and it should intuitively make sense already. but then have to deal with increased grain. dragging the shutter This is a very simple technique ± but an understanding of how and when to apply it. and TTL flash. With flash I had much more control over how the final image looks. With flash. The closer you move your manual flash (perhaps in a . We will have to consider manual flash and TTL flash separately. ISO. So let¶s take a step back and consider ambient exposure. Also. power. often seems elusive. In doing so. the combination of settings is usually chosen so that the mood of the place and surrounds is retained ± or at least have the available light add to the image. Or I could¶ve bumped up my iso to get the higher shutter speed.To improve exposure for the ambient-only shot. the ambient light isn¶t even. In allowing a slower shutter speed.aperture.

In this sequence. and ambient light is continuous. is that flash exposure is near-instantaneous. The reason why shutter speed doesn¶t affect flash exposure. since adjusting the aperture or ISO in an attempt to change the ambient exposure.6 @ 400 ISO . and hence it would affect your exposure. even though closely related to understanding how flash works. and what affects manual flash exposure.. A further explanation revolves around a description of how your camera¶s shutter works. comparing the controls between what affects ambient exposure. we can see that there are two common controls ± aperture and ISO. Similarly. the model was lit by manual flash. Enough words though . the brighter the light would be. Now.within a certain range. So when we balance manual flash and ambient light. 1/250th @ f5. shutter speed has no effect on flash exposure. it makes most sense to start by adjusting the shutter speed. Flash had no effect on the background exposure. This means that shutter speed becomes the independent control for available light exposure. This key will allow us to better mix flash with available light ± by controlling the shutter speed. against the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. let¶s see how this all translates with some images. This is a crucial concept then .softbox) to your subject. which is another topic. shutter speed has no effect on flash exposure. will also affect the manual flash exposure. this too would affect exposure. But accept for now that within certain limits. You just need the entire picture area (frame / digital sensor) to be open to be lit by the burst of flash from your speedlight. The background light is obviously only ambient / available light. it should already make sense that if we increase or decrease the power setting on our manual flash.

6 @ 400 ISO 1/100th @ f5.6 @ 400 ISO .1/160th @ f5.

6 @ 400 ISO 1/40th @ f5.6 @ 400 ISO .1/60th @ f5.

distance and power. In the images where our settings were such that our subject is under-exposed. the exposure for our model (lit only by manual flash). you¶d have to change one or more of the other settings accordingly maintain correct exposure for manual flash. changing any of the 4 controls / settings. power) from your flashgun.) With manual flash. With manual flash you had the 4 controls for flash exposure ± aperture. changed in brightness. there is a fair amount of leeway as to what could be considered to be ³correct exposure´. This implies that we can now use aperture and ISO and shutter speed ± all three controls ± to control available light. As you will notice. none of those have an influence (within reason) on flash exposure. with TTL flash. Somewhere around 1. your TTL flash . The background however. At some point. As an aside ± ³correct exposure´ for our background is a matter of taste as this point. It becomes an individual decision as to which you prefer and with that. you¶d use your camera¶s light meter like you normally would . we could effectively use flash to bring the exposure for our subject up to a correct level. In other words. balancing TTL flash with ambient light: TTL flash is a different beast altogether than manual flash. now you use it as a guideline as to how much ambient light you would like to register. then (in theory at least).8 for shallower depth of field. is usually called ³dragging the shutter. you would¶ve had to juggle something else to still keep correct exposure. will have a knock-on effect and you¶d have to adjust something else again. and you¶d have to adjust the shutter speed and / or ISO accordingly.The only thing that changed between the images.6 and wanted f2. if you were at f5. common sense needs to be applied here with your settings. in continually lowering our shutter speed. and use the light from your flash to expose correctly for your subject. if you decided to change your aperture to control your available light. Your camera & flash will follow our chosen aperture and iso combination (and change in distance). remained even. However. and give you what it deems to be correct exposure. this would then affect ambient exposure too. if you decided to change any of your settings (aperture / ISO / distance / power). You can only squeeze so much light out of your flashgun. But if you changed your aperture. So with manual flash. since a change of shutter speed will affect our ambient exposure.5 to 2 stops under-exposure will still give you enough detail in the background ± and then you use flash as your main light source. we do reach a stage where the ambient light does register for our subject. without having an influence on our flash exposure. With TTL flash however. but instead of using it to expose perfectly for just the ambient light. This technique of using a slower shutter speed to allow ambient light to register more and more.´ With this. by adjusting the output (ie. (Of course. was the shutter speed which I changed by 2/3rds of a stop each time. ISO..

You could as easily change your aperture or ISO to allow ambient light to register.6 @ 1600 ISO Here I allowed the background to register by choosing a fast aperture and a high ISO « as opposed to the traditional choice of lowering my shutter speed. and you would ³drag the shutter´ to allow more available light in..) With these examples. shutter speed was the only independent control for your available light. you could change your ISO and aperture as well (and not just be bound by the single option of shutter speed as your control) to adjust the available light exposure. The same goes for ISO and distance.exposure will remain the same . These settings in effect become transparent to TTL flash exposure. (or close enough to correct for me to just use flash exposure compensation to nudge the flash exposure where I want it. With TTL flash. it should be clear that there is a fundamental difference in how you¶d approach the ever-interesting challenge of balancing flash with available light. This freedom comes from TTL flash exposure¶s ability to follow my settings and adjust accordingly to give me correct exposure. . since your camera and flash would still give you (what it deems to be) correct exposure. if you wanted the same effect ± allowing more available light in ± you need not resort to a slower shutter speed. With manual flash. So now with TTL flash. You would have to adjust your flash exposure compensation then to adjust your TTL flash exposure. Here¶s an example: settings: 1/200th @ f1.

to add a sense of motion: . . Adding motion: Here¶s an example where I dragged the shutter not only to get more available light. .and the amount of ambient light that is available. .6 .. the photograph where the flash and ambient light is balanced by using an appropriate shutter speed. or you will find acceptable. but purposely zoomed my lens during exposure. since every situation is different.or can shoot with a steady hand at slow shutter speeds. But in the end. . but that kind of advice about exact settings is misleading. .[update: Feb 29. 2008] After reading this page.and the f-stop chosen. The actual shutter speed chosen will depend on circumstance and the effect that you want.and how much subject movement there will be. . just looks so much better in comparison to a photo where the flash light completely dominates.and whether you have a tripod. Specific settings: I¶ve seen some photographers give advice like ³shoot at 1/8th sec @ f5. There are a number of interlinked factors here that you balance out depending on the scenario. also please go through the following page where this technique is discussed as well: ³Dragging the shutter´ revisited.and whether you can bump up the ISO to allow more ambient light in.

I was fortunate that the couple was in a darker area. When you add flash to ambient light. matrix metering / TTL flash: -1 exp comp The shutter speed and aperture and iso was specifically chosen so that the street scene would record in this image. Then you use your flash to expose correctly for them.5 to 2 . So what you¶d do here. I also zoomed. As I tripped the shutter. thereby getting these streaks of light converging on the couple. and therefore mostly lit only by flash. there are two main scenarios (with any possible combination inbetween): In the first scenario. 1.Specific settings: Nikon D2H. Since your subject is darker than the background. Because they didn¶t fill the entire frame. This is the simplest scenario. don¶t you over -expose the subject? Speaking very broadly. and would need the same exposure. they¶d still be under-exposed. Nikon 17-35mm f2. so I dialed down my flash exposure compensation. I couldn¶t rely on the TTL metering of the flash to give me correct exposure.8 1/15th @ f4 @ 800 iso / manual. and you set your exposure to give near correct exposure for the background. is intentionally under-expose for the ambient light ± around 1. But usually what you¶d encounter is low light situations where the background and your subject have about the same kind of light on them. the background is brighter than the subject.

Without flash they would¶ve come out sillhouetted / black. but those two scenarios cover the basics. How do you deal with slow shutter speeds? I often get asked why the images displayed here that were taken at slow shutter speeds. and then I used flash to expose correctly for him. even though it probably does exist to some extent in the background. you would then use your flash to expose correctly for your subject.stops ± so that the ambient light registers. So by adding flash. but there¶s more at work here than just the basic technique. is that I do take care in keeping my camera steady. You just wouldn¶t see camera shake. since the available light falling on my subject(s) is so low. In the image above of the couple walking against the city lights. Since your subject would then still be under-exposed. the piano player (from another page) was in µshadowµ. The reason why you don¶t see (much) camera shake in those images. 2. still appear sharp. it will freeze action / camera shake. They are slightly out of focus anyway because of minimal depth of field. since you are pulling down your ambient exposure. shows clearly how under-exposed he would¶ve been without flash. The image of the piano player (and another image on a subsequent page) probably have a measure of camera shake ± BUT ± it is in areas which aren¶t important ± the background. you wouldn¶t over-expose your subject. You will encounter a lot of different lighting situations. but doesn¶t dominate. The photo of the piano player without flash. And this then allowed the flash to freeze movement on my part and his. the city lights.. Since the flash is pretty much an instantaneous burst of light. Tangents 04 ± bouncing flash flash photography techniques dragging the shutter ~ bouncing flash ~ wireless TTL flash . they were in µshadow¶. Similarly. The flash therefore freezes any camera shake. Therefore you simply don¶t see camera shake .

but we also have the opportunity to make the light directional. The most effective way of doing this with on-camera flash. The only way to soften the light. . used directly.how to bounce your flash A single flashgun. Not only do we have softer light then (because of it being a larger light source). is to bounce it. is to make the source of light larger. gives hard shadows because it is a small light source.


For on-camera flash. With the ambient light so low in the final image because of my choice of settings.2 @ 800 ISO . and upwards. then the source of light relative to the subject. using TTL flash. There is a world of difference. For off-camera flash. is much larger than if you had shot with the flash straight on. I bounced my flash to my left. For this reason. so that it is clearly obvious how much flash was used in the top image. what you see in the top image is nearly all light from the flash. using bounce flash is a fast and effective way of dramatically improving the quality of light from our flash.. here is the image without flash. FEC = 0 EV With this image. That will usually create top-heavy light and shadows under their eyes « along with being flat light coming from the camera¶s position. .settings: 1/160 @ f3. or behind you. is to consider it as if I am shooting in a studio with a single large softbox that I can position. I wanted the light to come from an imaginary softbox near me. If you bounce the flash off a wall to the side of you. when working indoors with bounce-able surfaces around you. I try not to use the ceiling directly between myself and my subject to bounce my flash. we have a variety of choices how we can control our light source¶s direction and quality of light. Just for comparison. My approach to bounce flash photography indoors.

And here I want to stress something again ± shooting with an omnibounce at 60 or 45 degrees. should not be a default way of using flash. you will also soften the light ± if you¶re using the correct angle.So where do I want my light to come from? Where would I have placed the softbox if I had been in a studio? This way of thinking usually gets me great results as in this photo above ± the kind of light that it is difficult to tell whether off-camera flash was used. For the best . or effective bounce flash. By bouncing off other surfaces like the walls or ceiling.

Let¶s look at an example where the light from the bounce flash is even more controlled: . some thought needs to be put into how you use flash.result. Keep in mind that the intended result is to have no hard flash shadow. and how you direct the light from your flash. No tell-tale sign that on-camera flash was used.


Yet. FEC = -1.2 @ 800 ISO . The approach here was the same as in the first image ± where would I have placed my softbox had I been in the studio. you can see the interplay between light and shade on her face. A key factor in both these images. Follow-up articles: ± flash photography essentials ± when aperture does not control flash ± exposure metering and flash ± combining flash and available light To summarize: . The difference comes in how the flash was bounced. I had control over the ambient light by my choice of shutter speed. it is on-camera bounce flash.settings: 1/100 @ f3. My camera settings were dictated by the available light. The quality of light here is as good as you would get from off-camera lighting. adding flash to available light The preceding page on dragging the shutter explained how to blend available light with flash. using TTL flash.3 EV Looking closely at this photograph. from our left. I control the light from my on-camera flash.. Instead of flat lighting as we would get if we bounced directly behind us. by flagging the light with a piece of black foam: Follow-up articles: ± a video clip where I demonstrate how I use the black foamie thing ± directional bounce flash ± the black foamie thing ± why use a light modifier that is black? ± bounce flash and catchlights ± throw away the tupperware on your flash ± using bounce flash to mimic window light ± how to get µshort lighting¶ with bounce flash With this second image. Since I was shooting with TTL flash. All the light was indirect. I wanted enough of the light to register in the background. the light came from somewhere behind and above us. aperture and ISO. was that there was NO light directly from my flash on my subject. the available light makes a difference in that it gives a nice background with some out of focus highlights.

If I bounce my flash by tilting and swiveling it. though. If your camera and flash system have this capability. That is. Then the light that comes back. I use wireless TTL flash in a fairly simple way during weddings. Since I frequently shoot with TTL. Bouncing your flash reduces your flash¶s output considerably ± but your flash should compensate for this loss automatically if you shoot in TTL or Auto mode on the flash. allows you to control a remote flashgun with your camera. I use it to expand from just a single on-camera flash. If somehow the technology doesn¶t quite match the theory here. With wireless TTL flash I can shoot fast and get my flash . unless I¶m using the flash at the extreme end of what it can push out. or how to make the bounce light soft but directional. or the flash on your camera. with an appropriate iso and aperture selection. but as off-camera lighting. There are areas of shadow and light. It allows you the freedom and control of TTL flash. Bounce flash need not look flat. I don¶t often use the full power that the strobe is capable of. Off-camera flash is usually easier to deal with as manual flash. This gives you much more flexibility right on the spot. I get to bounce the light at an angle ± away from the subject. it really is worth your time and effort to figure out how to use it. it is important that you stay within the range of the flash¶s output capabilities. if you stay within the flashgun¶s power range. If your flash is your main source of light. By keeping the basic physics in mind of angles of incidence and reflectance. Tangents 05 ± wireless TTL flash flash photography techniques bouncing flash ~ wireless TTL flash ~ flash outdoors wireless TTL flash Wireless TTL capability in a camera & flash system. appears more directional. TTL flash or manual flash? I mostly shoot with TTL flash when I shoot with on-camera flash. just know that this is how your specific camera and speedlight responds « and dial in a new flash exposure compensation default when you bounce. it is usually easy to figure out where to bounce from to enhance the available light.

off my camera for more control over the direction of my light than bouncing my flash might give me. .


Canon 24-70mm f2. the light looks natural ± as if it might have been soft light from a large window. is that using a diffuser cup over my speedlight would¶ve thrown too much light forward ± giving it a clearly artificial look. but allowed it to trigger the slaved speedlight that my assistant was holding. The way I used it here. and . towards the wall and ceiling to the front and left of the bride. thereby creating more directional light. there is a wide spectrum of possibilities. . In this photo. In fact. I keep two cameras on me at all times ± each with a speedlight attached. It looked flat. in between that. An important thing here to keep in mind.3 exp comp . aperture and ISO inter-relate. Metering correctly for ambient light is key here. thereby softening the light. just a single speedlight as my light source ± but I drastically improved my results by doing two things: .bouncing my flash off a wall and ceiling. or as . specific settings: Canon 1Dmk2N. It is important that you understand how shutter speed.Here I first tried a test shot.a slight fill-flash.a brute light source to lift the shadow areas of a subject to the same level as the sunlit areas. I disabled the output from my own camera¶s speedlight. there are two ways of using on-camera flash outside ± either as: . I¶ll show examples of those two extremes. and I wasn¶t happy with the way the wall was blown out in the mirror. In this instance I had my assistant stand in the corner away from the bride and me. And either of those speedlights are ready to be used as a master or slave.8 L 1/100th @ f5 @ 500 iso // manual. Tangents 06 ± flash outdoors flash photography techniques wireless TTL flash ~ flash outdoors ~ metering techniques Speaking very broadly. and he had to point the flash (still on the camera).moving my source of light away from the camera. but for simplicity of explanation. bouncing my flash to my right behind me. there is very little ambient light ± it is pretty much all just flash. Of course. Canon 580EX speedlight. eval metering // TTL flash: +0.

3 or -1. and avoid shadows under the subject¶s eyebrows.7 « because I then use the Nikon speedlights in TTL BL mode. and then shot with flash straight on ± but my flash exposure compensation was dialed way down. The flash should ideally be imperceptible. But with Nikon strobes I tend to dial down less ± usually around -1. . I should mention that the above photo was taken with a Fuji S2. I metered correctly for the available light. aperture and iso. It is as simple as juggling the three inter-dependent controls ± shutter speed.The following three photos are really simple in their execution. . The idea here is to just use the flash to lift the shadows. I usually dial my Canon speedlights down to around -2 to -3 stops. and is really only used as filllight. which balances flash automatically with ambient light. Just to round out the variety of cameras used. . When I shoot this way outdoors.

matrix metering TTL flash: -1. specific settings: Nikon D2H Nikon 70-200mm f2.Flash straight on. but dialed down because I wanted it as a touch of fill light only.5 @ 200 iso manual.8 VR 1/250th @ f3. I wanted the autumn leaves as a soft mush in the background.7 exp comp The wide aperture was chosen for the minimal depth-of-field. . My exposure was chosen by chimping and making sure that the exposure on her skin was good without flash. .

I set my camera to expose for ambient light. and then used flash which I dialed down.8 IS 1/250th @ f2. .8 @ 100 iso manual. specific settings: Canon 1Dmk2 Canon 70-200mm f2. eval metering TTL flash: -3 exp comp .I used the same simple technique here as well for daylight fill-flash as with the previous photographs on this page.

eval metering TTL flash: 0 exp comp Tangents 07 ± metering techniques flash photography techniques flash outdoors ~ metering techniques ~ flash exposure comp exposure metering techniques I shoot nearly exclusively in Manual Exposure Mode. or the shadow areas to go black. To help with contrasty situation here I had to blast a lot of flash in order to balance the exposure between the couple and the setting. and for very specific reasons: .8 1/250th @ f8 @ 200 iso manual. you¶re compelled to try something to balance the shadow areas with the brighter sunlit areas.I want to control the accuracy of exposures.Unless you want the background to blow out. and still shoot while on the move. specific settings: Canon 1Dmk2 Canon 24-70mm f2. So here the light from my flash isn¶t as subtle as the previous examples ± but it was a necessity in order to get the photograph. . The easiest way is usually with an oncamera speedlight.

the reasons are . then you¶ll most likely get an accurate meter reading in one of the auto modes. You want a lighter tone to appear light in the final photo. Instead of assuming responsibility and learning about good technique. There are also specific reasons why I don¶t use general exposure compensation. I have to ride my TTL flash exposure compensation all the time. . aperture priority and have the camera select the shutter speed? Well. will affect your meter. Most times *I* want to be in control of my exposure metering for consistency and accuracy. If it is an even mix of tonal values. So how do I meter ? In film days I would use a flash-meter for flash. But this is rare. Not the camera..I want to control subject / camera movement.I want to control the depth of field. your camera will vary your shutter speed between shots. You decide. it becomes a quest for a camera that will do it all. .your camera¶s meter relies on the reflectivity of the subject and assumes mid-tone grey. With manual metering you are in control.. since I use TTL flash outside of a studio.if you use Program or Aperture Priority while using TTL flash as your main source of light. For available light I mostly just carefully used my camera¶s built-in meter. . I do sometimes switch to Program mode if need to swing my camera continually between heavy shade and bright sunlit areas. . and how to improve on it.I want to control the consistency of exposures. OK . BUT « I do use flash exposure compensation all the time. . so I can see your next question would be : Why would setting the aperture and shutter speed be different from using say. None of the other exposure modes give me this. you are the one that needs to figure out why. You have to understand the limitations of auto metering. You want darker tones to appear dark. but it is there. and your ambient light will therefore vary.. Even with matrix / evaluative metering your camera can only guess at what you¶re trying to achieve. There¶s a side-effect to using automatic metering that I¶ve noticed among newcomers to photography ± there is a tendency to blame the camera. Because the reflectivity and tonality of the scene that my camera¶s meter is reading changes all the time. It¶s a subtle shift in mind-set. And you most likely don¶t want it to. So if there is a problem. whether in camera or with TTL flash ± and that lighter or darker tones within the same picture area.

This gets slightly more complicated. With this consistency in exposure. But we have more tools available to us with digital. Onto flash.regardless of how wide or tight you¶re zooming. Even more so if you shoot in raw.regardless of composition. is that for a specific outdoor scenario. This will fix your exposure to your chosen ISO and aperture. you could do a few test shots. There is no fixed recipe in approaching metering in all kinds of situations. If under the same even light and within the same setting. without flash The reason why I strongly suggest shooting in manual exposure mode 99% of the time. It¶s a mix-n-match of different techniques ± all used to make sure I get optimum exposure for my images. such as with in a studio setup. that is for ambient light.checking the histogram .regardless of whether you have bright sky in a wide shot. And by determining proper exposure. with a tighter composition. If you¶re using on-camera flash and keeping in a static position in relation to your subject then it might be easier to use manual flash.experience.With digital.and blinking highlights display. Ambient light. and .checking my camera¶s meter. Now.checking the image on the LCD. the lighting normally doesn¶t vary much. . then the ideal way is to shoot with manual flash. your photos will look consistent in a sequence of photos. . . It¶s the ONLY way if you want to get consistent exposures. So for me it has become an iterative process of: . lots of bright tones).regardless of the reflectivity of your subject matter (eg. you¶re shooting vertical and horisontal and wide and tight and from a high viewpoint and a low viewpoint « your exposures will vary unless you¶re shooting in manual. your digital workflow will be much easier. Using a flashmeter for this is usually the easiest way to determine exposure. and . or not. This will once again keep your exposures consistent within a series of shots. and chimp to . . With digital. I still largely meter like that. Manual flash If you have strobes set up that are in a constant position in relation to your subject. (although this isn¶t an accurate assessment of exposure). and .

to not shoot with manual flash in this case. say around 1/40th or so. But now we run into the problem that suddenly the flash output is affected by the reflectivity and tonal values of the subject and the scene. I¶ll also be using wide-ish apertures.. but it really depends on the scenario.figure out the correct exposure with your flash in manual. then you¶re better off with some kind of automatic metering of your flash. But with Nikon strobes I tend to dial down less ± usually around -1. if I am shooting indoors where my flash is my dominant light source. the best results are usually with the flash exposure compensation dialed way down.. Being ready is being half-way there . for example. It is important that you start to anticipate things . When I shoot this way outdoors. And therefore the flash exposure compensation will most likely be around zero. is lying to you.3 or -1.7 « because I then use the Nikon speedlights in TTL BL mode. . If we¶re photographing someone in the shade. Auto / TTL flash But as soon as you have flash on-camera. Which means you will HAVE to ride your flash exposure compensation to get optimum results with flash photography « if your flash is the dominant source of light. If your flash is only fill-flash during daylight. This means using your flash in Auto mode or in TTL mode. since our exposure will be primarily for the ambient light. your camera¶s meter will try and expose for any scene in the frame. Neither bright. and we need to bump the exposure up to match a sunlit background. Anyone who tells you there is one magical do-all setting for flash. and you are moving around in relation to your subject. then most likely the best use of flash will be as soft fill-flash.. And hence. I¶ll most likely be shooting at 800 ISO or thereabouts. as an average tone. I usually dial my Canon speedlights down to around -2 to -3 stops. it might just be simpler to shoot with TTL flash anyway. Remember. which balances flash automatically with ambient light. And in that case. There are no easy answers. then we¶re going to need a lot more flash. For a single photograph. nor dark. It really will make your life simpler with digital photography. the reflectivity of the subject will seem to have less impact on the exposure. and using a slowish shutter speed to get some ambient light in . This is true for automatic flash as well. But this also depends on how much flash we need to use as fill-flash.

If I had been shooting indoors at f2.8 and f4. This is quite useful when you need to balance a subject which is in shadow. This is because the there is a difference in the sensitivity of the sensors of the various camera manufacturers.and I set my aperture to an approximate value. (5D shooters have reported similar. There is a specific reason why I gravitate towards my maximum flash sync speed.. With my 1D mk2 bodies.My Nikon SB-800 Speedlight will be set to TTL (and not TTL BL) and most likely have +0. this varies. If it is heavily overcast. then I get more subtle results with the flash metering set to ³Evaluative´. I usually kept my flash exposure compensation to +0. 1/250th. For 100 iso. you¶re looking at something like f11 outside « so I¶ll set f11 and fire off a test shot or two at a general scene and chimp quickly to see histogram. I¶m ready « because I anticipated what I¶d need. So moving from an indoors setting. . my starting point is around 1/250th @ f10 @ 100 iso. but 100 iso and 1/250th is always my starting point for Canon D-SLRs.3 exposure compensation dialed in « since it is the dominant light source in this set-up. I found that when my flash is the main source of light. All of this in a few seconds . . that using ³Average´ here gives me the most predictable results. as I step outside. and blinking highlights. But when I need to use the Canon flash for fill only. against a brightly lit background. No fumbling for settings. (I¶ve heard of 20D shooters doing the same. With Canon.) With my 1D mk2N bodies however. I¶ve found that a default of 0 flash exposure compensation is best. with the 1D mk2(N) bodies. but I nearly always try to keep to as high a sync speed as possible.) Also.7 as a default starting point.I dial down to my lowest ISO. With Nikon D-SLRs.I dial to my highest flash sync speed. I do three things as a matter of course as I step through the doorway: . and then I¶m ready. I¶ll go to 200 iso. then I will be needing smaller apertures outside. Tangents 08 ± flash exposure compensation . my camera settings are pretty close to where I need to be. and then fine-tune my exposure. for example. Overcast days will mean a different aperture than f11 for bright days. I have set Custom Function 14 to ³Average´. There¶s a certain sweet spot there in terms of getting the maximum range from your strobe. Moving from dimly lit indoors to bright light outside.

dialing exposure comp in manual exposure mode will bias the meter. Setting flash exposure compensation affects the flash output only. . Ambient exposure is unaffected. the camera will expose any light toned scene as if it should be of an average tonality. In other words. the light toned . adding exposure compensation when the scene / subject is light in tone. and decreasing exposure compensation when the scene in front of the lens is darker in tone. exposure compensation in general . if you are using one of the auto modes (or Auto / TTL flash). but only the ambient exposure with Canon cameras. is the concept of : 1.overall exposure compensation. but some cameras have a button on the camera body itself where the flash compensation can conveniently be set without taking your eye from the viewfinder. This is set on the camera body ± and affects BOTH ambient and flash exposure for Nikon.flash exposure compensation. With Canon. Exposure compensation is used with the automatic metering modes. is that your camera¶s meter tries to expose for everything as a middle grey tone.flash photography techniques metering techniques ~ flash exposure compensation ~ more examples Flash exposure compensation There are two different kinds of exposure compensation : . however « with most Nikon cameras. Hence.. Firstly. It obviously can¶t be set when the strobe is used in manual output. you can¶t dial exposure compensation in manual exposure mode. What many new photographers have trouble coming to grips with. 2. Flash exposure compensation is used to compensate for the flash output when the flash is used in Auto or TTL mode. The reason for doing so. This can always be set on the flashgun itself.

So there will be an exact combination of aperture / shutter speed / ISO settings which will give correct exposure for skin tones.subject / scene will be exposed as middle grey. So if you insisted on using automatic exposure. This is the reason why I use manual exposure mode nearly exclusively. let¶s think about this scenario: We have a setting where the light is consistent and even. dependent on the tonality of the scene in front of your lens. if our subject dresses in all black or all white clothing. the light didn¶t change. we would still need the same exposure. The dark tones would fool the camera¶s meter. In other words. But then you may very well ask why I use TTL flash (or Auto flash) instead of manual flash « « and the reason why I use TTL flash is that TTL flash is easier to control when I am constantly changing position in relation to my subject. our meter reading will change « yet. it is easier for me in these situations. But this means that I have to constantly change my flash exposure compensation. to use the camera in manual exposure mode. then you would have to use exposure compensation. You have to continually adjust your flash exposure compensation. will appear under-exposed. A man in a dark suit against a dark brick wall. is much harder work than using manual exposure mode. someone in a white dress against a white wall. The same reasoning goes with using Auto or TTL flash. To make it even more clear. . as well as the explanation of why using exposure compensation in an auto exposure mode. So you need to bump the exposure compensation up for lighter toned scenes. will have skin tones which over-expose if you left the camera to its own decision.. Now. please read the pages on exposure metering using your camera¶s meter. And as I explained on this previous page. and the flash in TTL / Auto mode. Eg. Which finally brings us to the rest of the discussion on this page « Flash exposure compensation when using fill-flash . And you would have to vary your exposure compensation depending on your composition ± because the size of the light / dark patches of clothing and background will affect your meter reading. The same reasoning goes for darker toned scenes. Also. regardless of the variation in our camera¶s light meter reading.

(ie standard TTL and matrix TTL). you will usually hover your flash exposure compensation around 0EV to +0. and . There are just too many variables for anyone to give specific µdo-all¶ settings. the tonality of your subject and scene. But here¶s a hint ± when your flash acts only as fill light. With Nikon¶s flash system however. A seemingly tough task that gets easier with experience.the individual camera¶s exposure algorithms that the camera designers came up with. But when your flash is your main source of light . .how much of your frame is filled by the subject.With fill-flash (using TTL or Auto flash). then a full stop incorrect exposure would be a lot and might very well mean the image is a flop in terms of exposure. more subtle fill-flash is possible with Nikon¶s flash system than with the current Canon flash system. An example: Flash exposure compensation of say -2 EV will look slightly different than -3 EV.how far the subject is from the background. . If your flash was the main source of light. it is less crucial ± although careful and subtle use of flash should always be the aim of course.reflectivity of your subject.available light ± (this ties in with how the camera¶s metering algorithms work). . but in the end the actual photo won¶t be incorrectly exposed with either setting. But it depends on the tonality of your subject as well. the camera and flash take into account the available light and will reduce the flash output accordingly.back-lighting ± (strong back-lighting always require a lot more flash exposure compensation). The conclusion here is that ultimately it is best to know how your specific camera and flash reacts in various scenarios and various lighting conditions.whether the subject is off-center or centered in the frame. So your flash exposure compensation could still range anywhere from around -2 EV to +3EV. you have the choice between TTL and TTL BL. Once again I want to stress a particular point ± there are no specific or fixed settings.7 EV depending on the camera and camera system « and of course. . There is only so much that can be . Therefore you have to juggle all this when figuring out how much flash exposure compensation to dial in. In my experience. and . But when the flash is just fill-flash. and would therefore affect how much flash exposure compensation needs to be dialed in: . then the actual flash exposure compensation can vary a lot without affecting the quality of the final image much. With TTL BL. So in this case. your flash exposure compensation will be around -1 to -3 EV. you will most often dial down your flash exposure compensation to give only a tiny bit of fill light. There are a number of factors which would affect how your camera and flash meters TTL flash.

0 exp comp and -1. flash exposure compensation and general exposure compensation aren¶t linked. and flash is used as fill-flash only.. you can only set flash exposure compensation and not overall exposure compensation. it would cancel each other ± but only for this scenario where the ambient light is low. But with Canon.. the overall exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation is cumulative . So with Canon. and hence the flash and exposure compensation might affect ambient light exposure differently then.learnt outside of actual experience and continual practice. Cumulative exposure compensation with Nikon cameras . With Nikon. allow you to set overall exposure compensation even when you have your camera set to manual exposure mode. depends largely on us being aware of the ambient light. Either as a fill. This allows you to bias the metering.) Tangents 09 ± more examples flash photography techniques exposure compensation ~ more examples ~ just ambient light More examples using bounce flash « How effective our bounce flash looks. Where the ambient light levels dominate.0 flash comp. The Nikon bodies (that I have experience of). as they are with Nikon. or as a main source of light. For example. in manual exposure mode. and your flash is your main source of light.. (It is no use asking me how it handles this in any of the auto exposure modes. to an extent. You¶re on your own there. and you have other factors such as max sync speed and available apertures affecting the scenario as well . if you were to dial in +1. You have to know your own camera. since I use my cameras nearly exclusively in manual exposure mode. then different algorithms come into play. and the direction of the ambient light « and then adding flash to it. .

. So here are a few more examples to explain the thought process behind some of this « . This photo was taken in a restaurant in Brooklyn. We can add to the ambient light. Any way we decide on it. The interior of the restaurant was dimly lit ± and even with the rainy early evening skies. I had to balance the two areas. Using my on-camera flash.And we can finesse it by specifically choosing the direction in which we bounce flash. It might give a better idea of the effect of the added flash. the outside was brighter than inside. the image will look better if we put some thought into it. instead of shooting direct flash . or we can bounce from an opposite direction to lift the shadows a bit. in a 45 bounce angle when it isn¶t appropriate.. The next image shows my initial test shot. or just as bad. overlooking the Manhattan Skyline.

My settings were 1/15th @ f4 @ 800 ISO. +0. . because the piano player would be too dark (without flash) for camera shake to be noticeable if I handled my camera carefully. 580EX speedlight. .I firstly metered for the outside.7 EV looked about right. A test shot showed me I needed to add some flash exposure compensation. with an ultra-wide angle zoom lens. and double-checked with a test shot. Canon 16-35mm f2. ( Equipment: Canon 1D mk2N. Even though the shutter speed was low. I wasn¶t too concerned with camera shake.8) I then added flash by bouncing the flash off the ceiling behind and to the right of me. .

This photograph was taken during the ceremony in a church where the light was enough to squeeze the photos at : 1/80th @ f2.8 @ 16oo ISO But since the walls were light coloured, I was able to bounce flash and get some candid portraits of the bride with flash. If you look at the direction of the light on her face, you¶ll immediately see where I bounced the flash from ± the wall to my above right. specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS Canon 580EX speedlight 1/160th @ f2.8 @ 800 iso TTL flash: +1.3 exp comp

. . This next image is part of the portrait series I took of the bride and groom of their wedding in Aruba. The sun had already set, leaving the colours too cool. I had my daughter hold up a gold Lastolite reflector about 2 meters behind me, and bounced my flash into that. This gave a lovely warm colour to the flash, hopefully mimicking the setting sun of 5 minutes before. The shadow is more distinct, but still soft enough, and I think it looks natural in this scenario. I also made sure that the amount of flash would blend with the amount of ambient light left.

Specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N; Canon 24-70mm f2.8; Canon 580EX speedlight 1/100th @ f4 @ 640 iso; TTL flash: +0.3 exp comp


Earlier in the day, I used the colourful backdrop of Oranjestad¶s quaint architecture, while photographing the same couple. The sun was bright and overhead, so I had to use flash to lift the shadows. I used direct flash, since there wasn¶t anywhere to bounce the flash off. I also needed to work fast, so the direct flash was a compromise because I had to make the images work. specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS Canon 580EX speedlight 1/1000th @ f4 @ 100 iso TTL flash: -3.0 exp comp

. The execution of this next photo, is similar to the previous photograph of the bride in the church. I had to decide exactly where I want to bounce my flash off. This would then dictate the direction the light would appear to come from. The bridesmaids were standing in the open doorway watching her ± so with a bit of luck I was able to bounce my flash so that it lit the bridesmaids in the background. I bounced my flash over my left shoulder, hitting part of the ceiling and bedroom wall behind me.

and caused shadows under the eyes. Even then. Tangents 10 ± just ambient light flash photography techniques more examples ~ just ambient light ~ which flashgun? At this point I just want to show that I¶m not actually addicted to using a flashgun.0 exp comp From the flash exposure compensation alone. Canon 24-70mm f2. Simply bouncing my flash upright would¶ve given flat lighting. and actually do know when to switch it off « especially when the . it should be obvious by now that the flash was my main source of light here. TTL flash: +1.8. Canon 580EX speedlight 1/80th @ f4 @ 640 iso. and give some modeling. Specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N.Bouncing the flash like this made the light appear directional on the bride. (all evidence to the contrary). my settings were chosen so that some ambient light would register.

and in this one image. That is when those f1. And as with the other pages. .officiant states that no flash will be allowed during the ceremony. that he won¶t allow flash.4 optics come in really handy! Specific settings: Nikon D2H. Nikon 85mm f1. . . I took a series of photographs. the idea is that we be very aware of the quality of the light and direction of the light. matrix metering / ambient light only . the dress lifted perfectly.4 1/100th @ f1. the rabbi informed me a few minutes before the ceremony. With this wedding. away from me towards the grass. there is no need to try and enhance it or control it with light from a strobe. Here I asked the bride and groom to dance along the path. And then there are times when using flash would destroy great ambient light. Also. An understandable sentiment.4 @ 500 iso / manual. when the available light is perfect. In this scenario .

Specific settings: Nikon D2x.8 AF-S VR 1/500th @ f4 @ 400 iso / manual. rather than details in faces. . this image is more about the movement and gestures. . Also. Nikon 70-200mm f2.I didn¶t bother using flash since I knew they would be some distance from me. matrix metering / ambient light only .

matrix metering ambient light only I kept the WB purposely very warm here.8 1/125th @ f5 @ 640 iso manual. . and then had the groom snuggle in closer. Flash would¶ve been completely superfluous here and destroyed the mood. specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N Canon 24-70mm f2. since it adds to the mood ± instead of aiming for a µcorrect¶ WB. as part of a pillar.This photograph was taken in the hotel lobby. I asked the bride to lean in towards the pillar of light. using only the tungsten light mounted inside a strip. . .

. specific settings: Canon 1D mk2 Canon 70-200mm f2. and used the video light as back-light.I took a series of photographs here using flash ± on-camera and offcamera strobes ± but when the videographer moved behind the bride and groom.8 IS 1/125th @ f2.8 @ 800 iso manual. . I switched it all off. It just looks so much better than the µcorrect¶ WB where the veil is white again. . eval metering ambient light only Once again I kept the WB purposely very warm.

whether using flash or shooting without flash. The rest of the light was just the available incandescent lighting of the room.4 @ 1250 iso manual.Here too I used the videographer¶s light ± and it helped a lot in that it created a spot-light effect on the couple¶s faces.4 1/80th @ f1. The DJ¶s lighting set-up was a good back-drop to shoot against. I like this image for how the flare enhances the mood. . specific settings: Canon 1Dmk2 Canon 50mm f1. eval metering ambient light only . .

Specific settings: Canon 1D mk2N. is what flashgun or speedlight would I recommend ± especially to someone wanting to go beyond just using the camera¶s built-in flash.8 @ 1600 iso / manual. . Canon 24-70mm f2. matrix metering / ambient light only Tangents 11 ± which flashgun? flash photography techniques just ambient light ~ which flashgun? ~ flash brackets Which is the best flashgun / speedlight / speedlite ? One of the most frequent questions I get asked.8 1/60th @ f2.

and consider what we want to achieve with flash. are just ways to grab some of your cash without really offering you an improvement. and then they err on the side of caution. getting a speedlight that is cheaper. The question then is. So let¶s look at this candid portrait of a baby held in her mother¶s arms: . which one? Each manufacturer offers a variety of options at different price points. I suspect the initial reaction for anyone stepping into the world of flash photography. you absolutely need to get a larger on-camera speedlight.Moving away from the camera¶s built-in flash to a larger flashgun opens up an entire world with new possibilities in lighting. The add-ons and gadgets that you find on the market that are supposed to improve the quality of lighting from the camera¶s built-in flash. Especially so if you are moving up to one one of the camera¶ manufacturer¶s dedicated speedlights.. But let¶s step away from the equipment for a few minutes. is to be hesitant about buying a large and expensive speedlight . To improve your flash photography. but also limited in specifications and ability.

To get there. and flattering to our subject. and I wanted to have the light from my flashgun bounce back from the interior of the room to my left-hand side. If you look at that portrait of the baby girl. I had to consider the direction my light needed to come in from. But it isn¶t enough to just simply bounce off the ceiling directly over you.To get that specific lighting quality ± soft and directional light ± you need to bounce your flash. . Bouncing your flash gives you a larger light source. you will see that one side of her face has more light than the other. and hence softer light. It is this interplay between light and shade that gives a quality of light that is both interesting. That would give flat light that gives no shape and form and dimension to your subject.

and to be able to get enough light onto our subject. So I would strongly recommend a flashgun that is TTL capable and integrates properly with your camera. So if you are looking at various speedlights. It really isn¶t an efficient way to use the light. I rely heavily on TTL flash technology as you can see on the previous pages and on various other posts on this website.In order to do all of this ± get soft directional light from my speedlight ± it is essential that my flashgun has a head that can both rotate and swivel. But . to get the top-of-the-range that the specific manufacturer offers. 2008) . A full-featured flashgun loaded with mouth-watering specifications could very well make your life easier and your photography more interesting and pleasurable. best choices for speedlights / flashguns Canon Speedlite 580EX Canon (May 10. less capable flashgun could very well just end up frustrating you in the limited potential it offers. we waste a fair amount of light. we aren¶t after efficiency here. the combination of flexibility and power and integration with your camera system make the larger flashgun the better choice. So in bouncing flash. Even if it seems overkill and a lot of money in comparison to your camera or a lens. we waste a lot of energy from our flash. We desire light that is flattering ± and then we inevitably come back to those two words ± soft and directional. even if this is your first foray into buying a speedlight. I would strongly recommend that you dismiss any that don¶t allow the flash head to rotate and swivel. Anything less would just limit you. A smaller. Therefore my next recommendation would be to get a powerful flashgun ± as powerful as you can afford.. So I would recommend to anyone. 2007) $459. You¶d be better off investing a bit more money in a more flexible speedlight. in bouncing flash like this. we need a strong flashgun.98 Nikon SB-900 AF Spee Nikon (Jul 26. Also. and ultimately be a waste of your money.

This flashgun also rotates 180 to either side. © ¨ § ¦ ¢ ¡ S y Se 10 2008 ¥ ¤ ¢ ¡ S y HVL-F58 £ H gh- . If you have a Canon camera. then my best recommendation would be theCanon 580EX II Speedlite (B . then the obvious choice is the i on SB (B A full featured powerful flashgun that has a flash-head that rotates 180 to either side. which makes it very flexible in where you can bounce your light . which is an ability that few flashguns offer. setting it apart from most flashguns available on the market.$569 00     $433 48 12> Pr v c y   So here are the flashguns I woul recommend above all Speedlight If you have a Ni on camera.

Since the flash is always overhead of the camera with a flash bracket. It is all indirect. which enables the flash to always be over the camera. And also the Olympus FL-50R (B&H). for Pentax owners. using on-camera flash. but they also won¶t limit your potential as a photographer. regardless of whether you¶re shooting horisontally or vertically. It is now possible for me to get vertical images like these.. with no trace of sideways shadows «. and have all the light from the flash be indirect. Similarly then. the Sony HVL-F58AM (B&H) flashgun for owners of Sony D-SLRs. or a flash modifier on your camera. . and very usable 3200 ISO. has been greatly reduced. the need for me to use a flash bracket. These flashguns are spendy. Digital photography technology is steadily improving to the point where we now have cameras with fairly clean 1600 ISO settings. It is now ever more easy to get great results with bounce flash. With this. This means there will be no noticable shadow. there is no sideways shadow « if you use direct flash to some extent. Similarly. because there is no light thrown directly forward from the flash itself. I would recommend the Pentax AF-540 FGZ P-TTL (B&H). if we look at what is the msot powerful and flexible flashguns available for other manufactuers. . shoe-mount flash for Olympus users. Tangents 12 ± flash brackets flash photography techniques which flashgun? ~ flash brackets ~ flash photo tips using a rotating flash bracket Rotating flash brackets are cumbersome attachments between the camera and flash.


you rotate the actual camera. However. I prefer the rotating flash brackets where the camera rotates with a deft flick of the hand holding the camera. and you can read the review via this link. is the Custom Brackets Pro-M kit. The updated (and more elegant) version of the original flash bracket that I used. has such a clumsy design that it was nearimpossible for me to use the zoom control on my lenses.So these days I get by without a flash bracket. that it is worth checking them out for yourself . although the one I originally had. . The make I use is Custom Brackets. a flash bracket would still give you an advantage when you bounce flash such that all the light is indirect ± and that is that the direction of your light source remainds the same between vertical and horizontal photos taken from the same position. Back to the specific topic of flash brackets: There are various makes of flash brackets with a variety of designs.There is a lot of variation between the different makes. I modified with an angle-grinder to make it more compact and have less bits sticking out. With some you have to let go of the lens to flip the flash over with one hand. One of the other highly touted brackets by a different company. This consistency in lighting can help. With other more elegant designs.

and definitely do help in avoiding side-shadows when using direct on-camera flash is unavoidable. flash brackets are bulky and add extra weight to the camera. But they can help with the consistency of bouncing flash. and these days I prefer to work without one.As mentioned. .

since flash will then mostly be used as fill-flash. and the direction of the flash is of less importance than when using bounce flash indoors. and would be less intrusive an element in the photograph. there is rarely anything to bounce flash off when working outside.Here is an example of what I mean by the side-ways shadow. then the flash shadow will fall behind your subject. so don¶t judge me on this please! : ) Now if you hold your flash horizontally. A flash bracket isn¶t entirely necessary in daylight. Besides. . It is intentionally a snap-shot to illustrate this. and the loss in flash output because of bouncing would most likely render the flash light imperceptible compared to bright daylight.

By now I am fairly agile with it. I have in effect a large softbox with me wherever I go « by dint of the ability to bounce the flash behind me or to the side of me.a few more observations on the use of a flash bracket: When I work indoors. . is most often with the black foamie thing with which I control the direction of my bounce flash. or keep to a horizontal framing. when I change the camera¶s orientation. But it can be awkward to change the position of the foam I am flagging my flash with. It works very well when shooting horizontally. but you really are under pressure with a can¶t-mess-this-up situation like the church processional at a wedding. My specific way of working with bounce flash.


no one is likely to notice this unless closely scrutinizing the photograph for how it was lit. Just beautiful. the direction of light remains exactly the same since the position of the speedlight. But if you look at the bottom left of the frame. Now. I had fumbled the precise positioning of the black foam on my flash. and there is a small measure of direct flash to the edge of the frame. The light should¶ve been great over the entire frame. I wanted a vertical shot for this flowergirl coming down the aisle. didn¶t change. .In this photo above. The bounced flash appears as soft and directional light on her. you can see some direct flash shadow. This is an example of where using a flash bracket would¶ve made it easier to control the direction of light from my speedlight. But for me « I know it should¶ve looked just that touch better. However. In the next two examples. the camera was rotated from horizontal position to a vertical position via a flash bracket. relative to the camera and subject. The light on her looks fantastic in my opinion.

There are advantages at times.Whether a flash bracket is necessary for your specific needs or style of photography « and whether the additional bulk and weight is something you¶d be able to cope with. is something you have to decide on your own. .

Tangents 13 ± flash photography tips flash photography techniques flash brackets ~ flash photography tips ~ off-camera flash flash photography tips The preceding pages. whether techniques. This page then lists the most important advice that I can give you about flash photography. contain a lot of information. It should be a good jump page for anyone new to this website and new to flash photography. ideas. but mostly deal with flash photography. equipment info. lighting. and general photography technique. But I¶d like to bring the essential topics on flash photography together to one solid starting point. The posts cover a wide range of subject material. . or random snippets. . and the entire Tangents blog.


my top 20 list of flash photography tips . instead of flat lighting. Bounce your flash off the wall(s) behind you. that shooting with direct flash straight-on is possibly the worst that we can do. you can pre-judge this to a good degree. bounce your flash! 5. make sure that there is no direct flash spilling on your subject. Look at the image above. With practice (and a sneak peek at your camera¶s preview). You need something bigger. well. For that reason we bounce flash. held in place with hairbands. 7. the softer the light.. bigger is better My advice will always be to get the most powerful speedlight you can afford. Something that can rotate and swivel. Get a proper speedlight! 3. The manufacturers that try and sell you little add-ons and gizmos and promise you that you will get great results from your pop-up flash after spending a couple of dollars on their crap . but « 9. 4. nudge your TTL exposure with flash exposure compensation TTL flash exposure could vary. This implies that when we¶re working indoors. bounced properly. and saved ourselves some money. flag your flash When you bounce your flash to the side. and we have walls and a ceiling around us. you can get directional light on your subject. and the more features it has. allow TTL flash to make your life easier TTL flash technology can allow you to get great results easily. try for directional light By bouncing off areas to your side.. 8. use that wall as your softbox! Don¶t be stuck in thinking you can only bounce your flash off the ceiling. 6. to make sure I only get soft indirect light on my subject. your exposure may vary. It¶s done with one on-camera speedlight . don¶t fear your flash It is entirely possible to get amazing results from your flash. I use a piece of cheap black foam. you need something better than your camera¶s built -in flash You really do need a speedlight that attaches to your camera¶s hot-shoe for best results.. You simply can¶t get there with just that pop-up flash on your camera. It¶s actually pretty easy once you get used to it. unless you adjust your flash exposure compensation. 1. bounce your flash for better results The larger your light-source. . The more powerful your speedlight. 2. the more options you have. We¶re creating a larger light source.. We may as well have stayed with the pop-up flash. That¶s the penalty for getting good results easily . Here¶s another example. and it can also give you under or over-exposure.. . and beside you. So. Even try bouncing your flash into the open room behind you. So hang in there . they are misleading you.

and you want your flash to appear more neutral. aperture controls flash exposure? « well. start with the available light. high-speed flash sync High Speed Flash Sync (HSS). But it usually looks better if you allow available light to give you some context and colour and mood. is to start with your ambient light metering and exposure. You¶ll be a stronger photographer in knowing the differences between manual flash and TTL flash . You don¶t need that expensive piece of plastic that is advertised as being the solution to all your flash photography problems. 13. and then add flash At times it might need a slightly different approach between manual flash. But we need to consider our . maybe This is another short-cut which can be misleading since other photographers may well omit in telling you the entire truth « that aperture and ISO also affects ambient light. and only push one way of using flash ± manual flash. maybe You will often see this short-cut thrown around. you need to be aware that ISO also affects manual flash exposure. 19. well.. There are those photographers who disdain TTL flash. 16. a good starting point when figuring out what you need to do with your flash. but invariably. 17. gel your flash for tungsten! If you¶re using flash in an environment that is predominantly incandescent lighting / tungsten lighting . Sometimes flash is your only realistic choice. you can most often get the best results by bouncing your flash. understand maximum flash sync speed It is imperative that you understand what maximum flash sync speed is . 12. A subtle but important distinction. but be aware that there is a penalty to be paid for going into the higher shutter speeds while using flash. and even over-powering the sun with flash We can easily use a speedlight to even out harsh sunlight. also known as Auto FP on the Nikon cameras.. TTL flash and manual flash are two very different beasts You have to understand the difference between TTL flash and manual flash. throw away the tupperware When working indoors.. It is true to an extent. 15. 11. Where that shortcut ± shutter speed controls ambient light ± actually kicks in. allow available light in Sometimes flash is your dominant light source. shutter speed controls ambient exposure? . allows us to go past the limit of maximum flash sync speed. and why it is often a sweet spot when you use flash.10. and TTL flash . but not TTL flash exposure. and being able to use either with confidence. and how their behaviour differ.. matching. then gel your flash to join the incandescent spectrum . 14. But you need to be aware that aperture affects manual flash exposure.. 18. is for manual flash. and not so blue (or your background so grunge-orange). They each have their own benefits. A truly useful feature. where shutter speed becomes the only independent control for ambient exposure. Similarly.

and that¶s also the good news. There should always be the aspiration to become better. the end will never be in sight Learning more about flash photography and lighting is a never-ending journey. 20. That¶s the challenge. Tangents 14 ± off camera flash flash photography techniques flash photography tips ~ off camera flash ~ video light .settings. And be aware that going to high-speed flash sync isn¶t necessarily our best option here.

off-camera flash photography .


when I work in fairly flat and even ambient light. it is essential that we understand what is happening at our maximum flash sync setting. we have greater control over the direction and the quality of our light . Instead of trying to cover it all in just one article here. off-camera flash the techniques balancing flash with ambient light ± where do we even start? This article is a good overview to start us off on this topic. is when you move your flash off-camera. Then we add flash for correct exposure. And that is it in a nutshell. However. With offcamera lighting. and why it is a sweet spot when you use flash in bright light. it depends « balancing your flash exposure with the ambient exposure My starting point with on-location portraits is most often is a combination of: finding an interesting or neutral background. So how much do we under-expose the ambient light by? Well. Off-camera flash is quite an extensive topic. But let¶s delve deeper into it « . this page will serve as a jump-page to other articles on the Tangents blog where the topic is specifically off-camera lighting.The preceding pages mostly deal with how to use an on-camera speedlight to get µprettier¶ light. And then balancing the exposures for my background and my subject « the effect of maximum flash sync speed When we work outdoors in bright light. And where we can. tutorial: high-speed flash sync . where flash becomes a lot more controllable and perhaps more interesting. The simplest approach for me. So why would we want to use off-camera flash? The answer is refreshingly simple. and positioning my subject so that they are placed in front of / in relation to the background so that it all looks visually pleasing. how to seamlessly blend our flash with our available light. is to under-expose the ambient light by a certain amount.

and our model. Rachel « using a neutral density filter with flash to control depth of field Working in bright light. having to point at their heads. I will get portraits that work. In other words. you need to work very close to your subject. so we can actually see what happens before. and keeping in mind the µcone of light¶ coming from the softbox. and specifically with that µsweet spot¶ of the light coming from the softbox. at and beyond maximum flash sync speed. And we can also see what happens with high-speed flash sync. the limitation of having a maximum flash sync speed forces a small aperture on us.. is the use of off-camera flash. A simple white paper-roll backdrop. What gives me the most control though during such a photo session. at a height where the light is about 50cm above your subject¶s head.I decided to do a series of comparison photos. To do this. Using a neutral density (ND) filter is our best way to get control over our depth of field again « using multiple speedlights with high-speed flash sync To overcome the loss in effective flash power while in high-speed flash sync mode. That small aperture means more depth of field than we might like. you need to aim the softbox at their upper body and head . yet effective method that will ensure that at the very least. we are always left at the mercy of the weather. . Here is a step-by-step method « off-camera flash ± bringing sparkle on a rainy day Scheduling an on-location photo session. I set up very simple portrait lighting using a single speedlight and a large umbrella. positioning the softbox and flash The placement of a softbox is generally around 45 to 60 desgrees from the camera. or gang up a number of speedlights as a group « effective on-location portraits When I photograph someone on location. This gives me control over the quality and direction of light « with relatively little effort. and that you have it hit your subject¶s head & shoulders. I rely on a simple.

So what are your settings? What are your settings? . I could do this via my shutter speed or aperture or ISO choice . or using the histogram method. where it is in my control.a question that I am often asked about various images..ove powe in t e sun wit flas a visit to Times Square on-location li tin wit wi eless TT flas .photo session with model. Sarah & Mark photo sessions with the Modern Gypsies During various photo sessions with the Modern Gypsies. I am usually quite particular about the backgrounds to my photos. metering for manual flash when using a softbox An explanation of a simple method for using off-camera flash with available light. usin a softbox Bird Girl .photo session with models. the answer is surprising ± it doesn¶t really matter. I need to clean up the sun¶s harsh shadows with flash. overpowering the sun with flash With a photo session in bright sunlight. Sometimes the specific settings are of importance. Then I take my exposure down by 1 stop. Metering for the available light with a hand-held meter. And quite often. as fill-flas  . is that you can have perfect lighting on your subject¶s face with much more freedom than if you just relied on the available light. . we find our available light exposure. but usually much less so than the method of getting to correct exposure of the ambient light and the flash. Johannie .off came a flas . I used a variety of off camera flash techniques «                   y y y on t e ooftop wit fabric banne s . or a combination of those.why I love off-camera lighting The main reason for me.

my approach has largely been that of using a softbox or some modifier so that my flash is more diffuse. The additional lights can be wirelessly controlled TTL flash . He achieves dramatic results. either in manual. background exposure and flash There is often a whole range of possibilities in how we can expose for the background. choosing from a range of settings. Then an oncamera flash can be used. I worked with another photographer who uses direct flash off-camera with great results. But with this shoot.. Finding the Light Another example where I used off-camera lighting (manual flash). and figuring out what the photographer did with his lighting. is to use additional lighting to lift the general light levels in large reception rooms. It was quite refreshing to try something slightly different than my usual method « simple on-location lighting techniques ± by Chuck Arlund Chuck Arlund is a fashion photographer who explains approach to on-location lighting in this article. there really isn¶t any ³incorrect exposure´ « flash and ambient light ± reverse engineering an image Looking at an example image. or in TTL. for some backgrounds. we¶ll try and decipher how he set this up « using direct (unmodified) flash off-camera When working outdoors.combinging manual off-camera flash with on-camera TTL flash (wedding photography) A common technique used in photographing wedding receptions. with on-camera TTL flash to light up a large venue. but more often would be manual flashes. By scrutinizing a photo. In this sense. but with surprising simplicity « .

You can move around. Here is how I avoid those specular reflections in the wooden panelling. It will be consistent regardless of YOUR position. and a couple of adjustments as we went along « Lighting the wedding formals (part 1) In lighting the formals. and how there is no single static way of doing things. this means that your flash exposure will be consistent. (a married couple). This blog entry is a view of the approach during a photo session. . there simply isn¶t the opportunity to play around too much with the lighting . With time usually being a real constraint during the wedding day.NYC photo session ± Sarah & Mark An extended photo session with two models. and therefore at a constant distance to your subject . Lighting the wedding formals (part 3) The main benefit of doing the formal portraits (indoors) with manual off-camera flash « consistency. I don¶t try to get all Rembrandt. and I find a simple predictable way of lighting works best.. all to give a wide range to the look of the final images . Various techniques are used... Since the flash gives off a specific amount of light every time ± it is manual flash after all and not TTL flash ± and since the flash is on a stand. whether I am photographing one person or twenty. I keep the lighting static for all the images. the lighting too is varied. sequence: setting up the lighting during a photo shoot With this post I want to show the thought process in setting up the lighting for portraits during a photo shoot for a company. but prefer a fairly flat way of lighting everyone. more off-camera lighting at weddings ± dealing with reflective surfaces Rooms with wooden panelling are notoriously difficult to shoot in when using flash. There were a couple of dead ends. This is because of the tendency for the light source (flash) to create large hotspots on the wooden surfaces. at various spots in New York.

for a magazine cover. but enough of the sun was coming through to give some directional light. but how the idea progressed. We had to work fast in the hotel lobby to get a portrait of this beautiful whippet. I now had to decide on the exposure and lighting. We had to be meticulous about the setting-up of the shoot ± and still be very flexible during the actual shoot « the progression of an idea A glimpse of how I work. and then we add flash to expose correctly for our subjects « off-camera flash with children¶s portraits on location A description of settings. The available light at that point was actually really good ± the sun was covered by a layer of clouds.Chanel ± a portrait Off-camera wireless TTL flash setup for a portrait of a pet. . showing the progression of an idea. is just an application of the technique known as dragging the shutter. and the lighting setup. And how it was enhanced with off camera lighting « off-camera flash ± discussing an image from a workshop on flash photography With an idea in mind of how I wanted to position our model in a stark urban setting. However. Our camera settings are dictated by how we want the fireworks to register. and the thought-process « . Chanel. we wanted to play with some off-camera lighting and I wanted to use flash to add a touch more drama « using flash at a fireworks display Photographing people with fireworks in the background. Not just how the actual image was made.

off-camera flash the equipment review: Lastolite Ezybox softbox kit ± (2010-06) review: PocketWizard miniTT1 & FlexTT5 ± (2009-04) review: RadioPoppers P1 ± (2008-09) Photoflex medium softbox with magic slipper using a Quantum TdD-R on location in Las Vegas .

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