Last week when I mentioned using flash for outdoor portraits, I know a few of you cringed at the thought. As a wedding photographer in the early nineties, I had to use flash and use it well. The film ISO I used was only 100 and I was stuck with it. In these days, you can adjust your ISO on the fly with cameras hitting ISO 6400 without breaking a sweat.
So, why use flash today? Simple answer: Because the language of photography is light. Flash is another tool for a photographer to use to bring the light needed for the photos he/she wishes to capture. Flash allows me to get photos I could not have gotten without it. Sure I could get a badly underexposed photo and maybe save it with photo editing software. That is not as efficient as popping on a flash unit and getting the exposure right in the camera. It will produce a better photo every time when used correctly.
Here are three links to articles I wrote for the AllEars.net photoblog I contribute to about using a hot shoe flash unit, my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight. These articles are relevant to any hot shoe flash which has a flash head that can be angled and swiveled. Besides, you are going to want to meet my model, Shirley. She has the patience of a saint and is very easy to work with.
More Bouncing Light
And, as a compliment to last week’s article on Outdoor Portraiture, here’s one on using flash indoors.
Indoor Flash Photography Tips
Flash is not hard. It’s like learning how to get correct exposures. You read, practice and learn from experience. Remember when you first got your digital camera? Now, look at what you are doing. You can master a flash, too.
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The Gary Fong Lightsphere Inverted Dome Diffusion System Proudcts are large, round, soft and flexible diffusers that slip over the front of most camera manufacturer’s shoe mounted flash units. The inside of the Lightsphere is completely textured to make the light dispersion even more “soft” than it would be otherwise. And because of this design, it is possible to make the material more translucent, keeping the unit from losing a lot of light while actually increasing the diffusion and softness of light.
The inverted dome allows you to softly diffuse direct light with a large, soft source without creating flare on the front of your lens. Prices start at $39.95 US plus shipping.
What settings do I use when using a flash? (I am TOTALLY clueless, as you already know.) In manual, do I ignore the exposure bar, because the flash will compensate and adjust for the right exposure for me, based on shutter speed? (That doesn’t seem right.) Or do I underexpose the shot to compensate for flash? Or do I adjust the exposure as I normally would? Or, do I just give up and shoot on the auto settings when using a flash?
Is there a book I should read? Or maybe I should take another Bryan Workshop….
Ugh! I hate feeling inept! LOL
Yes, you are exposing for the flash in most cases. This is where your LCD comes in to play. In a studio, photographers use light meters to determine the amount of light coming from a studio light.
In the field, I would start by setting flash compensation to 0 on BOTH your camera and the flash unit. Set your exposure manually for the kind of creative exposure you want. If indoors, I always recommend bouncing the flash for better photos (like the one I used in this post).
Take the photo and see how it looks. If overexposed, turn the flash compensation on the flash unit (not the camera) down to -1 and repeat. Sometimes I have to turn up the flash (usually because of distance between me and what/who I am photographing).
For Nikon cameras using a Nikon speedlight, you can also set the flash to Fill mode which is great for outdoor portraits as the flash will determine the amount of light needed. I’m sure Canon’s flash units work the same way.
I love the sb600 with Gary Fong.
Rumor has it Nikon has stopped distributing the SB-600. Hoping they will bring out a nice replacement with a few more bells and whistles but still affordable.
Okay, coming at this from a totally different direction, I love this picture of the girls! But, uhhh, isn’t this one inside? 🙂
Yep, and all the links are for indoor flash. As I said, this is a compliment to the previous post.
Ah, I saw that and totally missed the point.
Totally cool, Scott. Your daughters are lovely. I’m really interested in learning flash photography but am saving that for after I learn how to use my new camera better. The articles are very interesting and informative.
You got the right idea, Dave. Learn your camera first and then move onto flash techniques. But, really, you’ll find it is not as hard as people make it out to be. It’s just another tool.
Interesting to learn more about using flash, I am almost a anti flash user, maybe you can change my view.
My comment to this photo is not about flash though, but this;
You are a lucky father, having two lovely – and I imagine very patient – daughters, supporting their father in his hobby by sitting as models.
My daughters have had a camera in front of them from the day they were born, literally. They flash a smile and pose for any camera today. 🙂 Incidentally, those smiles were worth every penny.
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