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Thread: Using a flash...

  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Using a flash...



    Hello All. One of the skills I struggle most with is simple use of a flash. Right now I don't have an external flash, but I don't believe that is the source of my problems--more likely ignorance. I don't like the way photos come out when I use the built-in flash, so I avoid using it if at all possible and thus don't learn how to use it well. Usually I shoot in Av mode and the flash seems to cause overexposure.


    Can someone give me the basics for shooting with flash in this mode? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Administrator Sean Setters's Avatar
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    Re: Using a flash...



    I'll give you the best advice possible--if you're using flash, use it off-camera. On camera flash tends to make pictures look flat and unnatural (how often do you view the world with a lightsource coming out of your forehead??). I realize you can't use the built-in flash off-camera, but there are relatively cheap flashes (a used Vivitar 285HV, for example) and wireless triggering options (Cactus V2S, YongNuo on ebay) that enable you to get the flash off your camera. There are also many options for light modifiers (like umbrellas, softboxes) that make the effective size of the light source much larger (and, therefore, more soft and flattering).


    Take a look at this example:


    [img]/cfs-file.ashx/__key/CommunityServer.Components.UserFiles/00.00.00.21.08/3013215671_5F00_0b5ba7942a_5F00_b-small.jpg[/img]


    Here, I actually had to use 2 flashes at full power as the mainlight because I was using an ND filter when I shot (enabling me to use a wider aperture in broad daylight to blur the background somewhat). So, I have two flashes as the mainlight camera right, shot into a reflective umbrella, 1 flash behind the subject camera right acting as a rim light, and the sun camera left behind the subject acting as another rim light.


    Here's the finished product:


    [img]/cfs-file.ashx/__key/CommunityServer.Components.UserFiles/00.00.00.21.08/IMG_5F00_1085_5F00_crop-small.jpg[/img]



  3. #3

    Re: Using a flash...



    Stephen, I also had a lot of trouble with this. I prefered to use AV mode, and could never get a decent decent shot with the built-in flash. I have done two things to alleviate this. I bought an 85mm 1.2L... just kidding, I wish I could.


    1. I switched to manual mode. The camera reacts differently in Manual mode to AV mode. I forget why really, but a good explanation can be found here: http://super.nova.org/DPR/Canon/Links.html/


    2. This one sounds silly, but, I increase the flash compensation to full, and then I use the back of my hand, placed directly in front of the flash, to bounce light onto the ceiling. You canalso use a small mirror, but I usually don't have the time to find mine when I need to take a picture and just use my hand. It adds a good amount of fill light to the scene, and I usually get sharper photos.


    The previous reply is the right way to do it. My way is the cheap-works some of the time- method, but it fits my budget. I can try to post a photo using this method later tonight. It's not as bad as you might think.


    Tom

  4. #4

    Re: Using a flash...



    stephen,


    i really like tom's advice to use your hand as a way to bounce the flash off the ceiling. Haha Very creative. But if you don't want to invest in a flash then it is an alternative. His advice to use a mirror is sound as well. The use of a piece of white card board and be used to bounce it as well, giving a more softer look than the mirror even. Another 'cheap' fix is to use a sheet of white computer paper to filter the flash, and shoot through the paper for another softer look.


    You might also look into purchasing a reflector set. They usually come with a white, silver and gold reflector, that you can use to reflect the light bouncing off the subject back onto for a fuller look, that isn't so harsh. Reflectors are relatively inexpensive and are collapsible and portable.

  5. #5

    Re: Using a flash...



    Here is a picture I just took using the back of the hand method. I noticed that he has a catchlight that is red from my hand. Still the direct flash would not have this look to it, the background would be dark, as the only lights on in this room were from the christmas tree. A white card or a small mirror would be much better, with more reflected light and whiter light that matches the AWB better. Still it beats a blurry photo or one with a lot of noise.





    Sorry I didn't mean to take this thread on a weird tangent.


    Tom

  6. #6
    Junior Member
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    Re: Using a flash...



    The Canon dedicated external flashes are very easy to use and give much better results than the built-in flash because you can easily get them to bounce light off the ceiling or an umbrella while retaining automatic control of the flash. Regardless, when shooting flash you should use manual ("M") mode for best control of lighting. For example, let's say you're shooting a small group indoors. Set the shutter speed to the max (typically, that's 1/250 sec) so that you will minimize motion blur. Then adjust the aperture to be small enough that everyone's face is in focus (this will vary, but f/8 is a good guess for a small group in a small room). Finally, adjust the ISO up and down to increase and decrease the contribution of ambient lighting to the shot. If ISO is very high, then the flash's contribution will be relatively small. If ISO is very low, then the background might turn out very dark or even black. Before shooting like this, I make a few test shots. If there is too much noise at a high ISO setting, you might want to dial it back and increase exposure with the shutter speed (1/125 or 1/60), but I find motion blur a bigger problem than a bit of noise, so I wouldn't go slower than that most of the time.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Re: Using a flash...



    Thanks, everyone for your feedback. Both the simple and more complex suggestions are helpful.

  8. #8

    Re: Using a flash...



    I have found the "Flash Exposure Lock" very handy (it's the asterisk button, when the flash is down/off its the "Exposure Lock" button, also handy). For example:


    1) The A-TTL flash exposure meters towards the center of the viewfinder, so if you focus on the subject and recompose with the subject off to the side, whatever is now centered will be properly exposed by the flash. So if you want to take a picture of a friend standing next to, but technically in front of a sculpture, if you recompose with your friend off to the side, he will be overexposed by the flash. The reason is that the flash is now metering off the sculpture that is further away, and requires more light. To avoid this: Center on your friend, press the "Flash Exposure Lock", whichs fires the flash and takes a reading off the center of the frame. Now recompose (do not change the focal length) and shoot, as long as the asterisk is showing in the viewfinder. You may be tempted to merely use a focus point that is off to the side. It won't matter, the flash meters from the center only.


    Some other ideas:


    -Using a zoom lens, stand back and zoom in so the flash isn't such a harsh blast.


    -The use of the flash in "Aperture Priority" and "Shutter Priority" modes is for fill flash only. The camera is exposing for the background. But in indoor light, or low-light situations, be prepared forshallow depth-of-field, and a soft image at low ISO's. The picture of your boy in front of the Christmas tree would benefit from this method. You will have the choice of 1/60 or 1/200 shutter speed, depending on how dark or light you want the background, and higher ISO's can help too.


    I hope this helps!

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