Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Light and Flash

Knowing I was going to be shooting an all day event that would also run into the evening and possibly poor light during the day, due to the time of year, I was concerned about the lighting. I knew I could increase my ISO and also have a wide aperture but I am not a huge fan of grainy soft images. However neither am I a huge fan of using flash. Partly I don't like some of the harsh and unrealistic effects it can give but mainly due to the fact I am quite unsure of how to use one. I do own one, have done for a while but have to admit it lives in my cupboard and gets very little use if any.

I decided I needed to investigate a little more and get over my fears. I did some research looking at various websites and decided I would experiment it bouncing flash, not sure how successful it would be as I was shooting outside with the probability of not having much to bounce off of or if a bounce card would actually work outside.





all of these were interesting and informative in one way or another but I haven't really had chance to look and learn a lot....what I need to do is experiment and play and see what happens. To this effect I have purchased a polystyrene head and some basic craft materials to make something to bounce my flash. I also dusted off my instruction booklet to remind myself of the basic functions, it does help if you know how to turn it on and also do exposure compensation. Once I have taken shots inside and out I shall upload my results to my blog.

black and white foam plastic mesh, velcro dots

all of the above plus bounce template

foam marked out

white foam backed with black, mesh between to improve rigidity, velcro dots applied

as above side view
As per the recommendation I purchased a Neil van Niekerk book On-Camera Flash - techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography. On first glance (reading the foreword) it seems to be written simply and promises to, with practice and study. teach me how to use flash properly. I hope so as I am quite phobic. David A Williams' (who wrote the foreword) assertion that people say I don't use flash because it's so unnatural translates as "I don't know how to use flash" is partially true, I do prefer natural light but that is probably because when I use flash it does look unnatural and that is probably down to the fact that I don't know how it works and don't use it often enough to get the confidence to use it.

I recognize that images are made or broken due to the available light and how you can play with it creatively but recognizing it and being able to utilize it are completely different. I want to learn how to manipulate the flash to improve set scenarios by enhancing the existing light so fingers crossed that by the time I wade through to the end and try out some of the techniques I will have an idea of how to achieve this even if it not perfected.

Looking at the opening plates that were taken using available light it was good to see the settings with wide apertures and high ISO, this is where my older camera lets me down slightly as grain starts to become more obvious at these higher settings.

The essential concepts are:
The larger the light source, the softer the light - bouncing the flash off walls, ceilings or reflectors creates a softer light and can also make it directional.
Consider, Direction,Intensity and Colour Balance, Post production, White-Balance settings and Manual Flash vs TTL/Auto Flash.

It was really reassuring to read that taking photographs often happens in less-than-perfectly-controlled situations and that "there is simply no photographer good enough to be able to set the exact exposure, white balance, contrast and saturation" for every shot. I frequently worry that I am not getting it right "in camera" and that I need to adjust in post-production, but seems I am not alone :o)

When bouncing light off surfaces colour cast will be introduced, Niekerk suggests using the closest white balance setting then touching up as part of the usual workflow in RAW, and using the same setting throughout the shoot for ease of group adjustment rather than individual.

Manual V TTL is where my head first starts to explode so notes will need to be made and thumped into my brain! With manual the ISO and aperture settings WILL affect the exposure, with TTL it will not- proviso being as long as this is within the equipment's capabilities. I need to brush up on exposure metering, TTL flash and manual flash! I see a steep learning curve ahead......


  1. Can I suggest you take a look at the book "On-Camera Flash" by Neil van Niekerk, its full of ways to get natural looking light with minimal effort.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion Duncan I'll see if I can get a copy X