Lighting for Photographers: Flash Exposure Fundamentals

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Video: Why use manual flash?

In a world where TTL Flash and auto-everything cameras make it easier than ever to get good flash exposures, why bother to learn to use your flash in manual mode? TTL systems are great, and there are times when they are the only option, but they don't always work and even when they do, they might not provide the most elegant solution. Depending on the logic used by the manufacturer, TTL systems can be fooled if what your lighting is too small on the frame, the point of focus is different from the point of illumination, you're using a third-party lens that doesn't communicate with the TTL system, or you've got some other quirky situation to deal with.
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Watch the Online Video Course Lighting for Photographers: Flash Exposure Fundamentals
1h 27m Advanced Mar 04, 2013

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Expand your lighting options and get the most out of your flash as photographer and teacher Brent Winebrenner takes a practical, hands-on look at the theory behind exposure, with a special emphasis on electronic flash exposure.

Even with today's automatic flash systems, there are good reasons to understand how flash exposure really works. Brent details these concepts in this course. The course describes how to calculate the true power of your flash and how to modify its output to match your needs, a technique that can extend battery life, reduce recycle time, and provide exposure control that is more predictable than fully automatic modes. The course concludes with several shooting scenarios during which Brent explores the creative use of gels, reflectors, and other light modifiers.

Topics include:
  • Understanding exposure basics
  • Reviewing aperture, ISO, and shutter speed
  • Adjusting strobe power and flash to subject distance
  • Finding the guide number of a strobe
  • Making calculations based on ISO
  • Understanding power ratios
Subject:
Photography
Author:
Brent Winebrenner

Why use manual flash?

In a world where TTL Flash and auto-everything cameras make it easier than ever to get good flash exposures, why bother to learn to use your flash in manual mode? TTL systems are great, and there are times when they are the only option, but they don't always work and even when they do, they might not provide the most elegant solution. Depending on the logic used by the manufacturer, TTL systems can be fooled if what your lighting is too small on the frame, the point of focus is different from the point of illumination, you're using a third-party lens that doesn't communicate with the TTL system, or you've got some other quirky situation to deal with.

Even if you're using TTL, you're going to want to be in control of your ISO, your shutter speed, and your aperture. If you don't understand the fundamentals of strobe photography, you can easily wind up in a situation where you're asking something of your TTL system that simply isn't possible. Unless your expectations are very modest, you can't go to sleep entirely. For example, your choice of aperture will obviously determine the depth of field, but it also affects your battery life, your recycle time, and the balance between ambient and strobe.

In extreme circumstances, it may even compromise the system's ability to deliver the desired exposure. Finally, TTL doesn't work when you're using studio strobes or continuous lights. So if you want to grow into bigger systems, you'll need to learn the principles of manual flash photography anyway. Now this course is not designed for brand-new photographers who are still learning to find their way around the camera. It's intended for someone who has a working knowledge of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, and has a desire to learn flash exposure from the ground up.

We're going to use just one flash in full manual mode to complete all the technical exercises that illustrate the principles. You will see that I'll be using more than one strobe during the live photo shoot, but I'm going to be doing that for creative effect. But I'll only use one light on the model to avoid introducing circumstances that aren't covered in this course. Understanding manual strobes will pay huge dividends when you begin to create or encounter complex mixed lighting situations.

By the end of this course, you'll have the tools to begin exploring some creative flash options on your own.

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