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Balancing ambient light and flash

From: Foundations of Photography: Flash

Video: Balancing ambient light and flash

Every scene you will shoot will have some form of ambient light in it unless

Balancing ambient light and flash

Every scene you will shoot will have some form of ambient light in it unless your shooting in a studio working exclusively with lights that your in complete control of. Most of us, though, shoot in the real world where there is always some kind of light source around, sunlight, a table lamp, an overhead light. If these weren't around we'd be you know, bumping into things. More importantly, without ambient light, we'd never see the scene before us. And so we'd never be inpsired to take a picture of it. So, I'm standing here in some ambient light. I'm not standing here in a lot of ambient light.

Though, I'm too dark. You can't see me. So at this point if you were to take a picture of me, you'd probably go, I need to use my flash. And so, you would turn your flash on and take the picture and hit me with a bunch of flash. We're going to simulate that right now. Not with a flash but with a spot light. We want to slow down this process of taking a flash picture. So we can really take apart how it works. So, now I've got all this extra light on me. Using the flash or in this case a spotlight, we've added a bunch of light to the scene. To get me up to a better level of illumination. So yes, I'm now more bright, I'm kind of too bright though.

I'm approaching radiation burns, which is not what I want. So, at this point you might go, it's okay, I know what to do, it's too bright, I need to turn down my exposure. So you might take another shot with a lower exposure on your camera, maybe using exposure compensation to take out a stop. But when I do that, look at what happens to the background. I'm not just underexposing me, I'm underexposing the entire scene. And the background is falling out to complete black. This mount may now be starting to look familiar to you, this might look like what you're used to in a a flash picture. A brightly lit subject in front of a black limbo background.

We don't want that, so let's turn the exposure back up to where it was before and solve this problem a different way. Rather than adjusting the exposure, let's adjust the amount of light that's coming from the flash. Let's turn it down and by doing that, now I am starting to look better exposed. This is much nicer. I don't have that seared look that I had before. So we are starting get somewhere and the problem now is, back there that's all too dark, I would like that to be brighter. So now I can start to adjust my exposure again to get this brighter.

Let's up the exposure to pull some more detail out of that background there. That's starting to look pretty good, I can see better detail, I can tell this is going to print better than it would have before and that's the only way I think. The problem now is I'm starting to get that burned look again. So, I can't take the exposure back down to solve that because it will darken my background but I can take more of the flashlight out. This light that I've been adding, I can lessen, a ha, here we go, now things are starting to work, this is how flash photography works. I have two different things that I'm taking care over, the amount of light that I'm adding to the scene and the ambient light that's already in the scene.

I control the amount of light that I'm adding to the scene simply by adjusting controls on my flash to not shine as much additional light into my picture. I control the ambient light by adjusting the exposure on my camera. There are a number of different ways of making these two adjustments. We're not worried about that right now. What you need to understand right now is that every flash picture is composed of these two different exposure components. The exposure that yields a certain level of brightness in your ambient light and the amount of flash that you are adding to the scene.

So what we have done here is to, is to balance those two elements. So that I get nice detail in both places. What's great is that, in addition to allowing me to present a nice looking image, it also gives me this whole new range of creative control. Maybe you liked it better with that in limbo. Fine! You know how to take that down and just adjust your exposure. I can do what I'm supposed to do as a photographer and try to control the viewer's eye through the picture by balancing these two things in different ways. That is going to be the core take away from this course for you I hope, is an understanding that a flash picture is made of these two different parts and that by balancing them in different ways you can create a dramatically better image.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Photography: Flash

40 video lessons · 20812 viewers

Ben Long

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  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 35s
  2. 33m 1s
    1. Exposure revisited
      2m 22s
    2. How flash works
      2m 12s
    3. Balancing ambient light and flash
      3m 54s
    4. Shutter speed, aperture, and flash
      4m 11s
    5. Fill and key light with flash
      4m 13s
    6. Understanding flash range
      2m 47s
    7. Understanding flash modes
      5m 16s
    8. Flash sync options
      3m 2s
    9. Some notes about your camera's built-in flash
      5m 4s
  3. 32m 50s
    1. When to use fill flash
      1m 39s
    2. Using fill flash in auto and program modes
      2m 44s
    3. Fill flash in priority or manual modes
      2m 38s
    4. Using flash exposure compensation
      9m 14s
    5. Using fill flash to eliminate unwanted shadows
      5m 46s
    6. Using fill flash to darken a background
      5m 1s
    7. Using flash to supplement ambient light
      3m 48s
    8. Filling in for a bright sunset
      2m 0s
  4. 33m 53s
    1. Shooting a portrait with flash as the key light
      4m 27s
    2. Why use an external flash?
      3m 34s
    3. Flash power and recharging times
      4m 21s
    4. Flash zoom
      1m 45s
    5. Taking the flash off camera
      5m 35s
    6. Using a softbox
      5m 3s
    7. Balancing flash and window light
      4m 22s
    8. Paying attention to the light in the room
      3m 39s
    9. Flash and white balance
      1m 7s
  5. 54m 20s
    1. Bouncing flash to improve lighting
      13m 8s
    2. Alternative options for bouncing flash
      5m 12s
    3. Using slow sync with flash
      8m 50s
    4. Rear-curtain sync
      11m 54s
    5. Using radio controls to fire a flash
      4m 32s
    6. Working with manual flash
      10m 44s
  6. 25m 16s
    1. Building up to multiple flash units
      13m 3s
    2. Adding the second flash for fill
      5m 19s
    3. The third flash as a backlight
      6m 54s
  7. 7m 50s
    1. Which brand of flash should you buy?
      1m 27s
    2. Guide number considerations
      3m 13s
    3. Shopping recommendations
      3m 10s
  8. 42s
    1. Next steps

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