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Harsh, unflattering lighting can ruin a photo—and with flash, it's easy to get harsh, unflattering lighting. But flash is a necessary part of a photographer's toolset—after all, the world doesn't always provide you with the best natural light.
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to get great results from flash, and in this course, photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long details the concepts and techniques behind effective lighting with flash. Ben starts with fundamentals that build on exposure principles taught in other installments of Foundations of Photography—simple techniques that improve the results from a camera's built-in flash. He then focuses on fill flash techniques and on using flash as a key light. The course also explores topics ranging from bouncing and syncing flash to shooting with one or more off-camera flash units.
When speaking of lighting we generally refer to two broad categories of light; continuous light and strobes. Continuous lights are just fancy versions of the lights that you have in your house, you turn them on. They emit light and you read or do crossword puzzle or whatever it is, you do. Continous lights are what we are lighting this set with. Strobes or flashes are lights that emit a short, burst of light. They are the types that are built into most point and shoot cameras and possibly built into your SLR.
I'll be using the terms strobe and flash interchangeably throughout this course. The fact is, though, a strobe is actually a continuous light. It's just not continuous for very long. Any flash unit, whether it's a standalone unit or it's built into your camera, has a light bulb inside it. The bulb is actually a tubular shape, rather like a flouresecent light bulb, and like a fluorescent bulb, it's filled with a gas that emits light when an electrical charge is passed through it. The bulb's brightness cannot be varied, now this is very important to remember.
Though you can adjust the output of the flash, this output change does not happen by making the bulb shine brighter. The bulb can only shine at one brightness. Instead, greater intensity is achieved by leaving the bulb on for a longer time. Now it takes a good amount of electricity to fire your flash. And on a really bright flash, like this one, the bulk of the mechanism in here is actually the circuitry needed to generate that power to feed the bulb. Your flash can't fire until it has built up a certain level of charge, and you might be able to hear it working away while it's doing that depending on how good your hearing is, you might hear a high pitched kind of whining crescendo when you turn the flash on.
And you'll hear that same sound every time that you fire the flash. I'll have a lot more to say about how to power your flash and how to manage its charger later in this course. There's a lot more to what a flash does for example how does the camera decide how long to leave the flash bulb on. But before we get to any of that we need to think about how the light that comes from your flash interacts with other light that might be in your scene.
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