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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.
You've seen me experimenting through this course, trying different settings, feeling my way through a shot. But mostly I've been saying well, you put a key light here and an ambient light there and look, it just works. You get good lighting. Fact is in the real world when you're setting stuff up, a lot of times things won't work the way you're expecting to. You'll put a light somewhere and think you're going to get a particular kind of shadow or something. And it just wont happen, very often that's because of the other light in the room. You've got to remember that it's not just your flash, there are other light sources. There are also things in the room that unbeknownst to you, might be modifying your flash.
Let's take a look at an example here. I'm going to shoot a picture of Ashley, just like I have before. Just a straight on portrait, with my flash off to one side. I've got a soft box on it. And I just want a basic, kind of three quarter lighting here. Now notice the light on the left side of her face. As you might expect, when I have my flash over here, what I'm going to get. Is a bunch of light going that way, and that's going to light up one side of her face more than the other.
So things are working okay, but watch what happens to the room if I open up this curtain. Back behind this curtain I have a really bright white wall. Watch this side of her face, the left side of her face as I open the curtain. This is subtle but you should see a brightening as I pull the curtain away. This wall is reflecting a lot of the ambient light in the room back into her face. It's creating a nice big fill which is really cool but that fill gets more pronounced.
When I take my flash, and point it like this, yes I'm pointing it at her. And very often, when you're setting up flash, that's all you think about. You going, well I'm taking light and putting it on that subject right there. But of course, the light's off doing its light thing. It's flying around the room, it's bouncing off of stuff. It's got you know all sorts of quantum stuff going on. So. When I fire it now, some of that light is bouncing off the white wall and coming back and lighting up her face. If you look at this shot you see very little ratio at all, it doesn't even look like I've got much side lighting Because this wall is filling in her face so well.
It's actually a really nice light. I really like this wall light. I might take it home with me. But the important thing is if didn't want that, I might be looking at this. Going I don't understand. I thought there was going to be more of a shadow over there. That might lead me to turn up my flash power and shoot again. But that's just going to reflect more light into her face. And so, all that's going to happen is she's going to end up overexposed, but still kind of evenly lit. It can be very, very frustrating. And when you're first starting out, it can be very difficult to remember to try to diagnose your lighting problems not just by thinking about flash position, flash intensity, aperture, ISO.
All of that stuff. But thinking about the room. Trying to pay attention to, oh. Okay, this flash is over here. Might be bouncing off of this. Once you start looking in those directions you might find. Oh I get it, I'm picking up extra light. I might in this case be bringing up extra light from the floor. If I'm getting a weird color cast in my scene. It might be because there's something in the room. If there was a a stack of watermelons over here, I might be confused as to why she looked a little green. But that could very well be because light was bouncing off the watermelons and casting a green tint back up onto her face.
So when you're setting light you really gotta start thinking about those weird billiard shots that you're making with your lights. They're going to be bouncing off places, adding fill where you may not expect it. Possibly adding color. Thinking that way is often the key to diagnosing flash problems.
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