Foundations of Photography: Flash
Illustration by

Foundations of Photography: Flash

with Ben Long

Video: Shutter speed, aperture, and flash

You should already be comfortable with how shutter So, yes the flash has a duration but compared Our shutter speed was the same for this shot and the camera With our longer exposure, the background was rendered brighter, while our camera,
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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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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Photography: Flash
3h 9m Appropriate for all Dec 13, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • How flash works
  • Balancing ambient light and flash
  • Understanding flash ranges and modes
  • When to use fill flash
  • Using an external flash
  • Bouncing flash to improve light
  • Building up multiple flash images
  • Purchasing a flash
Ben Long

Shutter speed, aperture, and flash

You should already be comfortable with how shutter speed and apature effect your image when your shooting without a flash but when your shooting with a flash these two parameters take on very specific roles. Though I said that the flash is actually a continuous light the fact is that it's on for such a short period of time. But it's effectively instantaneous as far, as your camera is concerned. Let's take a super slow-motion look at what happens, when you press the shutter button to take a picture. Imagine that time has slowed down. Yes you may already feel that way from watching this movie but, let's just imagine that time has slowed down and that you are sitting inside a camera that is about to take a picture of me.

Now, this is a imaginary situation, a stylized representation here. Of course, if the camera was actually taking a picture of me I would need to be standing still and I'm moving all over the place. Just ignore that part. When the shutter button is pressed the shutter opens and begins gathering light. As more light strikes the sensor, the image gets brighter and brighter until finally the duration specified by our shutter speed is met and the shutter closes. So here's what our final image looks like. We were shooting at a thirtieth of a second and in this case that left us with an image that's a little dark but, we were afraid to go to a slower shutter speed because we didn't want to risk handheld shake.

We'd like the scene to be brighter. So let's shoot another. Let's shoot this scene again, but this time let's a use a flash. So, again the shutter opens, and now the sensor is gathering all this light around me. But now our flash fires. So, yes the flash has a duration but compared to the length of the shutter speed, its effectively instantaneous. So, finally we've hit our shutter speed, the shutter closes and here's our shot. Our shutter speed was the same for this shot and the camera and flash did a good job of calculating a flash exposure that left me well lit. It'd be nicer to have more light in the background though.

So lets do a third shot. Again the shutter opens and the sensor gathers light. And again, the flash fires. But the shutter is going to stay open for much longer this time. We have dialed in a 15th of a second this time. That's a full stop brigher than our last shot. This will give the camera more time to gather all this ambient light that's back here. So finally the shutter closes Leaving us with this image. With our longer exposure, the background was rendered brighter, while our camera, again, did a good job of calculating a nice amount of flash. So, this whole demonstration is just a complex way of saying, when you're shooting with flash, shutter speed has no impact on how bright the flash will be in your image.

Zero. While working with the flash, shutter speed controls the brightness of the ambient light in your scene. By altering shutter speed I can make the ambient light brighter or darker. In the last movie you saw how we can independently alter the ambient light and the light from our additional light source. As you've just seen, shutter speed is how you make an adjustment to the ambient light in your scene. So how do you change the brightness of the flash? You have four different mechanisms for changing flash brightness. You can dial the brightness of the flash up and down using controls on the flash.

These controls will actually add more or less light to your scene. You can move the flash closer or farther from your scene. As the flash gets closer, its impact will increase, as you'll see later, a little change in flash distance can make a big difference in the amount of light that's added to your scene. You can also change your aperture setting. In a flash picture, aperture controls depth of field, just as it does in a non flash picture, but it also controls overall brightness of the flash. As the aperture's stopped down the flash will contribute less light to your scene, also as the aperture changes the effective of range of your flash will change.

Finally you can alter flash by changing ISO on your camera. As ISO increases, so will the effective brightness of the flash. This is a lot of information, but these points are critical to your effective use of flash so I'll say it one more time. In a flash picture, shutter speed controls the brightness of the ambient light in your scene while aperture alters the brightness of the flash. You also have three other ways of altering flash brightness, flash position, ISO and flash power. For the rest of this course, we are going to do nothing more than manipulate these parameters to get combinations of flash and ambient light that we like.

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