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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.
Throughout this course you're going to see me doing a lot of things with big external flashes, and you might end up thinking. Well, since you got all those flashes, you probably never use the pop-up flash on your camera. And that's not true. The built-in flash on your camera can be very, very useful. Here's the pop-up flash on this 7D. It pops up as you just saw, as oppose to being one that's built in. I use it a lot, as you're going to see in the next chapter for fill flash. This can really be a lifesaver, and I know I have it with me if it's built into my camera. I don't always carry external flashes with me, so in a pinch a pop-up flash really can be the difference between a good picture or a bad picture.
I said in a pinch, and that's not fair. A pop-up flash simply can be the difference between a good picture and a bad picture. That said, you gotta be careful with them. There are some things to know about them, because they can cause troubles if you're not paying attention to, to certain things. First of all, a pop up flash has a very short range. This flash probably has a range of maybe ten to 12 feet. That range is going to be shorter if I'm using a smaller aperture. Anything outside of that the flash isn't going to do me any good. There is no reason to even use it.
I live in San Francisco, and if you have never been there. There is a big mountain in the middle of the town called Twin Peaks, and it's a great spot to get a view of the entire bay area. It always cracks me up when I look up on Twin Peaks and I see little flashes going off. People have this idea that their little pop-up flash is lighting up the entire city of San Francisco, it doesn't work that way. So, you don't need to be worrying about your pop-up flash if you're shooting something beyond ten or 12 feet. Your manual will tell you the actual range of your flash. A pop-up flash makes your subject, if you're shooting people, more prone to having red eye.
That's that demonic, crazed look that some people get when they have a flash fired into their eyes. Other people just have it all the time. The reason you get bad red eye from a pop-up flash has to do with the angle of the flashlight. If the camera lens or your eyes, the problem that I'm having here is my flash is so close to the lens that the flash comes out, bounces off the back of the retina and comes almost entirely or almost straight back into the lens. The back of your retina is red, and so it shows up really red.
If you've ever shot a dog and gotten really weird blue eyes, that's because the back of their retina's is blue, I guess. I don't know that for sure, I'm just assuming that's why it happens. But I said it with authority, right? So that counts for something. Anyway, so red eye is a problem with a pop-up flash. There are ways of reducing red eye with special modes on your camera that will fire tiny little pre-flashes that cause dog's irises to iris down, and most people's. So that's another problem with pop-up flash. The positioning of the flash isn't great for shooting people.
It's great for fill light, it's great if all you need to do is fill in some little shadows. And we're going to see how to do that. But it's not a real flattering light if it's the only light that you have. And that's again, because of the positioning. If I'm shooting you, I'm taking a flash and putting it right in front of you. I am shining it directly at your face. That's not the type of light that we are used to seeing. We're used to light coming from overhead. Even when we're in-doors, the lights are up high. Our entire visual system is kind of built around these gestalts of light from coming above. So, shining a light directly into someone's face is just not what we are used to seeing.
It looks like well, it looks like a tiny little pop up flash has been fired at them. Finally, because again, of the positioning of the flash, you may have a problem if you're using a long lens or a lens with a lens hood on it. And that problem is going to be that the flash will actually, or the lens will cast a shadow into your scene. I'm just going to grab a quick shot here, I'm shooting with a, I'm shooting at 35 millimeters, this is a 24 to a 105. I'm shooting at 35 millimeters. It's a kind of a wide angle. And when I take my flash shot, if you look here in the foreground, you see there's this big, semi circular shadow. That's the end of my lens there.
It might be the lens hood, so I'm going to take that off with great ease there. And shoot it again and see if that solves the problem. Trying to stay at the same focal length here. I'm just in program mode, I am just shooting fully automatically here. And that did it, that took the shadow out. If it didn't, if I was using a really long lens like here's a, at 105 millimeters. I may get that shadow back. no, fortunately I didn't, the type field of view cropped it out. But if you're finding that you can't get rid of it, then, then you can't get rid of it.
You, you're just stuck because the flash is stuck on top of the camera. At that point, you would either need to crop it out of your frame in post production or not use a flash. Go to a higher ISO if you're in low light, or get an external flash. So, those are some caveats. Again, I don't want you, I don't want to scare you away from pop-up flash. It, again, can be a real life saver. It's something you need to know how to use well. If it's, I'm trapped in this lens hood here. It's something you need to know how to use well, because it can be a real critical tool. But look for shadows, look for red eye and pay attention to the positioning when you're shooting portraits.
You want to a subtle look, and we're going to see how to get that as we move forward through the course.
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