Foundations of Photography: Flash
Illustration by

Foundations of Photography: Flash

with Ben Long

Video: Using fill flash to darken a background

I'm here with my friend Stephen Kent, master Okay, discounting the fact that he's Okay.
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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

Using fill flash to darken a background

I'm here with my friend Stephen Kent, master didgeridoo player who's carrying this really weird didgeridoo. We brought him out here to take some pictures of him playing. But we also just want some shots of him just some head shots and things that we can use on his website, or wherever. So, we found this cool stand of trees which caught our eye because it's just all these neat vertical lines and there's been weird light playing through them. So, I'm going to take some pictures of him here, and he's holding this in a very strange way, and so, I think, and he's a very strange guy, so this is really revealing his inner character.

So, and now it's being revealed more and more. But watch what happens. If I'm just shooting in Program mode, and I take this shot oh my. Okay, discounting the expression on his face, let's take another one here, huh. Okay so Steven's pretty well exposed. He looks a little blue as if he's been left out of the fridge too long but that's actually just a white balance problem because I'm shooting in shade; I can fix that in camera raw. What? Look at the background, though, that's a blue sky back there, and it's not rendering very blue.

And there's a lot of green in the trees, that's just getting blown out. My background is overexposed, because it's exposing for him, which is great. I'd rather have him well exposed, but I'd really like to have that background too, because what caught my eye was this stand of trees. Curiously enough, the way I can fix this problem, the way I can darken that background is with my flash. Now you should really have it drilled into your head now that any flash pictures is actual composed of two exposures: a flash exposure and an ambient light exposure. So, I'm going to use the flash to illuminate him, and I'm going to change my ambient light exposure so that it's much darker.

So, let's look at how I might do that step by step; I know that's kind of a a big thought there to have all at once. In Program mode, if I pop the flash up, my shutter speed is going to be locked at a 60th of a second; that's just a fact of this camera. Yours might lock slower it might lock, lock in a 30th of a second or maybe you can change it. Either I, I want flexibility to change shutter speed, so I'm going to change to Shutter priority mode. The camera in Program mode meters at a 50th of a second, so lets just start there. I've dialed in a 50th of a second. What I would like to do is darken this exposure.

I want it underexposed so that the background will render properly. So how do I get underexposure? This is just straight, basic exposure 101 stuff. I can get underexposure with my exposure compensation dial. Remember, in shutter priority, no matter what I change my shutter speed to, it's always going to try to choose an aperture that will yield a good exposure. And right now, what it thinks is a good exposure is when it's overexposing the background. So I'm going to dial in two stops of underexposure on my exposure compensation dial, and take another shot. Thank you, Steven. Okay, discounting the fact that he's terribly underexposed, look at the background now.

I've got blue sky again, I've got green in the trees, I've got generally a lot more detail. I've set my ambient exposure properly, now I'm ready to fill in my subject with some flash. So, I'm just going to pop up my flash here, make sure That everything is set properly. I'm still in ex-, in shutter priority mode. Okay. I've still got the exposure that I want in the background, but now in my foreground he's got radiation burns, he's way overexposed. You should have an idea of how to do that after what you saw earlier in this chapter.

I'm going to go to exposure, flash exposure compensation, and dial in one stop of underexposure on the flash. That's not changing my background, but it is dimming the flash. He looks a little less hot now, less bright spots and things, but I think it's still a little too bright. I'm going to go down a third of a stop, more. I'm still getting a little glare off of, off of his cheekbone, so I'm going to go, oh, it didn't actually change. I'm sorry, that's the same exposure as the shot before. Let's try this now, I should now be two thirds under.

That's looking better. What I'm looking at is just his skin tone; it's more even, it looks a little more natural. What's nice about this fill flash is it's also filling in all that light under his hat. So now I'll just try a couple of these. I got things set properly and he's just working it. Steven, your working it. Maybe, I feel like we should have some, a fan blowing on you or something. Okay, alright good. So what I've done here is textbook flash photography. I've thought about my ambient exposure, I've thought about my flash exposure. I'm thinking about the flash as a fill light.

The sun is still my key light and I set the ambient exposure by dialing in an under exposure using exposure compensation, regular exposure compensation. I found its, you just keep looking at me that way. I found, I fixed my flash exposure by dialing in negative flash exposure compensation. So these are the two concepts that you've always got to work with: ambient exposure and flash exposure, and thinking about whether you need key or fill. The thing to kind of wrap your head around is this idea that you can use flash to darken your background.

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