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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.
Alright, we've dragged Stephen out here to the edge of this cliff to take a picture of him. It's a great shot, a, a great spot to take a nice portrait of someone doing something. I've got this incredible background. I've got the Pacific ocean back there and these beautiful cliffs so, I'm just going to do a little bit of shooting here. I'm in program mode, there's no reason to get fancy here. The camera should be able to handle this. I'm shooting fairly wide-angled because he's got this, big thing stuck to the front of his head. And this is what I got. It looks pretty good. The exposure's very even. The camera has done a good job of metering the background.
The oceans is well-exposed. He's well-exposed. There's really nothing wrong technically with this picture, it's just not quite right. He's a little bit lost in that background. I need more attention focused on him. So I'm going to do a variation, actually I'm going to do the same thing but for a different reason, of what we did a couple of movies ago. I'm going to use my flash to lower the ambient light. Though it's well-exposed, I would like to underexpose that background, light him up with flash, and hopefully bring more attention to him. I am in a fill-flash situation here. The sun is my key light and so I'm going to use my flash as a fill light.
I've gone to an external flash because he is kind of far away and it's bright out here. I think I need some more power. I am going to start like I did before by setting my ambient exposure. I am going to shutter priority mode. Dialing in I'll do another two stops of underexposure and see what I get. I think I'm going to go even farther. I want that background really dark. I'm going down to three stops under. That's looking better. Now I need to light him back up so I'm going to turn my flash on. And I'm going to let ETTL do its thing. I'm going to see what it comes up with in terms of fill flash.
That's pretty good but it's still a little bit dark. I think I need more. Now notice when I did this I tilted my camera this way. I don't normally shoot like this because I don't like this elbow up in the air, it's unstable. But because the sun is lighting up this side of his face I want the flash more over here. So, I'm going to dial in some positive exposure compensation. That's something you haven't seen me do. I'm going to turn the flash power up. I'm going to boost it by two stops and see what happens. I did not choose two stops for any reason other than a guess. And that's looking better. That's brighter.
So, I think that's working pretty well. It's, still, though, it's not a big a change as I thought. Looking at my flash, I see that it's zoomed at 28 millimeters. That's really wide. I don't need this whole area covered. I just want him covered, so I'm going to manually zoom. I'm going to zoom in pretty tight, I'm going to set my flash to a zoom of 70 millimeters, and take my shot again. I'm going to get he and the didge in the shot together. There we go, that's throwing some more light on. Now I'm just going to bracket this stuff. I'm going to play. Since I've got this great subject who's doing all of this stuff.
I'm going to play with different levels of ambient exposure. And I am going to play with just a little bit more flash. I'm going to go up to three stops over. So I've got a range of shots here. Here's what I finally came up with that I think I like. By darkening the background I'm bringing a lot more attention to him. My flash is taking care of lighting him up, my ambient exposure's taking care of the background. This is a case where I've made purely an aesthetic decision. There wasn't that much wrong with that original exposure.
It's just he was getting lost. Your job as a photographer is to make sure the viewer's eye goes where you want it to. And I want it staying on him. I've got lots of different tools to do that. And one of the best ones is controlling the light in the scene. With my flash, I can put a lot of light on him, change the exposure to dim the background and bring a lot of focus and attention to him. Something that you wouldn't think he needs, given what he's doing right now but in a still shot, you've got to use all of these things at your disposal to try and get the viewer to look where you want them to.
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