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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.
Picking up where we left off. I have got my flash attached to my camera with an all camera sync cable, or hot shoe cable, whatever you want to call it. And I had found last time that I was liking just having my flash up above the camera a little bit. It's a pretty simple key light. It gives me some nice modelling on her face. There's a little more light on the top of her face than the bottom. That one that I just took looks a little hot, so I'm going to drop my flash exposure compensation down a little bit.
That's better. I like it a lot. I like the angle of the light. The quality of the light, though, is bothering me a little bit. Look at the highlight at the top of her forehead, or on her forehead. It's just a, a little noticeable, it's a little harsh. Same thing with the highlights on her cheekbones, and there's that dark shadow under her chin. This is a very small light source. I mean, physically it's not that big an area. As a light source gets bigger in surface area, the light that it casts gets softer, it gets more diffuse. If you've ever played with a flashlight, then you should know this.
The middle is really intense because it's such a small light source. Yeah, it's got some spill around it, but it casts a really hard-edged little circle of light. That's kind of what this is doing. It's making those highlights on her face, very small and pointy. If my flash head was bigger I would have a, a much softer kind of highlight on her. I would have a light that wraps a little bit more around her. I can't actually make the flash head bigger but I can modify it, and there a number of different ways of doing that. What I've got here are a couple of soft boxes. This is just a piece of white translucent material that the flash can shine through, and then some way of attaching it to the camera, in this case that way is velcro.
So, I've put some velcro tape on my flash; it actually came with the soft box. And then these just stick on here and this particular one's kind of finicky. You need about four hands to get it on quickly. So now I've got a much larger surface area. It's scattering the light. And it's going to make for a much softer light. You can see that when I fire the flash, nothing happens. So, it really scattered the light. Let's try that again. There we go. The whole thing lit up there. So I've got a bigger surface area. Soft boxes come in lots of different sizes.
There are lots of different ways of attaching them. In general, you'll find that there are gobs of different soft box options for your flash. There are just, in general, a lot of different flash modifiers you can put on. They fall into two different categories. Soft boxes, or diffusers, which diffuse the light, and different kinds of reflectors, which let you bounce the light off of a surface on the flash to create a softer more diffused light. I'm going to just stick this one on, which again - oh now I've done it - which just goes on with the velcro strap.
And gives me a larger surface area than this one. So hopefully that's going to give me an even softer light. And I'm going to go retake that same shot that I took before. So, my flash is going to go. Still in manual focus here. My flash is going to go above my head. Pointing down at her. But now, I've got this big soft box on it. And I'm getting a softer light. Look at the highlight on her forehead there. It's much more diffuse. Now you might be saying, that's not more diffuse. The light's just darker. What happened to your exposure? That's a very good question, what happened to my exposure, is the soft box itself.
It's cut some light out, so I need to crank my flash exposure, I'm going to go up two thirds of a stop and try this again. There we go. So that's a nice amount of light, with some of nice soft highlights on her forehead and cheeks. So, by making my light source bigger, I have spread those highlights out. They look less like a flash. They look less pointy in that way that we're used to. Particularly with on-camera flash. So this is a very simple way of getting flash pictures that look less flashy. Also, if you need to quickly get a portrait of someone It's hard to, in a hurry, it's hard to do better than what I just did.
Flash up above, on the soft box, pointing down. This is almost always a flattering light, it takes out any shadows that might be under the eyes, it just creates nice skin tone all the way around. Yes it does make her face a little less geometric, but it's still a very easy way of getting a flattering light. With my soft box on I can continue to play with different flash directions like I was before, and overall I'm getting a softer light all the way around. But I'm going to, for this shot, stick with this overhead shot.
The only thing I don't like about it is that shadow under her chin. It's really hard. You might have an idea about that already. It's a, it's a case where I need fill light. We're not ready to add it yet. We got some more things to learn. But for now, it's a good idea to start looking for a soft box, get it on your flash and start playing with those differences between hard highlights and nice, broad highlights like you get from a good soft box.
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