Foundations of Photography: Flash

Working with manual flash


Foundations of Photography: Flash

with Ben Long

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Video: Working with manual flash

If you have been this whole course, you've been seeing me shoot with Ashley for a while now and hopefully by now you have seen that she is very good. I have been so preoccupied with doing my thing that I haven't had a chance to really talk to her or give her any direction. Every time I shoot a shot, she is giving me something else which is great. And, and yet I am getting frustrated because I am thinking, well, I have got this great model here but I am, I am spending all my time Thinking about flash and so on and so forth. I also don't know if you've noticed, but before I take every shot, I'm having to look up here to make sure that it's pointed in the right direction.
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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

Working with manual flash

If you have been this whole course, you've been seeing me shoot with Ashley for a while now and hopefully by now you have seen that she is very good. I have been so preoccupied with doing my thing that I haven't had a chance to really talk to her or give her any direction. Every time I shoot a shot, she is giving me something else which is great. And, and yet I am getting frustrated because I am thinking, well, I have got this great model here but I am, I am spending all my time Thinking about flash and so on and so forth. I also don't know if you've noticed, but before I take every shot, I'm having to look up here to make sure that it's pointed in the right direction.

Because again, it's very easy when you're working off camera to do something like this and your flash is off pointing in some wonky direction. So I'm tired of doing this. My arm's getting tired. I'm feeling like it's distracting. The main thing is, it's keeping me from connecting with my model. If Ashley and I could actually work together, we could come up with some stuff but I'm all preoccupied with this. So, I would like to have my off camera flash thing just taken care of for me. There are a few different ways of doing that. There's a bracket I could get for my camera that would just hold the flash right about here. That can be really handy if you're roaming around, shooting portraits like at a wedding or something.

But, I'm going for something more extreme here. I want my flash way off camera. So I'm going to put it on a stand. A flash stand is a fantastic, pretty inexcess, inexpensive accessory that can you get a long way towards more effective flash pictures. This is a pretty beefy flash stand. You can get smaller lighter, less expensive ones for not much money. All flash stands are going to have a mount like this at the top. It's just a, a big metal knob here. There's, there's no way though to, to Get my flash to stay on there so I need some kind of mount to go on top of it.

There are a lot of different ones. They're, they're all going to be pretty similar. They're going to have a screw mechanism that fits over the top, and they're going to have a shoe on the top. So, this is a really basic one, you can get these for under ten bucks at a camera store or off of Amazon. Going up from there, I've got more elaborate mounts. These are actually two variations of the same thing. In both cases, they have a mount on top, I mean a shoe on top. And they've got a hinge joint in the middle. And they've got bunches of knobs all over them. The bunches of knobs thing is cool because it makes you look very professional and as if you have some really advanced skill set.

They also serve a practical function. In this case, this knob controls this joint, so I can tilt the thing forward and backward. And this knob I'll be honest I, I don't actually what that knob does. Anyway, this one also has a cool feature. It's got a hole through the middle, I can put an umbrella in there and we'll see what's that for later. So what I could do here, is put my flash in like this and tighten this down. And this is great. Now my flash are completely off the camera. My hands are free, to wave them around at Ashley to get her to do things. Problem is I need communication between the camera and the flash.

This isn't going to do much good because I want the flash far away. I gotta go back to my radio transmitters. Saw these earlier. And they are an easy way to replace a cable and pick up a bunch of range. There are different kinds. I'm using these cowboy studios transmitters. They're very inexpensive, but they do have a limitation. There's only one contact on the bottom and only one here that's active. In other words, these can't transmit TTL information. All they can do is fire the flash. So, I can't use the built in flash metering of my flash system.

That means that I'm going to have to go into manual flash mode and take matters into my own hands. It's not that different from the way that I'm used to working. And since I've only got one light here this, in this case it's going to be pretty simple. I'm going to be working basically as if I only had an, a, a flash exposure compensation control. Somehow I couldn't see my flash sitting there. I'm just going to put all of this here. And get my flash positioned where I want it. First thing I need to do, though before I get it up in the air is to get the, the flash set to manual mode. I'm going to turn it on here.

I've got a mode button on this flash. Tilt this up a little bit. If I press the mode button eventually I get to M. And, I see a little fraction over here. It's actually a ratio in this case. It's set to one fourth. Meaning I'm at a quarter power right now. I can change that if I go up to. One-to-one, that's full power. The flash is giving its all at that point. Here's one stop lower at one half. Another stop down at one quarter. As you know, a stop is a doubling, or a halving, of light. So each of these steps is full a stop.

This is just like using my flash exposure compensation dialed and turned the power up and down. That's all I am doing in manual flash mode. With the lot of experimentation, I could get out a light meter and try and do a bunch of narly calculations to get it right and if I was shooting film, I would want to do that to not waste film but what do I care about waste? I'm shooting digital. I can set my flash somehow. Take a shot see how it works. And then move on. So I'm going to go ahead and just assume that I need a, I need to turn the flash down, because my flash is one to one I know is way too hot. So I'm going to go down to one sixteenth.

I'm going to go one of the four stops down. And tilt this down a little bit, and put it up in the air. Now, what's a drag about working in manual mode is if I'm wrong about my one sixteenth, I'm going to come back over here and lower the flash and make my adjustment then put it back up. With a TTL system I would be able to control the flash from the camera. I don't have TTL because I'm using my wireless transmitters. There are wireless transmitters that will transmit TTL data, but are very expensive. So I'm going, that's, that's fine. I'm having to resort to manual mode here. It's because I'm cheap.

Another reason you might resort to manual mode. Is if you're using multiple flashes. And you're going to see that later in this course. We're going to setup a whole bunch of flashes. All of them in manual mode. And work them all independetly. A lot of people simply like using manual flash because it's very reliable. When I set that at one sixteenth, I know as long as I'm letting the flash recharge completely every time, that it's always going to put out the same amount of light. With it working that way, I can then play with my ambient and flash exposure from the camera. I can't change my flash exposure, but I can play with that relationship knowing that I'm always going to have the same flash power.

Sometimes TTL will let you down that way. Particularly if you're in a very reflective room like this. You wont find consistent exposure from shot to shot. If you're finding yourself in a situation where that happens I promise you, switching to manual mode is going to be the easiest way to fix it. So I'm just going to position this this is great. My arm wouldn't reach this far, so I'm really liking being able to have it all the way over there. That's now, maybe not quite, I'm going to get it more at a 45 degree angle to her. I perpendicular to her.

My next question is, is the flash actually firing properly? There's a test button up here and no it's not. That's kind of disconcerting and so this is what I'm talking about, with manual mode, actually this has nothing to do with manual mode, this is. Simply because my flash had fallen asleep. Handy tip there for you there's probably a custom function on this flash that would keep it from dozing off because it turns out that if you turn your flash on and then talk for a long time your flash will fall asleep so now. Okay, I've got good flash. I'm in program mode.

Normally working with flash in program mode, it's going to lock my shutter speed on this camera to a sixtieth of a second. It doesn't do that right now because it's out of contact with the flash. So it's not real clear on what's going on. I need to go to a more manual mode. I'm going to go to shutter priority. So that I get control of the ambient. And I think that I'm just going to start it. It's here on an eightieth of a second. That must be something that it metered at some point. I'll see what happens. So at the moment I'm just grabbing a test shot. So, Ashley and I aren't going to really start in on the whole model photographer thing yet. I need to get. Oh, look at this I need to get my flash levels set properly, she's a little dark.

I, that one sixteenth was turned down too much. I've got a soft box on there, that's probably cutting some light. It is aimed right at her, so I'm not too worried about that. I'm going to come down here and turn this up. I think I'll go up two stops. I'll go to one fourth. That may be too much. There is of course something else I can do, actually there are a few things that I can do to change the flash power. We're going to start with that one. If I can zero-in on the right amount simply by changing the power that's great. Now, I said before that this is just like working with flash exposure compensation and you may think, well no it's not with flash exposure compensation I get third stop intervals.

Here I only get four stop intervals and kind of what I'm facing now is she's almost there it's almost bright enough. It's just not quite I don't think I need a full stop I just need it a little bit brighter. What can I do? What I can do is move the flash the flash closer. I'm just going to bump that forward a tiny little bit. Do not forget that flash intensity changes with distance. That's a huge amount of control you have and you might be shocked at how much brightness change there is. With even a small move. Yeah, I'm liking that a lot. I'm getting a little bit of fill off the wall, which is nice.

So I'm feeling pretty good now. The flash is set, we've got really good lighting. I'm tempted to say my work here is through, let's take a break. But actually, this is the fun part. Now we get to actually do some stuff. So Ashley, I've kept you trapped all this time, just looking forward, and you've done some great stuff. Oh, thank you. You gave me a really nice little smirk awhile go. There we go. Chin down a little bit please, yeah, that's nice. Oh, very good. Let's try a little, turn your body a little bit let's go the other way yeah, with her great cheekbones. Yeah.

Very nice. Getting in real tight here. Okay, back towards me just a tiny bit. Yeah. Chin down a little bit please. Oh, I like that. Yeah. Oh, very nice. Alright, so, thank you. This is great. I'm free to move around. I've got my flash level set right. I can just shoot all day here and she and I can work together without me having to think about my flash. If she were to change clothes, put on something darker put on something brighter, I might need to go make an adjustment again. But remember I've got a number of different ways of controlling the intensity of this flash I can dial it up and down.

I can move them forward and backwards. And of course I can be working my aperture and ISO over here. So manual mode is great if you want to work with inexpensive radio transmitters, but probably the time you're going to fall back on it the most is if your in a situation where TTL is letting you down. It's giving you inconsistent results. You just don't understand why sometimes it's too bright and sometimes it's too dark. In those situations, set your flash on manual mode, take a little bit of manual exposure control on your camera. And you're going to be able to get very consistent results.

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