Mastering Flash

I had the opportunity to see some images the other evening that were taken at an evening event here in Somerset, the photos were taken by a “professional Photographer” I was quite surprised that the photographer booked for the event was the official Pro for the evenings event, unfortunately due to the quality of the images.

This set my decision to pen another blog with regards to flash photography and the issues that arise when letting the camera take control of the shot, firstly let me try and explain what the camera tends to do when set to auto flash.

When you set your camera to take portraits in low light conditions, your camera doesn't really understand what its looking at, it will try its best to light the object that is being focused, so what will this little piece of engineering do, it will set the ISO at around 400 thinking this will increase the flash power and reduce noise and maybe set a high shutter speed to reduce camera shake but may set its largest aperture (SMALL NUMBER) you have to remember that shutter/ISO allows for ambient light to register on the censor therefore the trouble with letting your camera take control means that its not concerned about the ambient light, it just wants to lighten the object directly in-front of its lens. So getting back to the images, there was absolutely zero ambience in the photos, the photos looked as if they had been taken using a flash light or headlights on full beam, the location had so much warmth, magical lighting and mood lighting however none of this was captured in the images.

Now a days most cameras have a built-in flash of some description, these can it pop up out of the top or if you are a pro a flash mounted on top.

The main reason that most people hate using flash is because you cannot make an exposure without light and it scares many because they feel out of control as there are many technical areas to be aware of such as fall off, because light from a flash reduces naturally with distance and settings.

Although ISO settings are phenomenal now with the very latest cameras, reducing noise levels, you still need some light to be able to use them, and the method for throwing light onto a photographic subject is flash.

Though, flash shouldn't be seen as the “nightmare on Elmstreet” that should be avoided and yet that is precisely how some people treat it, fearing to use this exceptional flash of light.

Think of flash as an option for each and every shot you take, it doesn't matter what the light levels its something that you can use to enhance any photo.

The fact is, flash can make a great shot even better however it can also ruin your photographs pretty quickly as I mentioned with the event images.

You have to think about what you're trying to achieve but lets move back to the evening event where low light was obviously an issue for the photographer, what would I do in order to capture the ambience but also light the portrait!

The image with this blog was taken at a wedding here in somerset and below is my settings that I used in order to take this photo of the beautiful Bride with her Husband and Father.

1) I would have set the ISO to around 1600 and the shutter speed to approximately 1/60 of a second, (the flash would freeze, no problem with camera shake as I would also ensure I held the camera correctly) I would have set the aperture to around F2.8 this would possible depend on portrait and distance etc. however these settings would have allow the ambient light to register producing a photograph that had mood, feeling and showed the ambience of the evening event. I would let the ETTL flash do its thing as it was a fast paced event however if I was setup in one area then manual flash would definitely be the best option as I could set flash based on location and just fire away.

I do have a few more tips with regards to flash photography and will cover these also in future articles.

Remember, practice, practice, practice, you never know everything about photography.