April 16, 2013
photo session: adding off-camera flash to bright daylight
Someone emailed me to ask a few technical details about this family photo session. How did you expose for the family photos? Was a soft-box used? Or did you expose for the shadows and use fill flash? For those who regularly follow the Tangents blog, the thought-process here should be familiar. Let’s take a walk through the process.
As described in the article, controlling bright daylight w/ direct off-camera flash, when trying to over-power the sun with flash, the best algorithm is usually:
- maximum flash sync speed,
- lowest ISO,
- find the aperture for your brightest area that you want to expose correctly for,
at that specific shutter speed and ISO.
Because the sun was hard, and high up already, the best start was to have their backs to the sun. This ensured no one would be squinting, and that I’d have a fighting chance with the single Nikon SB-910 Speedlight (B&H) inside the Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox (B&H) as the light-source I could directly control.
April 11, 2013
how do you meter for TTL flash & ambient light?
In taking these kinds of candid images, I set the camera so that there is enough light recorded on the test shots without flash. No real metering technique, but I judge by the LCD to see that there will be enough detail in the background. It is kinda the dragging the shutter technique, but not as specific perhaps. I just want some ambient light to register.
Then I simply use TTL flash to expose correctly for any subject which is turned away from the main source of ambient light – the window. Without flash, these kids’ features would be in deep shade relative to the rest. But the TTL flash lifts the exposure to where I want it to be … with everything well exposed.
It really is that simple, and this technique allows me to shoot fast, and get great candid shots by concentrating on the photography and not the specific settings all the time.
I used the Black Foamie Thing ™ to flag my flash and not hit people behind me in the face with a strong burst of flash.
The back-ground is quite well-lit, because in bouncing flash behind me, the background inevitably opens up a bit. Again, this is the inverse square law helping us out with bounce flash photography.
camera settings: 1/125th @ f4 @ 1250 ISO (FEC not recorded.)
So back to the question, how did I meter for the ambient light here? I didn’t. And I certainly did not meter for the white tones via the histogram method. The reason is – I don’t want to expose correctly for my ambient light. The light levels are too low – ie, I won’t get enough depth-of-field, at a good shutter speed, at a useful ISO … with good quality light on my subject. So I purposely want to under-expose for the ambient light. And then I add TTL flash. The TTL flash here is a dominant light source, and not mere fill-flash. Hence, carefully metering for the ambient light here isn’t all that useful.
January 16, 2012
exposure metering – let your background blow out!
Too often there’s the desire for us to bring the detail in our backgrounds back in by adding flash. But there are times when the image will be stronger if we just allow the background to completely blow out. It especially works in our favor if the background is cluttered, because then by letting the background completely over-expose, we can simplify our composition.
December 22, 2011
off-camera flash photography tip – find your background, then your settings
With flash photography on location, we nearly always start off by figuring out what we want to do in relation to our available light. We might just need fill-flash, or or flash might need to do the “heavy lifting” and expose correctly for our subject in relation to the available light.
When we have our subject in (relative) shade, and need to figure out our flash exposure, we also need to decide exactly what our background is. It usually works best to be specific about our background … and how we position ourselves and our subject in relation to that.
So let’s run through that thought-process, using the image at the top. Alex was our delightful model today during an individual workshop in Manhattan.
August 28, 2011
exposure metering & observing the available light
As a photographer you’ll often hear instruction to just “look at the available light”. Great. But this advice is also often given without clear examples of what we’re actually supposed to be looking at. So let’s explore that a little bit using a sequence of images of our model, Aleona, photographed during a recent individual photography workshop.
This is also keeping with the loose theme over the past few weeks, that for a photographer “using the available light” is not a random thing or just a meaningless catch-phrase.
June 1, 2011
photography exposure metering – expose for your subject
In preparation for my upcoming review of the Fuji X-100 camera, I met up with Anelisa to see how this little camera performed during an actual photo shoot. The image above was one of the photographs we ended up with. Now, there is something specific about it that I wanted to explain in a separate article, instead of it being glossed over deeper inside a camera review.
The composition is simple – I do like my compositions fairly central, it seems. Similarly, the lighting is simplicity itself – all available light. There were two main sources of light – the light inside the shopping mall entrance; and some very strong back-lighting flooding the place.
While the technique here hinged on specific exposure for the available light, there are a few crucial ideas here that I’d like to underline:
May 20, 2011
off-camera TTL flash
This image of Amy, one of our models at the Treehaven workshops, came up for discussion with the group of attendees. As a straight-forward on location portrait using off-camera flash, it is ideal for an overview again of how easy the ambient & flash exposure metering is.
The basic approach with this portrait was to expose for the ambient light in the background, making sure our subject is somewhat under-exposed … and then to add off-camera flash with a softbox. The first question that came up was – how did I meter for the ambient light?
February 2, 2011
which metering mode to use -
Matrix / Evaluative, or Center-weighted, or Spot-metering?
I noticed that search engine query come up in my web-stats – ‘which metering mode for outdoor photos’. So it might be a good idea to answer it specifically. Which metering mode should you use for outdoor photography? Or for that matter any kind of photography?
My approach is quite simple: Since I’m using manual exposure mode nearly exclusively, no matter which route I take to get to a specific shutter speed / aperture / ISO combination … I would be getting the exact same exposure regardless of which metering mode was used.
In this way, the metering technique is the essential factor, not the metering mode …
January 14, 2011
adding bounce flash to ambient light
Using images from a past workshop, I want to explain a simple concept with flash photography on location. In workshops and seminars I quite often describe the flash as ‘riding on top of’ the available light exposure. It’s just another way of describing the usual technique of under-exposing the ambient light somewhat, and then using flash to give correct exposure. We can thereby control the final look of the image by controlling the direction of light from our flash.
By using flash like this, we can use the flash to ‘clean up’ the light in the photograph.
This photograph of Crystal, our model at this workshop, was taken during the early evening. We were working outside, using some of the found surfaces to bounce flash off. The trick here is to find that combination of bounceable surface, a good background, and then to position your model so that the additional light from the flash adds to the final image. What I like about this specific image is how the sign (and the reflection of the sign) outside the hotel creates a halo around Crystal.
Here is the image without flash, and also a pull-back image to see what surface I bounced the flash off ..
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January 6, 2011
‘Hyper-Manual’ mode for Nikon and Canon
(subtitled: the episode where I finally learn now to use the Auto modes elegantly)
In my discussion of what would be the best camera in the world, I mentioned (at length) the clear advantage that Pentax cameras have because of their Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual modes. I explain these two modes in more detail in that linked article, but in essence, the modes work as such:
Hyper-Program – is a program exposure mode, but by dialing the shutter speed dial it becomes Shutter Priority / Tv. By dialing the aperture dial, you instantly have Aperture Priority / Av. Very simple implementation. And very elegant.
Hyper-Manual – is manual exposure mode like we’re used to. But you can hit the Exposure Lock button, and then when you change the aperture, the shutter speed setting follows. If you change the shutter speed then, the aperture follows. Absolutely wonderful for when you have correct exposure. You can now get a different working aperture or shutter speed, and still have the same exposure value. Less twisting of dials.
Since I don’t shoot much outside of Manual exposure mode, I don’t have experience with finessing the automatic modes. Then Eric Schwab wrote in to tell me how he implements Aperture Priority with his Nikon cameras, to get something akin to Hyper-Manual mode with his Nikon cameras. I checked on my Canon 5D, and it works the same way.
I’m sure it might take a short while for finger-memory to kick in, but I can easily see how this could be a standard way of shooting.
This might not be news to most photographers who regularly use Aperture Priority / Av, but I’d like to put the information out here anyway …