Making flash not look like flash:
I use flash very often in my professional work and personal work. But I try and make the use of flash not appear intrusive in the photograph. I nearly always have an on-camera flash, but I try to diffuse it or bounce it wherever possible. I use as little direct flash as I can, except outdoors where I try and use available light, and use flash only to lift the shadows and reduce the contrast. However, sometimes it is just best to overpower the ambient light with flash – but still try to make it look natural, ie, not like flash.
Let’s start off with these few photos. They were all done using flash on camera.
You’ll note that there is no discernable flash shadow. I absolutely loathe a distinct flash shadow. So that’s the ideal that I always strive for – that it shouldn’t be obvious that I didn’t just use existing light. It isn’t always possible, but that is what I try for in every photograph.
|This was shot at f2, with flash bounced directly behind me into the open room to just help lift the shadows. Note, there is NO flash shadow.I purposely didn’t use a diffuser dome / Stofen omnibounce here, since it would’ve thrown too much flash directly forward. I needed all the flash to be indirect.
My choice of settings here were dictated by the available light, and I just used a hint of flash by bouncing it into the huge room behind me. At f2, and as fill, I didn’t need to blast a ton of light from my strobe.
|Flash bounced over my left shoulder. Note that there is NO direct flash, and hence no flash shadow.specific settings:
Nikon 28-70mm f2.8
1/250th @ f4 @ 400 iso
manual; matrix metering
TTL flash: +1 exp comp
The high shutter speed was a specific choice so that the stained-glass window wouldn’t be blown out, but instead retain the colours. The bride was entirely lit by bounced flash, so by controlling my shutter speed (for my chosen aperture and iso), I could match the exposure for the window.
I bounced flash off that sand-coloured brickwork, and this did affect my colour balance – but since I shoot in raw, correcting the WB was no effort.
With those two photos different flash exposure compensation was set.
In the first image, the flash was used as subtle fill-flash, and therefore the flash compensation was dialed down.
In the 2nd image, the bride’s face is lit entirely by flash. Hence my flash is my main source of light. So I would have to start somewhere around 0 EV compensation. But from experience I knew that the lighter toned face, and white dress and the backlighting would influence my flash exposure. So I dialled in more flash exposure.
In this next image, I bounced my on-camera strobe off the wall directly behind me.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give regarding using bounce flash, is not to get stuck on the idea that you need a ceiling above you to bounce flash. Look around for other surfaces that can be used.
By making my light source larger than just the area of the small flash tube, I am immediately making my light softer. And this is exactly the reason why we bounce flash.
|Before setting this up, I made a few test shots to see that the city lights are correctly exposed. Then I positioned the couple.Because I wanted to move around, I decided to use TTL and not manual flash – but this meant I had to bracket my exposures and ride my flash compensation.
The slow shutter speed is to allow the city lights to record.
Because the flash and the city lights are vastly different in colour temperature, I fixed it in post-production. With raw, it was little effort to create two images with different WB settings, and then combining them with layers in Photoshop.
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