Metering for off-camera flash? – start with the ambient light!
In the tutorial on balancing flash with ambient light, various scenarios are listed in where we start with our camera settings. My advice is that we invariably have to start with the ambient light. That will anchor our decision to an extent, and will determine how the final image looks.
This photo is from a photography workshop I presented in Birmingham, UK in 2009. In the afternoon session we used softboxes with manual flash to photograph the two models. And yes, the models did indeed stop the pedestrian traffic.
Camera settings: 1/200th @ f4 @ 200 ISO
Camera settings were determined by how bright we wanted the background. Without flash, the models were completely under-exposed as you can see in this next photo without flash. This made it easy to light them with the softboxes to give proper exposure.
We purposely positioned them there in this pedestrian walkway between the shops. The camera settings were chosen so that our background exposed properly. Then we added manual flash in softboxes, and we metered for this to give us f4 @ 200 ISO, by using flashmeters and changing the power setting on the speedlights accordingly.
We used two softboxes, each with a Nikon SB-900 speedlight set to manual. We used one softbox to camera left, and one softbox behind them as a rim light. That background light was held up high, in about a 1 o’clock position to camera right .. juuust out of shot. (The flash behind them was the same power and distance as the main light.)
The background brightness did vary a fair amount as clouds moved in and out. So the background does appear a bit darker .. but that’s the beauty of using manual flash here .. it stays the same. We could of course compensate to an extent for the background brightness by changing our shutter speed – our only independent control for ambient light. Changing ISO and aperture for the ambient light, would also change the exposure for manual flash.
- Various scenarios: balancing flash with ambient light
- Tutorial – balancing flash and ambient
- Controlling bright daylight w/ direct off-camera flash (model: Molly K)
- Recap of previous photography workshops, with feedback from attendees.
Video tutorials to help you with flash photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.