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On Camera Flash - Small Groups

dmcdtcdmcdtc Member
edited April 2014 in home
Lets just say you're in a restaurant, reception hall, house party, etc and you want to take pics of small groups of people. You're just walking around snapping pics of various people at an event. Situations change from table to table or group to group so you're not really looking to bounce flash everywhere.

How do you handle when you're just shooting people in these situations? Flash facing forward? BFT bouncing off ceiling? Flash up or 45 with diffuser? Any other ideas?

I know the info is vague and all situations are different. You're basically just working a room doing candid snapshots. Lets just say you're at a party or out with a group of friends and you're shooting away.

Here are my general thoughts... Probably ISO 400/800. F5.6 or wider. I would typically use flash straight up with a diffuser. I have a Nikon D700 so I'm not shooting in an Auto mode. Do you use Aperature, Manual mode?

I have a good understanding of bounce flash. Especially posed shots when you're taking your time, etc. As silly as it sounds I get nervous how my pics are gonna turn out when I'm in these situations and want to take what I call 'general' pics.

I know there's no magical settings...that is not what I'm looking for. I'm just looking for thoughts on how you use your flash regarding position, tilt, diffuser, etc.

Neil...do you have a tangent/tutorial on this?


  • Been there often. Three words for you: bounce, bounce, bounce. If possible (I find it impossible with dark cathedral ceilings). And behind you and up rather than straight up to ceiling. Yes BFT. The plastic diffuser becomes more or less necessary if you can't bounce. Problem is shadows if there are walls behind subjects. These gadgets also tend to give you flat lighting on faces. But when I use them the flash is straight up at High noon. Shoot on manual. I use D700 too. I usually have flash on TTL and adjust up or down with flash exposure comp. For settings I just get the aperture as high as I can since with these parties it's usually several people and you want everyone in focus, and you're usually close up to them. So I try to go at least 5.6 and ideally 8, higher for the dreaded table shots (which should be outlawed but until they are.......).
  • ZenonZenon Member
    Crank the ISO. I have little knowledge about Nikon especially the D700 but I do know the less harder the flash works (for all camera makers) the more natural your images look.
  • My $0.02 is I would use M mode, set your shutter for what you need (eg. to freeze the subjects or whatever you're looking to do), set the appropriate aperture for the DOF you need, then adjust the ISO so you are getting a slight ambient underexposure, then add TTL flash (consider REAR sync mode too if you need it with slow-ish shutter speeds). So for indoors, ISO would likely be higher than your suggested 400 or 800. That's ok, especially with the D700.

    If you set the ambient exposure too low, you're going to get well exposed subjects against a mostly dark background. The higher ISO's will retain the feel of the scene. I would bounce off what you can (walls, ceilings) and not use the diffuser because I find that sprays too much light straight forward.
  • All great advice. I'm trying to break out of the diffuser habit so I've got to get myself comfortable bouncing instead of spraying. Just trying not to get caught up in fiddling with the settings and missing the shot.

    I shoot M so that's not a prob. I'll be at a bar shortly watching the Hawks game and will prob bring camera to shoot friends that'll be there. Probably will Pre-meter first so I get an idea where I need to be. Gonna leave the diffuser home so it forces me BFT bounce.

    Further advice always welcome.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    dmcdtc said: Probably ISO 400
    Do you need your ISO this low?
    dmcdtc said: Do you use Aperature, Manual mode?
    Always Manual exposure mode on the camera.

    I photograph small groups of people by bouncing my flash behind me. No diffuser cup.
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