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Proper exposure using camera in manual mode, with TTL flash

mrharrison1mrharrison1 Member
edited January 2015 in flash & lighting
If I use on camera speedlite flash (handholding my camera) and manual mode does my EV on the camera have to be centred at 0 to get the correct exposure? I end up having to wack my iso way up or my shutter speed remains what appears to be way too low.


  • MikeZMikeZ Member
    edited January 2015
    Are you using ttl flash or manual flash power settings? It sounds like you are saying you are using manual camera settings here.

    This link may help. http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/flash-exposure-compensation/ There are variables to this in dealing with exposure. Speaking of exposure compensation and flash exposure (EC vs FEC) are very different.

    Expose for your subject properly using shutter, iso, and aperture (which would be 0 on your in camera meter) and you don't need flash, so to speak. Expose for your surroundings and if that leaves your main subject dark, you add flash as you desire to see your subject. How this happens and if you are using manual flash or ttl flash changes the outcome.
  • Remember that light is additive; so if you center the light meter in manual mode then add light via a speedlite your subject will be overexposed.  The preferred technique is to underexpose for the ambient light by about one stop then add light from the speedlite.  Your camera should have two separate meters (the location of the meters vary by camera brand) that show you both the ambient light metering and the flash meter.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Mr Harrison .. just so we start from the same point:
    your camera is in manual ... and your flash is in manual too? (or TTL?)

    In any case, start HERE:   

    Go over that carefully, and I think things might fall into place for you. 
  • This sounds like an issue I was having when I first found this website. I was inside taking pictures of people at a wedding, trying to capture people dancing and such. I was using E-TTL flash. I was centering the exposure meter to zero, but the shutter speed was unrealistic to do what I wanted. At the end of the night, after I knew I wasn't getting the shots I wanted, I set the camera shutter speed to what I knew would freeze motion on the dance floor (it was something like 1/100 - 1/125), with an almost-wide-open aperture. The meter was probably 3 stops underexposed, but the shots were great. Of course, after finding this forum, I learned this was all OK, the meter gives you the ambient exposure, and the flash pretty much does the rest. I hope I'm not too far off with this point of view.

    I guess after that I would have to ask 'what are you trying to photograph?" If the subject has little or no motion your settings will be different than people running, jumping, dancing, etc.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    No no no ... you can't zero your camera's meter like that when using flash in low light. 
    The FLASH is taking care of the exposure. 
  • Hi, Neil - not sure if your last post was meant for me, but if it was: I absolutely understand what you have written, but when I was new with a DSLR at that wedding in September, I didn't understand. I was only chiming in because I felt as though I had a similar situation to the original poster. At the beginning of the reception, I thought I was doing things correctly by zeroing the meter, but things were not right, and I wasted a lot of shots because there was a lot of blurry photos. Towards the end of the reception, I knew I had to freeze motion, so my priority was shutter. The flash then had to work harder, but I got some good shots. BUT, and this was why I eventually ended up on your website, the exposure meter was pegged to the left, and I didn't understand how or why I was getting good shots. Now I do, and I have a good bit of confidence that I do.
  • Thanks, guys. So what I am picking up is that you ignore the camera light meter position-it is okay if it isn't at 0-and you use flash exposure compensation instead. Does that sound right?
  • I am talking about using automatic flash TTL/ETTL.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited January 2015
    Yes, exactly that. 

    Read that linked article.

    In the end, you want your exposure to be correct.
    When the light levels are too low, then 
     - set your aperture for the DoF you need, and
     - set a decent ISO  (not too low; not crazy high), and 
     - set a shutter speed where you allow some available light in (but not crazy low), 
    and then you allow the TTL flash to take up the slack in exposure. 

    So in that scenario, I would most definitely NOT zero my exposure reading in my camera. 

    I wouldn't necessarily use FEC, unless you need to bump your flash exposure in one direction of the other. 

    Keep the FEC to zero, or perhaps +0.3 or even +0.7
    But don't over-think it now in the same way you tried to zero your meter, by now going over-board the other way and dialing in a positive FEC because you think the TTL flash will have to be brighter. That's not how it works.

    read this article: flash exposure compensation
  • Hi Neil

    Could you include a picture of the black thing placed on a speedlite,you talk about as being better when bouncing flash.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The details about the Black Foamie Thing were in that first link I posted: 

  • MikeZMikeZ Member
    edited January 2015
    Mrharrison should be grinning ear to ear with all the info that just got handed over!!

    I spent years web hunting for REAL photography information before I came across Neil's site here. I have no other resource where such vast amounts of info is just freely shared. To be honest I find everything answered here as soon as I think of the question. I have been amazed by this site for years now and just wanted say my piece :)

    I know this site has cleared up so much for so many people. Thanks Neil.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Yep, grinning like a rat with a gold tooth as we say here in Oz.
  • Ha! Or like a kid in a candy store!
  • MikeZ - Absolutely right about this resource. I look here frequently to read new questions/concerns/thoughts from people, always look for new stuff posted to Tangents, and certainly follow and read a lot of the links.
  • Thanks to all for the quick and insightful help. Neil, of all the vid tuts I have bought on flash, I have found yours the best. You explain well. Maybe it is also because as a South African, I cope well with the accent. LOL.
  • groomsphotogroomsphoto Member
    edited February 2015
    buy Neil's books! spend many happy hours reading and practicing what you learn there. a small investment for a great return.

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