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bounce flash and slow shutter speeds

Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
edited December 2010 in flash & lighting
Mark Smith asked:


I have a question but don’t know where to comment/ask on your blog, I follow it EVERYDAY, thanks for doing what you do to help US.

SO, here we go:
What is the slowest you would want to handhold, with bounced on or off camera flash at a reception?
Something to let ambient light in, 1/30?

I used your black foamie thing this weekend at a dark lit restaurant reception. they didn’t allow OCF.

So to keep from having the images in a black hole, I set to 1600iso on a Canon 5D classic, I was using a 35mm F2.0 set to f2.0, and ended up having to shoot anywhere from 1/30-1/50 with ETTL 580ex on Cam with Black Foamee adding direction of light. The pics look nicely focused, but can you go less than 1/30sec or should I go to ISO3200- I’m afraid of noise.

I was starting to get confused with metering, I actually centered out the meter and let the ETTL flash do what it will, I DID NOT adjust the FEC on flash?

What do you do when the head table in a dark room is set up against a row of windows with very bright conditions outside?



  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited December 2013
    Hi there Mark ..

    This is one of those instances where it is difficult giving specific values.

    It depends on ..
    - how much lower the ambient light in the background is, compared to your flash,
    - how much lower the ambient light is on your subject, compared to your flash,
    - how much subject movement you AND your clients will like / tolerate.
    - how much movement there is.

    This is where digital is such a boon for us. We can look at our previews and see if we like what we see.

    This is actually easier and better than guessing before-hand without actually being there to see the shooting scenario.

    In general though, I don't like going much lower than 1/30th, although I do go lower. I often go much higher though, if a couple is dancing and the videographer has his light on. Then I would rather go to a higher shutter speed like 1/125 or faster, and use a wider aperture and high ISO.

    If you don't like the look of 3200 ISO or fear digital noise, keep it to 1600 ISO or maybe one notch higher. You don't need ... in fact, you might not WANT accurate ambient exposure. You get great results by under-exposing your ambient to some extent, and then exposing correctly with flash.

    Re your final scenario ... I would usually just let the background blow out. But to get some detail back in, you need to be at maximum flash sync speed.

    Neil vN
  • Hi Mark,
    An ambient of -1.5 to -2EV is what you would aim for, alas in certain circumstances (and happening more often than not) this will not be "hand holdable" anymore and you'll have to deal with some ghosting in your images (make sure you set the flash on second curtain)

    As for the bright background head table, chances are if it is that bright, the people sitting there will be uncomfortable as well. You might as well talk to the couple to have the venue close the blinds behind them (there's always blinds or drapes or something). Mention in passing you're not getting proper shots of them :-)... Or just as Neil suggests, expose for the faces and let the background blow up. Eventually the sun will set and you'll get the background too for a few minutes :-).

    Good Luck!

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