How do you meter for TTL flash & ambient light?
In taking these kinds of candid images, I set the camera so that there is enough light recorded on the test shots without flash. No real metering technique, but I judge by the LCD to see that there will be enough detail in the background. It is kinda the dragging the shutter technique, but not as specific perhaps. I just want some ambient light to register.
Then I simply use TTL flash to expose correctly for any subject which is turned away from the main source of ambient light – the window. Without flash, these kids’ features would be in deep shade relative to the rest. But the TTL flash lifts the exposure to where I want it to be … with everything well exposed.
It really is that simple, and this technique allows me to shoot fast, and get great candid shots by concentrating on the photography and not the specific settings all the time.
I used the Black Foamie Thing ™ to flag my flash and not hit people behind me in the face with a strong burst of flash. The back-ground is quite well-lit, because in bouncing flash behind me, the background inevitably opens up a bit. Again, this is the inverse square law helping us out with bounce flash photography.
camera settings: 1/125th @ f4 @ 1250 ISO (FEC not recorded.)
So back to the question, how did I meter for the ambient light here? I didn’t. And I certainly did not meter for the white tones via the histogram method. The reason is – I don’t want to expose correctly for my ambient light. The light levels are too low – ie, I won’t get enough depth-of-field, at a good shutter speed, at a useful ISO … with good quality light on my subject. So I purposely want to under-expose for the ambient light. And then I add TTL flash. The TTL flash here is a dominant light source, and not mere fill-flash. Hence, carefully metering for the ambient light here isn’t all that useful.
All of this discussion was triggered by a question posted elsewhere …
Hi Neil. I love your books and have I think learned a lot. I finished Off-Camera Flash and am now on On-Camera Flash. There was one technique you emphasize that has me confused in terms of interpretation.
If you indicate that when you must use TTL flash, one should meter for ambient light first and then use the TTL flash. Are you implying that I should set the camera on M and then meter for the ambient light but then leave the flas on TTL ?
This was my assumption but I just wanted to know if that assumption is correct. I would appreciate clarification as this seems to be an important part of your TTL technique.
So there you have it. I don’t meter. But my camera settings aren’t entirely random, yet there is a lot of flexibility.
I need to juggle these three things:
– enough depth-of-field
– a shutter speed where I don’t risk too much subject movement
– an ISO setting that I am comfortable with, for the size that the images will be used.
With all that in mind, *I* choose my settings – and then the bounce flash gives me great quality light. I rely on TTL flash to get me correct exposure. And if I decide I can do better, I ride my flash exposure compensation.
It is all within my control now, and I can concentrate on the moments, and on my composition. The most important aspects of photography.
- Ambient exposure metering & TTL flash
- Bouncing flash
- Tutorial: Bounce flash photography
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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.