When should I use flash? What is a fill flash? Guest Joe Fitzpatrick explains the what, why, how and when of flashes and speedlites both on-camera and off-camera flash (OCF) for optimal lighting of your subject indoors or out.
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Speedlite Basics – Understanding Your Flash
with Joe Fitzpatrick
Types of Lighting
- On-Camera Pop-up Flash
– Very limited range and power
– Hooked up directly to camera system
– Limited control
- On or off-camera speedlite
– More power and control than a pop-up flash
– Rated by a Guide # – measures the relative brightness at a particular distance and ISO
– Difference between 430 power and 580 power is about 1 stop of light.
– Need a link to the camera for communication.
– Cable connection, RF signal, or Optical signal
- Studio lighting
- Light reflected or bounced off a nearby surface/wall – be wary of the COLOR of the wall
“The camera is set for the ambient light and the flash should be set for the subject you’re trying to illuminate.”
When to Use Additional Lighting
- To fill in shadows.
- In a high-contrast situation (with a close subject – cannot be used for grand landscapes).
- When keeping ISO at a minimum to reduce noise level and there’s not enough light.
“If you can get the meter to zero with a slower shutter speed (1/60s) and then add flash, you’ll get a more natural looking picture.”
- Fills in the shadows with additional light.
- Always use outside in bright sun to eliminate deep shadows on faces.
- Make sure light hits your subject at eye level or slightly higher and not from underneath.
- Position the flash to give the best modeling of the face without creating harsh shadows.
Exposure Compensation Systems
- Camera – controls the ambient light for regular exposure.
- Flash – can compensate by raising or lowering the intensity to balance the light.
Manual vs. TTL
– You are in control of everything.
– Trial and error adjustments.
- TTL (Though The Lens)
– Computers calculate the flash intensity needed to illuminate your subject.
– Can be controlled through camera menus manually.
Other Tips for Flash
- Get the most powerful speedlites you can afford – you can always dial down the power, but you can’t increase it beyond it’s current capacity if you need it.
- Off-brand lights are cheap for a reason!
- Flashes are easily repaired – it’s ok to buy used.
- Keep your batteries charged!
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