A Flash Accessory?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by settons, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. settons

    settons TPF Noob!

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    Hi Everyone,

    I’m looking for a little advice. I am not a professional, however I do take pride in my photographs and one day hope to someday take it a little more serious. At this stage, 90% of my photography time is directed towards my new son.

    I have a canon 40D and I recently purchased a 430EXII. I really like the flash for indoor photography in my home, because of the fact I can bounce the light off the ceiling. The problem I run into is when I am outside/in a building that I can’t bounce the light, I am running into trouble.

    I think that a need an accessory to help with this. What would you guys recommend? A bounce card? A Gary Fong Lightsphere II? Something else? Please help a rookie out.

    Thanks in advance.

    Dave
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The thing with flash accessories, is that there aren't any that are the best solution in all situations...and often, the ones that are good for some, are terrible for others.

    For example, the Lightsphere (Fong Dong), is great when you are in a small/medium sized room that has plenty of good surfaces to bounce the light off it. The light goes out in all directions and comes back to surround your subject. However, when you take that outside, or into a large room, almost all the light that spreads out, is wasted. If the surfaces are too far for effective bounce, then why send it out in those directions?

    The same is true for many accessories. They are great when in smaller spaces, and many of them are meant to be used when you are already bouncing the light. The very popular Omnibounce, for example. It's main purpose is to send some light forward (and around) when much of the light is bouncing off the ceiling.
    This is a good thing because when you are bouncing the light off of the ceiling, you can end up with shadows under eyes and such, similar to mid day lighting, so by sending some light forward, you can fill the shadows made by the bounced light.
    The Lumiquest 80-20 is a good example of this. It bounces 80% and sends 20% forward.

    So when you can't bounce, what should you use? Well, it depends on what you want to do. If you want to soften the light, you can only do two things. Increase the size of the source or move it closer to the subject. Merely placing some opaque plastic over the flash, will not really soften the light (unless it's bouncing off of other surfaces). I find it funny & sad when I see photographers using their bounce accessories outdoors, in situation when all they do is make your flash work much harder and use up your batteries...but I see it all the time.

    So what should you use. Well, you can use something that increases the effective size of your flash. I have a one of THESE, which increases the size of the light, thus making the light softer. I like that it's bendable, so that I can use it as a bounce card by flipping it up. I also have the lumiquest 80-20 and Promax kit, and I have the Demb 'Flip-it' Pro.

    It's fairly important to know what your flash accessory is doing to your light...and to recognize when it's best to abandon it. For example, when you subjects aren't close and you can't bounce effectively. It may be best to just shoot the flash straight on. Or when you are outdoors and fighting bright light, you may need all the power you can get, which is the bare flash head.

    The thing with all these accessories, is that they disturb the 'beam' of light that comes from the flash head. The flash head works like a Fresnel lens, directing the light out in an efficient beam...but when you put a silly plastic hat on the flash, your working range is severely limited.

    Of course, there are many many 'DIY' methods that work just as well as all these products. And a simple bounce card works as well as many of them anyway.

    They key is to know and understand your flash and light.
     
  3. MrBarney

    MrBarney TPF Noob!

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    Mike - Presumably your advice is more for candid and unplanned shots, and a reflector and an assistant or stand would be better for posed shots?
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I can't see the images of this thread from another forum because of my work computer, but I think this is what I wanted to share.

    Bounce card percentages
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yes,

    I should have mentioned that the 'best' path to 'better' light in your photos, is to get the light source away from the camera. Bouncing the flash is one way to do this, but it's dependent on a surface to bounce off of.

    By actually getting the flash off the camera, you open up a whole new world of possibilities. But I think that is beyond the scope of what the OP was asking here.
     
  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Blanket Statement: Big Mike's commentaries and observations on the use of flash, flash modifiers, flash size in relation to subject size, and flash size in relation to flash-to-subject distance, value of NOT using umbrellas over long distances or in huge rooms with the flash is a long distance away from the subjects,etc,etc. --ALL those subjects and topics are ones where Big Mike's opinions are in agreement with longstanding principles and practices observed by top shooters. On the subject of flash, flash diffusers, flash modifiers, and when to go diffused versus bare-flash, Big Mike's posts consistently reflect understanding and knowledge of both the theory and the practice of flash illumination. THIS GUY KNOWS WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT on flash topics.
     
  7. settons

    settons TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike....thanks so much for the detailed answer.

    I think I follow what you are saying. The problem I have is when I'm outdoors or in a large room I can't bounce the light off, I don't know how to position the flash. If I put it straight on, it looks I'm using my headlight system, but if I don't its too dark. What would you do in this type of a situation?
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think I just found my new signature. :blushing:

    :lol:
     
  9. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    Mike, I don't want to hijack this thread but ...

    Based on what you are saying (if I read correctly), my Lumiquest softbox shouldn't be diffusing for me when I am shooting macros outside in my garden. This is basically just a translucent white plastic interposed between my flash and subject. Empirically, however, it is clearly reducing the glare on bugs compared with my bare 430EX. What am I missing here?
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's a judgment call that you have to make. If you can't improve the 'quality' of your light, by bouncing it or using some accessory, is 'full frontal flash' going to be better than no flash at all?

    Also, I think it might be time to branch off to another topic, and that is balancing your flash with ambient light.
    One of the main things that people don't like about flash (on-camera flash) is that their photos tend to look like they were shot in a cave. A bright subject with a dark background.
    This is usually a result of using the auto modes and a lack of understanding....and as such, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.

    Every flash photo is actually two exposures. One is from the flash and the other is from the ambient light. Most times, the two will line up or one is way more 'powerful' than the other, so we don't realize that it's two exposures.
    The flash exposure is a result of the lens aperture and the light from the flash. The ambient exposure is a result of the lens aperture and the shutter speed.

    Now, the problem that comes from using the auto mode, is that most cameras won't let the shutter speed drop below 1/60. So with the lens at it's max aperture and a shutter speed of 1/60, you won't have enough light to get a nice exposure, in a wedding reception hall, for example. Really, most 'dark' locations where might typically use flash.
    Then consider that the flash probably won't light up the whole room. Light falls off over distance (inverse square to the distance), so if your subject is 6 feet away, and the flash gives you enough light for them, it won't be enough for the background. If it's enough for the background, the subject turns into a white ghost.

    So, the problem is that the flash exposure and the ambient exposure are not in balance....but you can often fix that by slowing down the shutter (longer shutter speed), often called 'dragging the shutter'. This gives you more ambient exposure, but because the shutter speed doesn't affect the flash exposure, your two exposures get closer to being balanced.

    Sometimes it's easy, and it works out well. Sometimes the shutter speed that you would need, is really really slow, which will give you blurriness in the ambient exposure...so it's a compromise that you have to figure out.

    Also, you can adjust the flash exposure by adjusting the flash power. If you use your flash in its auto mode (E-TTL for Canon), then you can use the FEC (flash exposure compensation) to adjust it. Or you can use the flash in manual mode and just dial the power up or down.

    So by playing with the two separate exposures, you can balance them (or not), to get the shot you want.
    Although, like I said, it's often a compromise and you have to make a judgment call.
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well, it is 'softening' the flash because it's increasing the size of the light source, in relation to the subject. And when you are dealing with macro, you are so close to the subject, that increasing the size of the light, has a rather dramatic effect.

    Also, I'm sure it's a lot more complicated that my simplification of it. When you talk about glare, it might be caused by the particular properties of the light...and even putting plastic or something in front of the flash, will change it's properties beyond 'softening'.

    The good part is that it's very easy (with digital) to test different things and find what works.
     
  12. supraman215

    supraman215 TPF Noob!

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    So I picked up a Gary Fong pop up flash diffuser. The opaque piece of plastic you mentioned. But it seems like it makes a difference in softening the light. Is that all in my head? I'm not not trying to be smart, I really want to know.
     

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