Flash Lighting ?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by mommync2, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. mommync2

    mommync2 TPF Noob!

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    I just got a Nikon D60 with two lens. I am not in a position financially that I can get an off board flash. Can someone please tell me the major difference between the on and off board flash? I understand that the on board flash is harsh light but can you correct this during post processing in photoshop? Is there some other things I could try instead of an additional flash at this time? Sorry for all the questions. Any advice or tips would be appreciated.
    Thanks.
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Do you mean what's the difference between the pop-up flash and a speedlight?

    Even when used on camera the Speedlight flash head is significantly farther away from the lens axis than the pop-up flash. As long as the flash is at least 6 inches from the lens axis red-eye is almost impossible in adult subjects.

    Speedlights are usually more powerful.

    Speedlights may have additional features such as built in remote control, high speed sync, strobe, etc....

    Speedlights can be used off camera with cords or wireless.

    Try working with natural or available light. Use DIY reflectors such as white poster board or even a white towel.

    http://stephensphotography.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/a-window-light-portrait/

    Check out Strobist.com. If you are willing to learn to control flashes manually you can use ultra cheap flashes if necessary.
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    The problems with the built-in flash are that it's not very powerful and it's small and rather close to the lens. Being close to the lens, the light hits the subject at about the same angle as the lens see....and that makes for very 'flat' light. Combine flat light and over exposure...and you get what a lot of people would call 'harsh' lighting.

    An 'off-board' (accessory, hot-shoe etc) flash will sit higher up on the camera, but that's not it's main benefit. Many of them can tilt and swivel...this allows you to bounce the light off of a surface like a wall or ceiling. This changes the direction of the light hitting the subject, which is the probably #1 thing you can do to improve your photography. Further to that, if you can actually get the flash off of the camera, that is another way to get 'directional' light.

    As for other things to try...just shoot whatever you can. You just got your camera so have fun with it. You certainly don't need a flash to shoot most things. After you have played and experimented with what you have, then you will be in a better position to know what you might want to get next.
     
  4. ChrisOquist

    ChrisOquist TPF Noob!

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    This is absolutely key. If you ever thought you hated flash because of the atrocious results your pop-up flash gave you - pick up a Speedlight or two and shoot wireless. Your control over the light and the effects you can achieve is incredible.
     
  5. phogan22

    phogan22 TPF Noob!

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    [​IMG][​IMG]




    This is one reason to get a speedlite :D

    cool effects, try this one out. cheap, and I use it a ton
     
  6. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The technology of taking photographs in low light advances all the time. However, until someone comes up with a camera that can take a perfect exposure in pitch darkness, we will continue to need the flash.

    Flashes come in three basic flavors:
    - Built-in on our cameras
    - A separate flash that we slide into the hotshoe slot on top of our cameras
    - Off camera flash

    Knowing the limitations and advantages of each help us to know how and when to use each one of these tools.

    Let's take a look at these one at a time

    The flash thats built into most of our cameras.

    The advantages:
    - Convenient
    - Easy to use (usually controlled automatically)
    - No additional costs (comes with the camera)
    - Can be used to light up the scene to some extent

    The Disadvantages:
    - Limited range
    - Limited width
    - Quality of the results is not often very pleasing (often flat, lifeless)
    - Becuase of it's location, causes the infamous red-eye in your subjects
    - If using the macro fuction, often cannot light your subject due to lens or camera interfereance
    - Consumes camera batteries reducing number of pictures on can take on a single charge


    The external flash that we place on top of our cameras.
    The advantages:
    - Convenient
    - Easy to use (usually controlled automatically)
    - Increased range over the built-in flash
    - Increased width over the built-in flash
    - Can be used during the day for increased photo quality
    - Quality of the results is superior to the built-in flash
    - In some cases it is possible to control manually

    The Disadvantages:
    - Adds a little weight to the camera
    - There are additional purchase costs
    - Becuase of it's location, it can cause the infamous red-eye in your subjects
    - If using the macro fuction, can potentially not light your subject due to lens or camera interfereance, but less chance of this happening than in the case of the built-in flash.
    - If not used properly, the results can often be flat and lifeless


    Off camera flash
    The advantages:
    - Increased range
    - Increased width
    - Increased Dynamics
    - Can be used during the day for increased photo quality (fill flash)
    - Quality of the results is superior to the built-in flash
    - In many cases it is possible to control manually
    - Most versatile
    - No additional weight on the camera
    - Easy to eliminate red-eye
    - Offers the best results
    - Offers near limitless creative freedom

    The Disadvantages:
    - Ease of portability becomes a consideration
    - There are additional purchase costs higher than the above two options
    - There is some additional learning needed to acheive good results

    Ok, now we know the pluses and minuses... lets take a look at using these technologies!

    The built-in camera flash:
    Not much to do here, it really is point and shoot. They are not adjustable in any way and the camera controls the flash strength and duration. Often they are prone to over-exposing but this is easily fixed by taping a small tissue or other translucent paper over the front of the light. There really is not much more than can be said about this technology. It really is the most limiting and the results are hard to control or change.


    The external flash that we place on top of our cameras:
    Now we have moved into a solution that can potentially offer some very nice advantages over the small built-in solution. We have a flash that can offer us a longer and wider range. But, wait, we have that red-eye to contend with right? Yes we do, but there is a relatively simple solution, if your flash supports it... and that is to bounce it.

    When one talks about bouncing flash, they mean that they tilt the head of the flash upwards and bounce the light off the ceiling. Some of the better flashes on the market not only swivel up and down, but can swivel from side to side. That means that we can not only bounce off the ceiling, but off the walls in any of the directions we may need to at the moment. The result is that we now have a picture that looks more naturally lit and since we did not fire directly forward, we stopped annoying your subjects. We've also now totally eliminated red-eye.

    Great, we now know how to take a photo thats much better than blasting the subject with a directly aimed flash by bouncing. We get to where the subject is, look up and... uh-oh, we're outside, what now? If I raise the flash now, it just goes off into space, and if I lower the flash, I blast them with that direct beam of light that will give me red-eye and a flat lifeless picture. What do I do now?

    We need to do something that will diffuse the flash, thats what. For that, we have a couple of options. We can use a diffuser (they often come with the flash), or use an aftermarket diffuser. The aftermarket carries many solutions for us. A fast google of items like a "lightsphere" or a "Gary Fong diffuser" or just "diffuser" will net you all kinds of results. Typically, though, I find diffusers expensive for what they do and there are cheaper and possibly more effective alternatives.

    On some flashes like Nikon's SB-800, already come with a diffuser *and* a bounce card built right into it and do a wonderful job of diffusing and spreading the light across a scene beautifully. I prefer to use a bounce card instead of a diffuser for better results (IMHO). If you do not have an integrated bounce card, why not make your own? It can be no harder than having access to a rubber band and a piece of white paper cut to a particular shape and use the rubber band to hold said paper in place on your flash. I bet if you went and visited www.abetterbouncecard.com that you would get all kinds of ideas. Problem solved!

    Ok, so now we have a beautifully lit subject... but the background is still not where we want or need for it to be lit. This is where I tell you to take that camera OFF of "P" or "Program" or "Auto" mode and start thinking more intelligently than any camera ever can for you!

    When a camera sees or detects that there is a flash on it, the first thing it wants to do is use the fastest flash sync speed, and usually 1/200th or 1/250th of a second. While great for freezing action or aiding in lighting up your subject, we can set our camera to manual or shutter priority mode and lower shutter speeds to something like 1/125th or 1/60th or maybe as low as 1/30th. The result will be that the camera uses and captures some of the ambient light in the room and uses it to it's advantage. This comes in especially handy if we are using apertures with deeper depth of fields and we want people or objects well lit and we don't want them to fade away into the bokeh.

    First thing you may ask yourself is, if I am letting more light in overall, won't the foreground overexpose? No. If you are still taking advantage of and using TTL, it will automatically compensate. The result, a properly exposed foreground and a background that is now better visible. Oh, but what I set the flash to manual? Easy. Drop it down manually so that your subject is properly metered.

    Surprise, we've just discovered something rarely touched on in photography... light has a depth of field too! We've also discovered that it is more often than not, controlled by aperture and flash intensity.
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    ??? I think I understand what you are getting at, but I don't think it's appropriate to refer to it as DOF. Do you mean the inverse square law?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_of_field

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverse-square_law
     
  8. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It is commonly referred to as depth of field. The inverse square law applies only to light. I control NOT howfast the light falls off based on distance, becuase the distance stays the same... yet can control how far behind your subject you can see.

    I use flash strength and/or aperture and light distance never changes yet I can either light or totally blacken my background.

    Like in this article I wrote. ;)
     
  9. mommync2

    mommync2 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone for all of the great information. I've ordered two of the flashes that were recommended. I can't wait for them to come arrive.

    Thanks again.
     
  10. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Specifically what did you order?
     
  11. mommync2

    mommync2 TPF Noob!

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    I ordered two Quantaray MS-1 Wireless Flash Booster/Slave like phogan22 recommended.

     
  12. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I am interested in hearing your thoughts once you get them and test them out some. :)

    I do not think it would be something that I would buy as the are not strong enough for my needs nor can I add a Cactus receiver to it.

    Oh... make sure your camera flash is not set to TTL for these to trigger properly. :)
     

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