Harsh lighting help

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Boomn4x4, May 26, 2010.

  1. Boomn4x4

    Boomn4x4 TPF Noob!

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    Being new to non-point-and-shoot photography, I'm still pretty green in the "lighting" department. This weekend I ran into a big road block that just left me stupmed... Due to some harsh lighting contrasts, I just couldn't make it work. I'd like to see if any of the pro's out there had some change (toss in your $0.02) they could offer.

    I was out on the boat in heavy overhead light, but under a canopy. As you can see in this first picture, my subjects are underexposed

    [​IMG]

    I tried compensating with some fill flash. It properly exposed my subjects, but that left the background blown out... and some pretty harsh shadows. A big question I have here is, is the blow out and the shadows the result of using an inferrior popup flash? Would a better flash cure some of these problems?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    The blown out background is a result your your exposure settings.

    Keep in mind that every flash photo is actually two exposures, one is the ambient exposure (usually the background) and the other is the flash exposure. There is usually some overlap (there is ambient light on the subjects as well).

    Next, you should know that the ambient exposure is determined by the aperture, shutter speed & ISO. The flash exposure however, is determined by the aperture, the ISO, the power of the flash and the distance from flash to subject. (not the shutter speed). So knowing that shutter speed doesn't affect the flash exposure, you can use it to control the ambient exposure, separate from the flash exposure.

    So going back to your situation, you may have been able to use a faster shutter speed, which could have prevented the overexposure of the background.

    The catch is that cameras have a max sync speed...the fastest shutter speed at which flash will sync with the shutter. On your camera, it's probably 1/200 or 1/250. So when shooting in bright light, and being limited to 1/200, you may need a small aperture (maybe F16) to keep the ambient from blowing out. The problem with that, is that a smaller aperture requires more flash power....and that's where your built-in flash is lacking. At F16, your working range is only a couple feet.
    An accessory flash will probably have a lot more power, allowing your more power/range, thus allowing you to better balance the exposures.

    Also, there is a mode called high speed sync (HSS in Canon, Nikon calls it something else). This mode allows you to shoot with flash at higher shutter speeds, but also limits your working range.

    Typically, what I do is to put the camera into Manual mode when using flash. I set the aperture and shutter speed to get the ambient exposure I want, then the flash (in E-TTL mode) matches it's power to the aperture setting I have. I can then use the shutter speed to control the ambient exposure.

    As for the harsh shadows (and or flat lighting), yes, that is a results of the built in flash. It's a small light source, which makes the light hard...and it's close to the lens, which makes the light flat. An accessory flash gets the flash a little further from the lens, but most also tilt & swivel, which allow you to bounce the light, which makes it softer and more directional.
    The best case scenario is that you get an off-camera light source, this way you can control the light with more freedom.
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Sticky that concise explanation! Well done Mike! :thumbup::D

    Strobed light is very useful, even in the daytime, and should be used more frequently than it is.

    As can be seen from reading Mikes explanation, it helps if you have a good understanding of how your camera and stobe unit work.

    About the only points Mike didn't make is that the duration of strobed light is short and can be used instead of shutter speed to stop motion, and that it's usually best to have the strobe fire at the end of the exposure (rear or second curtain sync) rather than the begining of the exposure (front or first curtain sync, usually the default setting).

    At full power the flash duration of most speedlights or built-in strobes is around 1/1000. At lower power settings the flash duration gets even shorter and can get as short as perhaps 1/40,000 of a second at the lowest power settings.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2010
  4. Boomn4x4

    Boomn4x4 TPF Noob!

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    Whoah..... Baby steps.... I'll worry about motion is lesson #2.

    And yes... Mike's explaination did in a few short paragraphs what I was unable to absorb in a conglomerate of readings. :thumbup:
     
  5. Big Mike

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

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    Wait until you get a chance to play with it and put it into action....when you do it and see the results...it's usually an 'Ah Ha' moment. :D
     
  6. Boomn4x4

    Boomn4x4 TPF Noob!

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    I had read about it, and dabbled with it on some pool balls and got a few "that's kinda neat" reactions out of it... But combine the amount of beer that was flowing at the time and the "Dude, quit being a douche, you're in my way" comments that I was getting, my dabbling was short lived.
     

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