Getting a feel for flash?

Mach1320

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Any basic tips on flash? I mainly shoot cars, i'm starting to get a feel for night time stuff still messing around. If the vehicle is stationary i just crank my shutter speed down to 30 seconds and get fair results thus far, have only done this a couple times. The craziness with the lights is a little much for me IMO but my buddy really liked the picture

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I'm wanting to get night photos up at the starting line, the track has lights but not nearly enough to shoot without flash at night, this is one i took as the sun was going down, i was still ISO 100, it had totally slipped my mind to turn it up so i could keep shooting

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The only previous time I've tried flash i was on aperture priority mode and long story short the flash blew everything out super bright, blurry etc. Just a mess. I've been dabbling with full manual mode where i can for the last few months, and I'm getting the hang of it. I wish i could get the setting close just by looking around but im not there yet. I've seen the meter mentioned here and to be honest i never even used it.... I'd pick an aperture i wanted and take a stab at what shutter speed would work well. Usually takes a few tries before i have it where im happy. I've got light room and find it easier to bring a slightly bright photo down as opposed to trying to brighten one up.

Below is where the photos I'm talking about would be taken,

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And below is one from a previous trip, aperture priority mode, didnt come out well at all, i edited the hell out of it and people that see it think it looks cool but its not what i want.

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The blur is really the big thing for me, is flash easier than I'm making it out to be ? I dont really know where to start, I'm basically self taught and just try to absorb all the info i can find. My gut would say just crank up shutter speed and hope for the best and tune from there?
 

tirediron

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Flash is actually really easy; you just need to get over that initial hump. Once you get 'the feel' you will be fine. This is an EXCELLENT blog on speedlight work, and while it mainly talks about people, the theory's are the same. For work like you're doing, I always prefer manual flash & manual camera exposures. This allows you to balance the ambient exposure with flash to just the degree you want. To do this, learn and understand the guide-number method of flash exposure, and practice it until (Nikon example shown, get what you need) you can get it right (These days, "right" really means "close enough" or "in the ball-park"), and get yourself a remote flash cord so that you can get the flash off of the camera and point it where you want (which is usually a slightly different direction than the camera).

Once you learn to quickly estimate a flash exposure based on distance/conditions, this type of photography will become child's play, at least from a technical standpoint and you can concentrate on the artistic side. It does take some practice though, so once you've got the theory down-pat and installed an exposure app on your 'phone, or printed out GN tables, you will have to spend a couple of hours shooting, reviewing and adjusting.
 
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Mach1320

Mach1320

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There was some good info there, I think my flash is permanently fixed though I'll have to double check. I've got a D7100
 

Derrel

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A few tips. Settle on a "base set" of a few parameters. For example, ISO value of 200. Aperture value f/9 or f/10. Separate, hand-held speedlight with the quickest recyling power supply you have, either a Quantum battery, or a Made in China type of plug-in, multiple AA battery aftermarket power supply. Tripod.

Keeping the ISO and the aperture consistent hleps gauge the exposures needed, and also keeps the flash-to-subject distance less critical than if the lens is open wider like at say f/4.5 or whatnot. Keep the flash set to the same beam setting, like 35mm or 50mm, and NOT a super-wide value, and also not a super-tight beam spread like 105mm. Using 35mm or 50mm beamspread (35mm with APS-C, 50mm with a full-frame body) gives a nice, fairly wide, fairly even, moderately powerful flash pop, and the battery pack will allow you to "paint" areas over the basic exposure time, which is 15 to 45 seconds.

If you keep the ISO consistent, and the aperture consistent, and keep the flash output consistent, you ought to be able to work that way for a week or so, and get a very good mental picture of just how many "pops" it will take to paint your typical scenes.
 
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Mach1320

Mach1320

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^ Thanks, guess i need to just go out and try some settings and see what is a good place to start then. I'll prob hold off on that pricey of a flash until next year as for the time being I've got my eye on a 24-70 2.8 lens, I've been shooting everything with my 35mm prime and I'm dying for a little zoom
 

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