Help please!

jmtonkin

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I'm trying to get better with my SB-900, and have been doing a lot of practicing with it. I am really struggling with bouncing the light. It seems like such a simple concept, but I always get undesirable results. When I bounce the light, the top portion of the shot is much brighter than the lower half and it looks bad. Am I doing something very wrong or is this just a fact that I need to accept and move on with?

Here is a sample shot that somewhat conveys the issue. This wasn't really anything more than a "throw up the camera and snap, without much preparation"-type of shot. This couple just got engaged and I was taking pictures immediately after, and they kept doing random things. This was one that got the boot, but I kept it for the purpose of this thread.

8862332224_5a956d42be_o.jpg


Thank you in advance!
 
Get the flash off the camera. To paraphrase Forest Gump, ugly is as ugly does. Define ugly: The light from a flash that is physically attached to the camera.

Joe
 
Dear Joe, Your advice sucks, It is IMPRACTICAL to setup a staged elaborate off camera flash while trying to catch a candid moment.

Back to the OP: Ok taking a shot at deconstructing your photo. It looks like you had the camera in portrait orientation, with the flash 90 degrees off the lens axis, but it looks like you took the picture with the camera at standing height with the camera pointed down a bit? If i am correct then what happened was when you tilted the camera down it also tilted the flash enough that the lens on the flash was visible to items in the frame, hense the sharp shadows being cast. To fix this you would have needed to move the flash one more click away from the camera lens or wrap an index card around the flash with a rubber band to diffuse and control the stray light flying forward from that slight tip.

Personally when i am in this situation that I use one of those cheapo speedlight softboxes. the ones that are like 4"x6" that rubber band to your flash. Then i aim that directly at who i am shooting and balance my flash with ambient and dont have to worry about bouncing or re-aiming my flash depending on my orientation.
 
Dear Joe, Your advice sucks, It is IMPRACTICAL to setup a staged elaborate off camera flash while trying to catch a candid moment.

Back to the OP: Ok taking a shot at deconstructing your photo. It looks like you had the camera in portrait orientation, with the flash 90 degrees off the lens axis, but it looks like you took the picture with the camera at standing height with the camera pointed down a bit? If i am correct then what happened was when you tilted the camera down it also tilted the flash enough that the lens on the flash was visible to items in the frame, hense the sharp shadows being cast. To fix this you would have needed to move the flash one more click away from the camera lens or wrap an index card around the flash with a rubber band to diffuse and control the stray light flying forward from that slight tip.

Personally when i am in this situation that I use one of those cheapo speedlight softboxes. the ones that are like 4"x6" that rubber band to your flash. Then i aim that directly at who i am shooting and balance my flash with ambient and dont have to worry about bouncing or re-aiming my flash depending on my orientation.

It's really not that hard to set up an off camera flash if you've had a few experiences with it, so I wouldn't say anyone's advice sucks or is impractical. With Nikons CLS system and canons equivalent (which your 60D has) there's even less to deal with. You can experiment with TTL or manual flash.
 
Do you have the diffusion dome that should have come with your SB-900? Something like that or a Gary Fong lightsphere can really help soften up the light and prevent some of those hard shadows. If you have the dome, I'd recommend you try a few shots with it on and check the results.
 
First of all, no, you're not doing anything wrong. The reason for the image being brighter at the top then at the bottom is due to the inverse square light which explains how light behaves. Remember, nothing says that you have to bounce the light off the ceiling. Walls and floors can work too. As for getting it off the camera, this is indeed the BEST solution, and is easily accomplished by using a TTL sync cord. Check out YouTube; there are some great tutorials on bouncing flash. In addition, the recommendations for diffusers are good as well. I have several in my bag, but getting it off the camera is always best (you may want to look into getting a nice Stroboframe bracket).
 
Dear Joe, Your advice sucks, It is IMPRACTICAL to setup a staged elaborate off camera flash while trying to catch a candid moment.

Back to the OP: Ok taking a shot at deconstructing your photo. It looks like you had the camera in portrait orientation, with the flash 90 degrees off the lens axis, but it looks like you took the picture with the camera at standing height with the camera pointed down a bit? If i am correct then what happened was when you tilted the camera down it also tilted the flash enough that the lens on the flash was visible to items in the frame, hense the sharp shadows being cast. To fix this you would have needed to move the flash one more click away from the camera lens or wrap an index card around the flash with a rubber band to diffuse and control the stray light flying forward from that slight tip.

Personally when i am in this situation that I use one of those cheapo speedlight softboxes. the ones that are like 4"x6" that rubber band to your flash. Then i aim that directly at who i am shooting and balance my flash with ambient and dont have to worry about bouncing or re-aiming my flash depending on my orientation.

It's been awhile since I did any event photography or weddings, but I did my share back in the film era. I used one of these:


38085.jpg



Attached to the predecessor of one of these:


30013049-260x260-0-0_Stroboframe+Stroboframe+Pro+Rl+Flash+Bracket.jpg



I didn't have any TTL or similar electronic assist, that flash just had three settings of full, half and quarter power and the rest was up to me.

Some things are hard. Using flash effectively for event photography is hard because there's a bottom line: get the flash off the camera. The Pros do it (otherwise the gear wouldn't be for sale).

Joe
 
Dear Joe, Your advice sucks, It is IMPRACTICAL to setup a staged elaborate off camera flash while trying to catch a candid moment.

Matt... Joe's been around for a while, and what he suggests is the same thing I would suggest. Being rude is not really necessary.
 
Dear Joe, Your advice sucks, It is IMPRACTICAL to setup a staged elaborate off camera flash while trying to catch a candid moment.
Wow!
Off camera flash doesn't have to be staged, or elaborate to capture candid moments, and Joe didn't imply in any way it had to be.

It sounds like you may be short on practical experience. I guess you've never seen or used an off camera flash bracket.
I've done candid off camera event flash photography by holding the flash unit in my left hand so I had a range of flash positioning available.
With an assistant manning a flash unit and modifier mounted on a monopod, some staging of candid shots is indeed possible.

For on camera flash, the OP needs to use a bounce card bigger than the one built onto the SB-900 to direct some of the strobed light forward.

A key skill needed for consistently getting great candid shots is being able to anticipate a shot.
 
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Aside from flash brackets, especially for candid stuff, i have had someone hold the flash off camera. Once or twice i have held the camera with one hand, flash with the other. OCF can be as simple or as complicated as you make it depending on how much stuff you drag around with you.
 
I do the "camera in one hand, flash in the other" dance pretty regularly, with the curly phone-cord style sync cord. It helps to have a light camera, though. I can't imagine doing it for long with the higher end bodies. Of course, I'm not some burly mustachioed paramedic, either.
 
Holding the flash in the off hand is is pretty easy. I use wireless triggers so that I don't have to have a cord plus if I want to set the flash down somewhere for backlighting or whatever I am already set. I also use a flash that was designed with this in mind and has an excellent auto-thyristor- just point it right and you get whatever aperture setting you've dialed in.

OP, are you bouncing your flash straight up or forward? The closer the light -even bounced light- is to the subject the more dramatic is the fall off. If you are try turning the flash around and bouncing off of something behind you, even if it's the ceiling just bounce it further back.

Oh, and Matt, before you ride off into the sunset in the secure knowledge that you're right, you might want to experience more of life- especially the bit about how to use a flash and what's practically useless on one.
 
Wow, thanks for all the responses! This shot was shot in portrait orientation and slightly downward. The flash was rotated so it was one position before vertical. I will start practicing with the flash attached with the sync-cord and holding it off to the side. I seem to have lost the diffuser that came with my flash, but yes, that would have been great! I didn't want to try too many things, because the manager was VERY reluctant to let me use flash as it was. I didn't want to waste time and flashes experimenting with the flash. I think they turned out alright, I just want to get better for the future.


Can you explain how a flash bracket helps? I know it helps get the flash off the camera, but what does that accomplish? Wouldn't I still have the same issue with the top part of the frame being awkwardly brighter?
 
The bracket helps by getting the flash off of the camera and bringing the light in slightly from above and to the side, off of the lens axis, which eliminates red-eye and helps reduce the "flashed" look of a speedlight in the face.
 
Oh, and Matt, before you ride off into the sunset in the secure knowledge that you're right, you might want to experience more of life- especially the bit about how to use a flash and what's practically useless on one.
First off the OP or you guys can do it however you want. My word is not law, but when all the content to a post is "get flash off camera" that vague advice sucks and is rude to the OP asking for help. Just like everyone else posted a method for OCF I gave him an option I use with success with on-camera flash. Which IMO is easier for me, your mileage will vary. But continue attacking me for calling someone out and providing content to a thread.

edit: then notice that a couple posts later Joe posted his experience on how he worked with this problem. So props to Joe for being mature and adding his content to the thread without retaliating against me.
 
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