I have failed at flash photography

Discussion in 'Lighting and Hardware' started by map101, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. map101

    map101 TPF Noob!

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    I have gone to numerous events and have struggled to use my flash properly. Is it me, or the camera body, the lens or the flash? When I'm outdoors the pics come out stunning.

    The problems I face indoor events is:
    1. Either the subject or the surroundings is underexposed. If I increase flash exposure then subject becomes over exposed.

    2. At times half of the subject or pic is overexposed.

    3. Just cannot get the white balance to work. I've tried all pre-configured settings.

    4. Colors are either pale or too warm. I suppose related to point 3.

    My gear
    Canon 5D Mark II
    Lenses
    Canon 24-70mm f2.8
    Sigma 35mm f1.4
    Speedlite EX600
    And I often use Gary Fong lightspehere flash diffuser. But I've tried without as well. Similar results. My flash is almost always having the ceiling.

    I'm uploading some images. What am I doing wrong. Please help! IMG_5653.jpg IMG_5898.jpg IMG_5860.jpg


     
  2. Trever1t

    Trever1t Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    it's you.


    Or more specifically, your understanding of flash exposure. There's volumes written on this subject matter. You don't state what mode you are in, how you are using your flash (not the modifier)

    Flash photography is something I struggled with too. Remember, it's 2 exposures. Ambient and flash...in one.
     
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  3. map101

    map101 TPF Noob!

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    Sorry I am using it on ETTL mode
     
  4. map101

    map101 TPF Noob!

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    And TrevorIt why do first 2 pics look half overexposed and half underexposed?
     
  5. wyogirl

    wyogirl Oh crop!

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    Some may disagree but I don't like using ETTL. I manually control my flash always. It's what works for me and once you understand how that works it becomes fairly easy.
     
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  6. map101

    map101 TPF Noob!

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    Can you direct me to some links which touch upon that. As you can see from the pics I am struggling.
     
  7. manny212

    manny212 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  8. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    The camera is making exposure decisions when you use ETTL.
    The camera can only guess what it is you are shooting based on a program some camera software engineer wrote way back before your make/model of camera went on sale.

    So ETTL often gets it wrong. If you want consistent results you have to make the exposure decisions.
    Take control. You're lots smarter than the camera.
    Put the flash and camera in Manual mode, and learn how to do flash photography.

    On-Camera Flash: Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography
    Off-Camera Flash: Techniques for Digital Photographers

    Strobist: Lighting 101
    Strobist: Lighting 102: Introduction
    Strobist
     
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  9. Didereaux

    Didereaux Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    get the speedlight book by Syl Arena Google it and buy it used. That will get you squared away. You have top equipment. just not enough knowledge. But no matter what start with Syl Arena!
     
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  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Straight bounce flash is what is giving the under-eye bags on the women: they eyebrow ridges are casting shadows on their upper cheek areas; look at the bosom of the older woman on the right--do you see how there is a wide, highlight on the top of her bosom, and then a shadow undernath the bust line, and how that light, which is raining straight down from the ceiling, is causing the wrinkles to show on the bodice of her dress?

    Look at the men: shiny bald heads, as the ceiling being lit up, and then the light falling off terribly in intensity by the belt buckle level. Again, this is very typical of "pure, straight bounce" flash.

    You need to add a small bit of light coming forward, or to eliminate ceiling bounce. There are multiple ways around this. Tape a small business card to the flash, or use a speedlight that has a built-in, sliding bounce card-- so part of the light kicks forward, while the other 85% goes to the bounce. CHange flashes, and locate a flash that has a smaller, secondary straight-ahead flash window.

    Move to the Rogue Flashbender. Take the flash bounce surface and put it where you can control it better.

    I have a suspicion too that you might be bouncing the flash at wayyyy too wide an angle: one of the biggest problems with automated flash is this: Using a 24-70mm at between 28mm and 35mm, the camera's automated system sets the flash head to the 28 to 35mm positions; this LIGHTS UP a large, wide ceiling area, giving the shiny bad-head reflections, but horribly dissipating the light over a massive area, and the returning bounce light falls-off in intensity to a horrific degree: witness the bright, hot heads, and the dim, dark belt area...

    Your bounce shot needs to be done at a TELEPHOTO zoom head value--NOT at 28mm and not at 35mm....more like 70mm or 85mm.

    Ceiling bounce done wrong...wrong settings, wrong understanding, bad fundamentals. You NEED to kick at least "some" light forward!

    The Fong Diffuser is for extremely cramped, low-ceiling uses.

    Both Nikon and Metz have made flashes with a main flash head and a smaller, straight-ahead flash window, just for this type of banquet ceiling bounce + micro-pop of straight ahead flash work. This problem was SOLVED, in hardware, in the 1980's. (Look up Nikon SB-16)

    The poor results you are experiencing have absolutely NOTHING TO DO with E-TTL...this is a shooting/lighting gear fundamentals problem, not an exposure metering issue. Your light is "raining straight down on" the people; you could solve the issue by moving backward and shooting with a longer lens; the way you are using whatever equipment you have is causing the bounce flash to come in almost perfectly straight DOWN...you must modify either shooting or equipment techniques to get at least "some" light hitting the lower parts of the people.

    If you shot these shots from 20 feet away, with an 85mm lens and the zoom head set to 135mm for a PROPER ceiling bounce, and the bounced flash rained down at 75 degrees, not straight down on them, they would be nice flash photos. Or use a bounce card + ceiling bounce. Or tape a plastic spoon to the flash head. Or use a Rogue Flash Bender.

    Again, it is the gear and the technique that is all wrong-- not the exposure regulation system. These would be equally poor if they were exposed 2 stops more or 3 stops more--you'd still have too much light up high, and not much light by belt level.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
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  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    flash bounce diagram.JPG Here is what is happening with IMG_5653. Your photo of the two women was shot at the darker line, the 10 foot distance. Look at the older woman's left hand: see how her fingers are curved in slightly--yet are 2 full EV darker, and in shadow? The problem is that with the flash coming in from almost directly above, her hand falls into shadow. This back-of-an-envelope diagram I made for you shows what happens when the bounce point does not throw at least some frontal light rays onto the subject.

    THe bounce point on the ceiling needs to be about half-way in between the camera, and the subject. Now: this is the technique and learning part of bounce flash. If you are using straight ceiling bounce, it is better to have the bounce point closer to the camera, rather than right at the mid-point. At 10 feet camera to subject distance, it is VERY easy for the bounce light that rains down to fall very much "straight down", causing eye bags, shadows under the bustline, and very unflattering light which is coming in at a very straight angle.

    Moving back to 20 feet makes it easier to aim the bounced point on the ceiling, and also to get a slightly more frontal approach as the light rains down, and strikes the people a bit more frontally, providing more fill-in light, more frontal light, more-even light, better light. The real trick is to learn where to aim the flash head, to get the desired lighting effect, in different types of rooms, with different ceiling heights.

    The flash instruction manuals of yesteryear told us to bounce at Maximum Tele-zoom on the flash head; automatic zoom head adjustment can screw up large-room bounce flash horribly. The real secret is to get the bounce point on the ceiling set **properly**, for the exact shooting scenario. Set the flash zoom head manually, for the situation, as-needed. Bottom line: being too close is the worst thing you can do if you have no secondary, straight-ahead flash light rays from a bounce card, a white plastic spoon, or even YOUR FINGERS of the left hand cupped over the flash a bit, to direct 15-20% of the light straight ahead, for fill light.

    If you look at the shot of the two women, you can see that the MAN behind them, the fellow with the black-framed glasses on, has GOOD bounce flash lighting on him! This is evidence that the camera-to-subject distance and the exact angle of the flash head was not right for the women, but was quite nice for a slightly longer distance.
     
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  12. wfooshee

    wfooshee No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ETTL will expose more or less correctly with direct flash, but your high-ceiling bounce is throwing it off. As for white balance, I can speculate that you're on auto-WB, so the camera is adjusting for what it sees under ambient light, and the flash is daylight-balanced. The camera does not adjust for the flash, only for what it sees prior to the exposure. Keep it on manual daylight WB when using flash. There is also the consideration of the ceiling not being white, giving a color cast to the flash as it reaches the subject.

    The other posts have covered the issues pretty well. Remember that light falls off with the square of the distance, so something twice as far away from the flash only gets 1/4 the light intensity. Something 4 times the distance only gets 1/16 the intensity. That ceiling is just way too high to use as your only bounce surface. It doesn't diffuse the light the way you want, it merely makes ALL the light come from nearly straight up. That's why the lower portions of your images are in shadow.

    In the third image, the table is bright, so ETTL reduces the flash intensity, leaving the subjects a bit underexposed.

    A bare flash, pointed not quite straight up, with a white card taped on that sticks up behind to throw some light forward. I've even used my hand as such a reflector in a pinch!
     
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