Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Flash Photography Basics, in preparation for next week. . .

We'll have the opportunity to take flash pictures in the studio this coming week.  Flash photography is a bit different than "available light" photography.  Before we start though, the one thing to remember about flash photography is that about 80% of the time (or more) you are photographing people.  The key to interesting images of people is lighting.  It is preferable to use lighting from the side of a person when shooting portraits.  Light from the side will add more contrast to the face, it will define the facial features better.  Highlights from the flash combined with shadows created on the face by side lighting will make faces more interesting, less flat and more life like.  "Light illuminates, shadows define."

Light from the side means that the little pop up flash on your camera is not a good option.  For best results, an accessory flash is a great option.  Most of these have a flash head that tilts, allowing you to point the light in different direction to "bounce" it off a wall or whatever is available to reflect back on the subject.

If you have an accessory flash, you can get it off the camera and change the direction of the flash using an accessory cord. 

Flash units that are specifically made for a certain camera brand are called "dedicated."  The camera has the ability to see how much output the flash has and can send a message to the flash to put out more or less light.  This technology is known as ETTL or A-TTL.  These allow us to take the guesswork out of flash settings, automatically adjusting for the exposure you have set for your camera. 

Flash exposures are usually done with the shutter speed set between 1/60 and 1/250.  The highest shutter speed that your camera will sync the flash with is called "flash sync speed."  If you exceed your sync speed you'll get a shadow or vignette:

The key to good flash photography is to make the photo look like you didn't use flash.  To do this, you get the flash off of the camera.  Occasionally, you may need to change the flash setting of the camera to make the output a little less intense than what the camera automatically suggests.  This is done by adjusting the "flash exposure compensation" setting in your camera.  It's usually pretty obvious to find, just look for the lightening bolt with the +/- beside it.

You don't always have to have flash to create a good portrait.  If you have a nice large window that is providing light for a room, having a subject facing perpendicular to the window, so light is falling on the side of their face.

A great posing information website is here, you'll need to sign in to see the examples.   To be continued. . .

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