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Exposure : Aperture : Shutter Speed : ISO : Composition : White Balance : Flash : Mega pixels


Understanding your flash.

Your flash fires at a speed somewhere between 1/1,000 and 1/10,000 of a second.

Your camera will have a maximum speed at which it will sync with the flash, that is to say that the shutter will be fully open at the moment the flash fires. Normally on DSLR’s this is about 250. (On older film camera this will be indicated in red or have an ‘x’ next to the right shutter speed, normally 30 or 60).

If you reduce the shutter speed below this, you will let in more ambient light, but this will not effect the flash lighting, for the amount of flash light that bounces off the subject and hits the sensor is controlled by the aperture (as long as you have not exceeded the maximum speed - which a DSLR will not allow you to do).

So by playing with the shutter speed you can:

Balance the ambient light with the flash light.

or Create slow sync effects, this is where, by moving the camera during exposure you can blur aspects within the frame, with the flash catching and clearly defining the main foreground subject. To do this it is usually good practice to set the flash to ‘Rear’ sync, which fires the flash at the end of the exposure, giving the effect that the main subjects have trails leading off them.

1/2 sec at F8, 100 ISO

Slow sync flash panslow sync flash zoom

On the left, a panning shot with rear sync. On the right, rear sync was used whilst zooming out during the exposure

Note how in the portrait shot, the subject is caught sharply without any sign of camera shake or movement.

Flash - Further Tips

These next two guides where taken from the Tips Blog page, why not visit it to see what other useful hints are on offer.

Better / Natural Portraits with flash-

When using flash we often want a more natural appearance to our pictures, one that is kinder to the subject

To achieve this you need to do two things, diffuse the light and balance the flash with the ambient background light.

The two main ways to soften the light and reduce harsh shadows are:


Flash (235 of 3)

A diffuser is simply a piece of usually frosted plastic that sits over the end of your flash, a lot of flashes will come with a basic diffuser which can be attached, but if you have to buy one, they are relatively inexpensive and well worth the money. If you are caught out a piece of white plastic bag, loosely attached into a bubble over the front of your flash will also work surprisingly well, be careful not to cover the TTL sensor.

Flash (234 of 3)

The second option is to bounce your flash off something, the ceiling normally works well, to do this you normally tilt your flash to about 60 degrees. If the ceiling is to high, you can attach a dedicated bounce card, again very cheap (under £15) to buy.

Balancing with Background Lighting.

Often when using flash the background becomes to dark when
Flash (236 of 3)
compared to the subject which are lit by the flash; to give your images more balance and a more natural feel you need to balance the flash with the ambient light.
To do this you need to use a slower shutter speed, you’ll need to experiment, but try 1/15 sec to start with, this should allow you to capture more detail in the background whilst the flash properly exposes the subject in the foreground.

If you are using a built in flash, then using a diffuser is still something you should think about trying, There are a couple of models now on sell through websites like Amazon.co.uk

Fill in Flash -
Your might think that flash is just for low light conditions, but in fact most professional photographers I know will use some degree of flash in almost all of their work. In fact the brighter the sun, the more need there is to balance up the lighting by using flash to fill in some details in the shadow.

The key to using fill in flash has two components,firstly soften it and secondly know the power of your flash.
So firstly, softening, by far the easiest way to do this it to buy an off the shelf diffuser, such as Sto-fen Ominflash which retails for under £20, alternatively a reflector style defuser, but I have also seen many a photographer loosely attach a bit of white plastic bag over their flash with rubber bands - when needs must.
Next you need to know how much flash to use, get used to setting your flash to under or over expose, in the UK I mostly find that setting to around -0.5 stops is about right on a bright day, but you will need to practice with the setting. This really is a skill worth investing time in. You’ll have to work in Manual mode, otherwise the camera is likely to compensate for the flash.

Fill in flash, as used by the likes of Martin Parr, can also be used to add punch and colour to objects in the foreground. See example below.

Without fill in flashwith fill in flash
Even the brightest day, a small burst of fill in flash can really bring out the saturated colours, it also softens shadows on portraits. Here I set my flash to -0.7, you need to vary the flash strength depending on the conditions.

Try this out: Take a ‘model’ outside on a bright day, take a test shot on ‘manual’ with no flash (shutter speed will need to be compatible with the flash, usually under 1/250, now take one with the flash at normal power, now take some shots with the flash set to under and then over expose. Secondly find something colourful, place it near to the camera (no more than 2m away) and take some more test exposures.

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