How To Use A Flash For Photography

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Here are ten tips for improve flash photography. These will help both the beginner and the avant-garde photographer.
Introducing flash techniques to your photography doesn’t only mean more lite. Information technology as well means more more exposure options, and more than control. And a lot more than complications.
But information technology likewise opens up whole new areas of photography, assuasive y’all to advance your skills.
Here’southward how, in 10 simple tips.

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

1. What Are Flash Modes and Settings

When it comes to flash photography, at that place are three important settings y’all need to know nearly.
Through the Lens (TTL)
metering is mutual on camera flashes. With this setting the camera and flash volition communicate with each other. When you press the shutter release the flash volition provide the amount of calorie-free required.
This volition depend on the ambient light and your camera’s current exposure setting. Also as the altitude your subject is from your camera.

A portrait of two female friends shot with flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Automatic Style (A). In this mode you lot provide the flash with the discontinuity and ISO value for correct exposure.
The flash sensor will measure out the lite output. Information technology’ll cut off its power when there’south enough light based on your discontinuity and ISO settings.
The measurement of the wink output is contained of the photographic camera light meter.
Manual Mode (Chiliad). You calculate how much low-cal you need and fix the output of your flash yourself. The camera and flash have no control over the amount of light the flash puts out.
You need to adapt your camera exposure settings to friction match the output from the wink.
TTL and Machine modes are the easiest to use, especially when you lot are not used to using a wink. But they are not e’er as authentic equally Manual way can be.

2. When to Use a Flash

Most people employ flash photography only when it’s dark, at night or indoors. This is because there isn’t plenty natural lite or ambient calorie-free.
But there are many other situations where we recommend information technology.
You tin can use a wink to get rid of shadows from your photo. Past calculation in the extra low-cal source yous tin minimise shadows past filling them in.
Place the wink opposite the light source causing the shadows to achieve this.

A mannequinn at the side of the shot shot using flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Yous tin can also utilise flash and a slow shutter speed when photographing a moving subject. This creates a half-frozen impression.
This technique might take some practice to master. But it’s a fun and often somewhat unpredictable fashion to practise your skills.
Illuminating your bailiwick more the background helps to isolate it. Set your wink so the output is a lot more than the low-cal in the background. This will cause your discipline to be brighter.
This means it will stand up out more.
Adding a trivial flash when the low-cal is dull can bring a photo to life. On cloudy days, before sunrise, or later sunset the light tin be very flat.
Introducing a little wink into a scene when the light is like this can liven information technology up.
Strong backlight is often a claiming. Balancing flash with backlighting will diminish the washed out look. This is due to strong light behind a subject.

three. How to Utilize Flash to Correctly Expose an Image

Ane of the best flash photography tips I can offering you is to residue your flash and photographic camera settings. Unbalanced settings volition lead to too much or not enough low-cal from your wink.

Portrait of a woman on a beach shot with flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Have this photo, for case. I started past making a reading of the ambient light with my camera’s exposure meter. I set my camera using transmission mode settings. In this photograph I took my exposure reading then the background would exist well exposed.
My wife was continuing in the shadow of the stone, and then would take been underexposed had I not used wink. I popped up the on camera flash and set information technology to TTL.
In this case information technology has given me a well balanced exposure. The light on my wife and the background is similar.
If there is an imbalance betwixt the ambient light and the wink your photos will non look natural. This is okay if it is what you desire.
You tin prepare your photographic camera’s exposure to underexpose a background. And your flash to illuminate your subject with the right amount of light.
When the departure in settings is farthermost, information technology results in an imbalance. Photos will again look unnatural.

When in that location’southward less of a divergence, the outcome can be subtle and quite interesting. This is how I created the photo below of the young woman dancing.

A flash photography portrait of a woman dancing outdoors
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

iv. Wink Photography and Shutter Speed

Shutter speeds are express with flash photography. You cannot use the fastest shutter speeds when you are using flash. This is considering the wink must synchronize to fire when the shutter is open up.
At a faster speed the shutter is not completely open all at once.
Mod cameras limit the shutter speed to the max sync speed the photographic camera is capable of. This varies from camera to camera but is typically around i/250th of a 2nd.
On college end cameras with defended flash units information technology can be much faster. Check if you have your shutter speed prepare to above what your photographic camera’s sync speed is. The camera will then automatically set a slower shutter speed.
Using a faster shutter speed allows you to open your aperture wider. This means you’ll need less flash output and your flash will recycle and be ready to burn sooner.
You lot’ll need faster shutter speeds with flash for pictures in brilliant sunshine.
To help you choose, think nearly shutter speed having more effect on the ambience calorie-free. Aperture has more than effect on the flash exposure.
Set your shutter speed so the ambient light in your scene is proficient. Then set your flash to balance for the expect and feel you lot desire.
ISO will too have an impact on your exposure, but not then neat in relation to the wink output.

v. Flash Photography and the Aperture Setting

With your flash to transmission, check the discontinuity setting. It will determine how much light from the wink influences your exposure. Your choice of ISO and shutter speed will also impact your choice of aperture.
You tin can gear up your shutter speed anywhere within the sync range. This will non influence the exposure the wink provides. Simply it will bear upon the exposure from ambient light if there is any.

Flash photography shot of Falling Coffeee Beans against a black background
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I took this photo in a darkened room with very little ambience light. I used an aperture of f5.6 and set my wink manually to achieve the correct exposure.
I chose a shutter speed of 1/15th sec to permit for some movement blur in the falling beans.
The lack of ambience light is important hither. It ways that a faster or slower shutter speed would not have affected my exposure.

Flash Photography of Tourists in cycle taxi, Hanoi, Vietnam
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

I fabricated this photo with some ambient lite and flash to get a pleasing exposure. The combination of my aperture setting, f2.8, and flash output has exposed my subject area well.
Using a shutter speed of one/8th sec ways the ambient low-cal affects the background somewhat. Simply it does not affect the subject. The subject field is exposed by the flash, which is a fiddling brighter than the ambience light.
Aperture settings when using TTL and Auto flash are not so vital. With these flash settings the adding fabricated for flash output takes into account all the photographic camera’s exposure settings.

6. How Does Distance Bear on Wink Usage

Light diminishes the further it gets from the source. With the lord’s day we hardly discover it because the sun is so far away. With wink, information technology’s unlike. The farther your flash is from your subject makes a difference.
Say you are 1 meter away from your subject. You will need half the output of light from your flash than if you were two meters away.
Nosotros take all seen photos where the photographer has the flash too close to the bailiwick and information technology’s overexposed. To avoid this, move back and use a longer lens.

A flash photography portrait of a woman on her smartphone
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Being too close to your field of study and having having your flash output too high will crusade dark shadows. This is because unmodified light from a flash is very harsh light.

There are several techniques you tin can use become soft calorie-free that looks more highly-seasoned.

Here are some of them.

7. How to Utilize Bounce Flash to Modify the Light

The easiest way to


the flash output to make it softer is by ‘billowy’ your flash. Turning the head of your flash so it’due south not pointing straight at your field of study tin help soften the light.

You volition usually demand something for the flash lite to bounce off then some

is directed

at your subject.

Yous can use a ceiling above you, a wall behind or abreast y’all or a portable reflector. Bouncing the flash causes the light to scatter. This increases the surface surface area of the low-cal.



from the flash is difficult because the flash head is small. Increasing this area past bouncing the light spreads it around. This will result in softer shadows.

Close up of a person painting an ornament shot using flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Continue in mind if you are bouncing your wink, the effective distance from your flash to your subject is increased. To maintain the same exposure using manual settings y’all will demand to increment the flash output or your discontinuity and/or ISO settings.
With TTL or Auto the photographic camera and flash will calculate the difference and adjust the flash output.
Bouncing your flash will besides alter the direction the low-cal hits the subject. Also much flash bounced from higher up can cause night shadows under people’s optics, noses, and chins.
Bouncing flash off a wall beside your subject field will alter the look of the photo significantly. And bouncing flash from a wall or reflector directly backside you will give a different, and often nicer, wait.
In these three example photos I used direct wink on the first ane. In the 2nd I bounced the flash off a greyness wall to my right. I made the third photo past bouncing the flash off a large silver reflector backside me.
Looking at the right side of the figure’s face up, the shadow difference is most noticeable.

Triptych comparision of using flash photography on an ornament
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Proceed in listen that y’all will go a colour cast if you bounciness your wink off a coloured surface.

8. Why Use a Softbox for Flash Photography

Ane of the best photography accessories I have is a pocket-size collapsible softbox to use with flash. This 1 extra piece of kit can brand an immense difference to the wait and feel of your photographs.
Mine is 60 cm foursquare. You lot tin can buy smaller versions too. Just these don’t take the same capacity to spread and soften the light.

A softbox for better flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Light is diffused and softened before it reaches your subject. The shadows volition be less harsh and the look of the calorie-free volition be more than natural. It is designed to be used off camera and triggered remotely.
You can use a softbox like this on a calorie-free stand or take someone assist y’all. In the image beneath I had the flash and softbox on a light stand to my left.
The flash and camera were both set manually so I could residuum the wink with the ambient light.

A flash photography portrait of a young female photographer
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

9. Why Use Your Flash Off Photographic camera

Using on photographic camera flash, either the i congenital into the camera or an external flash on the hot shoe, is very limiting. You lot can only have the light coming straight at your subject or bounced from a surface nearby.
Taking your wink off your photographic camera opens up many more than creative lighting possibilities. Y’all tin position it to 1 side, above, beneath or even behind your field of study.
When using off camera flash, (which is most of the time I use flash), I identify it opposite to the main ambient light source. This allows me to balance the light by filling in, or partially filling in, shadows.
There are no limits to where y’all can place your wink, then long as it’s calorie-free tin even so achieve your subject.
The most important thing is creating the type of low-cal coming from the all-time direction. Information technology can fit the style of photo you want. This is the flexibility y’all have when using flash.
For this photo I was up on the mezzanine level of the marketplace and my model was on the lower level.
The flash and softbox were on a stand up outside the bottom correct of the frame, besides on the lower level.

A flash photography portrait of a young female butcher
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

10. What Is Rear Curtain Synchronisation and Why I Love Using Information technology

Mod camera shutters comprise of two ‘curtains’. When the front curtain opens, the sensor is exposed to light. When the second, or rear drape closes, the exposure ends.
Nearly cameras default to the flash beingness triggered in one case the front end pall is fully open. Yous tin change this setting on your camera. Then the flash will be triggered immediately before the rear curtain closes.
This may not seem like much of a difference. Our exposures are typically only fractions of seconds. Using a slower shutter speed rear syncing can produce photos with a significantly dissimilar wait when at that place’south move in a scene. Information technology makes no real difference when cypher is moving.
Photographing something that’due south moving and using a wearisome shutter speed produces some blurring of moving subject field. If you accept your wink ready to front drape sync the subject volition exist ‘frozen’ at the offset of the exposure. The trail of blur will then appear in front.
Using rear curtain sync, the blur will happen earlier the flash fires. Just before the shutter endmost, the moving subject will be frozen and the blur will announced behind it.
Fifty-fifty with just a slight amount of blur the results are much more pleasing than with forepart curtain sync.
Synchronisation tin as well happen manually when it comes to longer exposures.
In this image my wife was nearly three meters in front of the camera and off to the right with the wink. I wanted the flash to be closer to the taxi truck equally it entered the bridge. At that distance the flash would not trigger automatically.
The exposure time was 1.6 seconds. My married woman was manually firing the flash. It took several attempts to get some frames exposed well. I had the flash firing earlier the rear shutter curtain closing.

A brightly lit bridge at night shot with flash photography
© Kevin Landwer-Johan


Putting in the time to practice with a flash, studying and comparing your results will give you practical feel. With this you lot volition learn far more than simply reading or watching videos about how to do it.
Once you are grounded in the basics and have grasped how the flash works, then cut loose. Play with motility, bounce it, use a soft box and fifty-fifty several external flash units.
If y’all’d like to acquire more most changing the color of the flash or using gels in photography, check out this commodity.
We take a great article on using a ring wink to bank check out next!


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