On camera flash techniques for digital wedding and portrait photography

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  • ON-CAMERAFLASH

    Techniques for DigitalWedding and Portrait Photography

    Amherst MediaPUBLISHER OF PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS

    Neil van Niekerk

  • View the companion blog to this book at: http://on-cameraflash-vanniekerk.blogspot.com/

    Check out Amherst Medias other blogs at: http://portrait-photographer.blogspot.com/

    http://weddingphotographer-amherstmedia.blogspot.com/

    Copyright 2009 by Neil van Niekerk.All rights reserved.

    All photographs by the author unless otherwise noted.

    Published by:Amherst Media, Inc.P.O. Box 586Buffalo, N.Y. 14226Fax: 716-874-4508www.AmherstMedia.com

    Publisher: Craig AlesseSenior Editor/Production Manager: Michelle PerkinsAssistant Editor: Barbara A. Lynch-JohntEditorial Assistance from: John S. Loder, Carey Ann Maines, Charles Schweizer

    ISBN-13: 978-1-58428-258-7Library of Congress Control Number: 2008942244Printed in Korea.10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,photocopied, recorded or otherwise, without prior written consent from the publisher.

    Notice of Disclaimer: The information contained in this book is based on the authors experience and opinions. The authorand publisher will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information in this book.

  • Table of Contents

    TABLE OF CONTENTS 3

    FOREWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

    by David A. Williams

    INTRODUCTION

    ABOUT THE MATERIAL IN THIS BOOK . . . . . . . .6

    An Easy Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

    The Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

    Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

    Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

    Postproduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

    SECTION 1

    WHERE DO WE START? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

    1. What We Want To Achieve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82. Looking At The Available Light . . . . . . . . . . . . .93. A Few Essential Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10The Larger the Light Source,

    The Softer the Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

    Direction, Intensity, and Color Balance . . . . . . . . .10

    Direction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

    Intensity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

    Color Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

    Postproduction of the Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

    White-Balance (WB) Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

    Manual Flash vs. TTL/Auto Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

    4. Choosing Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13Choosing a Flashgun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

    Battery Packs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

    Flash Brackets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

    SECTION 2

    THE TECHNICAL STUFF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

    5. Exposure Metering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

    Why Manual Exposure Mode? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

    Exposure Metering Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

    Metering Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

    Metering Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

    Using a Hand-Held Incident Light Meter . . . . .18

    Using and Interpreting the Cameras

    Built-In Meter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

    Using the Histogram to Determine Exposure . .19

    The Blinking Highlights Display . . . . . . . . . . . .23

    The Sunny 16 Rule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

    Confirmation of Exposure Accuracy

    via the LCD Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

    Anticipating Our Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

    Tying it All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

    Metering Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

    6. Flash Modes and Exposure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35Flash Modes: Manual, Auto, and TTL . . . . . . . . . .35

    Choosing Between Different Flash Modes . . . . . . .35

    Manual Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

    Auto/TTL Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

    TTL Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

    Flash Exposure Compensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38

    7. Flash-Sync Speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41Maximum Flash-Sync Speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41

    High-Speed Flash-Sync . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43

    Flash Efficiency and Range . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44

    Is a Higher Maximum Flash-Sync Speed Better? . .45

    First-Curtain vs. Second-Curtain Sync . . . . . . . . . .47

    The Pre-Flash Sequence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48

    8. Adding Flash to Ambient Light . . . . . . . . . . . . .49Combinations of Shutter Speed,

    Aperture, and ISO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49

    Dragging the Shutter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49

  • About the Author

    Neil van Niekerk, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, is a wedding and por-

    trait photographer based in northern New Jersey. He graduated with a college de-

    gree in electronic engineering and worked as a television broadcast engineer in South

    Africa (while pursuing photography as a parallel career) before deciding to settle in

    the United States in 2000. Says Van Niekerk, I love photography for a variety of rea-

    sons. The stimulation and excitement of responding to new situations satisfies both

    my analytical and creative sides, and I also truly love working with people. I get real

    pleasure from sharing the happiness with the people that I photograph and know-

    ing that Im creating images that will evoke wonderful memories for a lifetime. Van

    Niekerks Planet Neil website (www.planetneil.com) has become a popular desti-

    nation for photographers seeking information on the latest equipment and tech-

    niques. Visit www.neilvn.com to see more of Van Niekerks photography.

    4 ON-CAMERA FLASH TECHNIQUES FOR DIGITAL WEDDING AND PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY

    SECTION 3

    THE TECHNIQUES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53

    9. Using Simple Flash Modifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53My Choice of Flash Modifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56

    Adapting Techniques for Modifying Flash . . . . . . .59

    10. Bounce Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62Avoid Direct Flash (When Possible) . . . . . . . . . . .62

    Avoid Flash Shadow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62

    Controlling the Direction of the Flash . . . . . . . . . .63

    Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64

    Bounce Flash in Relation to the Background . . . . .68

    Checking Your Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74

    Balancing Bounce Flash with Ambient Light . . . . .76

    Broad Lighting and Short Lighting . . . . . . . . . . . .78

    11. Flash With Tungsten Ambient Light . . . . . . . .79Adding Gels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79

    Light Modifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79

    Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80

    Improving Uneven Lighting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87

    12. Using Flash to Control Contrast . . . . . . . . . . .90Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .90

    13. Controlling Light Falloff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94

    14. Flash Techniques Outdoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99Fill Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99

    Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100

    Direct-Flash Main Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .101

    Bounce Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102

    Practical Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103

    Controlling the Ambient Light to Flash Ratio . . .106

    Dealing with Hard Sunlight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116

    Dealing with Overhead Sunlight . . . . . . . . . . . . .117

    SECTION 4

    TAKING IT BEYOND ON-CAMERA FLASH . . . .119

    15. Off-Camera Wireless TTL Flash . . . . . . . . . .11916. Off-Camera Manual Flash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122Calculating Exposure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122

    AFTERWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124

    RESOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124

    INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125

  • Foreword

    FOREWORD 5

    All photographers know that flash is so, well . . . com-plex, artificial, and downright un-arty, right? Avail-able light rules! (Or does it? What do you do when the

    existing light is garbage?) In professional photography, the

    facts are often quite a bit different than what people say.

    There can be a significant divide between what we say and

    what we really mean. Here are a few translations:

    1. I dont use flash because its so unnatural.Translation: I dont know how to use flash.

    2. Off-camera strobe is too much hard work.Translation: I dont care enough to bother.

    3. My customers dont know the difference