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What do you want to understand better about photography? (1 Viewer)

Mike Frezon

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You'd want to get a different model to get the E-TTL, but working in manual is probably the best way for you to understand how to use the flashes off camera, exposure, etc.
That's interesting.

And seeing as how I'm rather overwhelmed at the moment in trying to take a good portrait, it might make sense to get the E-TTL functionality.

But I know that what you're saying is right, Cameron. I'm just not sure I have the ability to figure this all out.
 

Cameron Yee

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Well then, let me introduce you to Neil Van Niekirk. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the topic of flash photography, on and off camera, until I found his tutorials. The way he explained the concepts really made sense to me, partly because he aims for practicality (e.g. using TTL because it's quicker) without sacrificing quality. I'd tried to read similar information from the Strobist (who tends to work exclusively in manual mode), but would wind up feeling more confused than enlightened after reading his material.

Neil has two major sections on his site, on-camera flash and off-camera. I would recommend starting with on-camera flash, as that will be most situations you find yourself in -- your camera with a flash attached to the hot shoe. Basically, he'll teach you how to use bounce flash in the most effective way possible, and that includes for taking portraits without needing to set up a bunch of lights. When you're ready to do the off-camera work, what you've learned by doing on-camera flash will provide the foundation.

Flash Photography Techniques
 
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JohnRice

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But the answer to every photography dilemma is a piece of equipment to buy or a button to push. You guys who have the gall to talk about understanding, learning and so on are ignorant trolls. I will now haunt you until you never venture onto a photography site ever again.

Condensed from the responses I usually receive on photo sites.
 

Mike Frezon

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Hysterical.

You guys really can't imagine how much I appreciate your input and understanding of my situation.

I have a great desire to fully grasp the details of photography which is unfortunately combined with my limited time to apply to that education and the ease with which I get overwhelmed by the technical complexities of the gear and the science. An imperfect storm of sorts.

Thanks for that link, Cameron.
 

Cameron Yee

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You're welcome. You may also consider or prefer his book, which is how I worked through most of his information.

Amazon product

It's actually on my wish list to hire him to do a family portrait session if we have the chance to return to New York City.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Thanks for the links, @Cameron Yee . Using supplemental lighting is easily my weakest photographic skill, so any additional info is always appreciated. My biggest issue is I just don't shoot with a flash much -- only during family gatherings. Most of the subject matter I enjoy shooting is outdoors -- landscapes, wildlife, etc. For flash, I pretty much just use a single on-camera flash, bounce the flash, and will alternate between shooting in manual mode and sometimes aperture priority when there is more light, using the flash for fill only. Thank goodness for ETTL, as it works well enough to compensate for my mediocre skills in this area. I will usually end up with results like this:

MK6A0510-X4.jpg


Speaking of shooting outdoors, I always chuckle when I see someone with an expensive dSLR shooting a huge landscape, and their pop-up flash goes off.
 

Cameron Yee

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Yeah, same reaction when the Olympics roll around and there's the cascade of flash pops from the bleachers.

I was at a concert where there was a guy having similar problems. He kept trying to get a good shot from almost 30 feet away, but he'd take a shot, the flash would automatically pop up and go off, he'd look at the result and frown. He did this like three times in a row at least. If it weren't a concert, I would have tried to help him.

For a bit of background on why I'm such a fan of Neil Van Niekirk's, I was asked to photograph a wedding by a co-worker about 10 years ago. I didn't want to at first, but I wanted to stretch myself. So in the months leading up to the wedding, I took an online course on wedding photography. It helped, but the section on flash photography wasn't quite enough. I knew enough that 1) I didn't want to shoot direct flash and 2) I needed to know more about bouncing. And as it turned out, bounce flash would be what I'd be doing for all of the wedding and reception because it was taking place at night and in an old hotel with high ceilings. So Neil's info and ability to teach really saved my bacon.

The biggest takeaways from on-camera flash for me were 1) figure out what direction you want the light to come from and bounce the light accordingly. It's a bit like playing pool that way, as you'll discover.

And 2) don't underestimate what you can bounce light off of. Once you realize that, almost every wall or ceiling becomes a potential light source.

And 3) never be without your BFT (black foamie thing), which is just a flag to put on the flash to prevent light spill. It will likely be the cheapest but most useful photo accessory you ever buy.

That said, in most cases I'm just looking to get a well lit and exposed photograph. Getting nice modeling on the subject tends to be secondary for what I usually shoot, which are family gatherings and work activities in meeting rooms and conference halls, so very much like the kinds of shots Scott shared in the post above.

The one suggestion I'd make for Scott's example photo is to aim the flash backward at 45 degrees instead of forward. That tends to minimize the shadows in people's eye sockets because the light is not coming from above their heads, but from further back and into their faces. When doing this, I've found I need to adjust the flash exposure compensation as much as 1 stop, even with E-TTL.
 
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Scott Merryfield

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And 3) never be without your BFT (black foamie thing), which is just a flag to put on the flash to prevent light spill. It will likely be the cheapest but most useful photo accessory you ever buy.

That said, in most cases I'm just looking to get a well lit and exposed photograph. Getting nice modeling on the subject tends to be secondary for what I usually shoot, which are family gatherings and work activities in meeting rooms and conference halls, so very much like the kinds of shots Scott shared in the post above.

The one suggestion I'd make for Scott's example photo is to aim the flash backward at 45 degrees instead of forward. That tends to minimize the shadows in people's eye sockets because the light is not coming from above their heads, but from further back and into their faces. When doing this, I've found I need to adjust the flash exposure compensation as much as 1 stop, even with E-TTL.

I don't have one of those "black foamie things". Can you elaborate, Cameron?

I will have to try pointing my flash a little backwards -- I'm not sure my Canon Speedlite will go back 45 degrees, but it can point somewhat backwards. I have been pointing it almost straight up when bouncing. Thanks for the suggestion. I believe I have my flash exposure compensation reduced by 1/3rd or 2/3rd's right now, so I will play with that when I experiment.
 

Cameron Yee

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If it can't point it backwards, and you're not interested in changing to a different model that can, you can try an old school photojournalist trick with putting an index card on the flash as a bounce card.

You'll get some hard flash shadow in some cases, but it will throw some of the light forward into people's faces so it's not all coming from above their heads. This was my go-to until I learned about other (better) methods.

This video explains it in a model that has the card built in, but you can do the same with a rubber band and an index card cut to size and placed on the flash accordingly. This technique has been ubiquitous enough that manufacturers eventually just built a card into their larger flashes.



I will have to try pointing my flash a little backwards -- I'm not sure my Canon Speedlite will go back 45 degrees, but it can point somewhat backwards. I have been pointing it almost straight up when bouncing. Thanks for the suggestion. I believe I have my flash exposure compensation reduced by 1/3rd or 2/3rd's right now, so I will play with that when I experiment.
 

Mike Frezon

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You're welcome. You may also consider or prefer his book, which is how I worked through most of his information.

Amazon product

It's actually on my wish list to hire him to do a family portrait session if we have the chance to return to New York City.


LOVING the book, Cameron. He really does make it all fairly easy to understand. Thx again.
 

Cameron Yee

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I'm glad to hear it!

This conversation has made me think of reading it again, but I have the original edition. I'll see if my public library has the new version to see what the changes are. I think it's mostly the example photos, and maybe some equipment references, but I know Neil tried to make it as future proof as possible.
 

Patrick Sun

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The key to using on-camera and off-camera flash is to just get out there and do the work, figure out the fundamentals. Start with one flash source to get a feel of what that light source does, and then learning what light modifiers produce what kind of light on your subject. The main lesson to learn up front with studio lighting is that don't chase light control with your shutter speed, as the lighting's effect is affected by the aperture, and learning how stops of light impact your overall exposure. After a while, it's like driving a stick-shift transmission, you just do it, you just know what to change after chimping on some test shoots to nail your exposure. But you will have to use your brain to solve exposure problems, but that's part of the fun.

I don't get to shoot as much as I did in previous years, but I'm always surprised that it doesn't really take that long to get back into the saddle again, and I usually will use one off-camera light source because taking ambient-lit shots is boring to me. But not every situation demands that you use additional lighting, as long as you understand the exposure triangle, and take digital frames that you know what you'll be doing with them in the post-processing stage. So many ambient-only togs will under-expose their shots these days because their new cameras offer so much dynamic range, that they can get away with that style of capturing photos. My cameras are fairly old in the tooth, so I try to get the exposure close so I don't have to struggle with my old sensor's so-so dynamic range.
 

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