The thought of using a flash or strobe light can be quite intimidating at first, as it can give some hideous results, especially if you put everything on automatic. But don't worry! This article will share a few tips to help you master the flash and help you give an uninspiring daytime photograph the “wow” factor.
Firstly, it helps if you understand:
- How to use your camera in manual mode
- Have an understanding of apertures
- Have an understanding of shutter speed
- Understand the relationship between apertures and shutter speed
The beauty of digital photography is that we can experiment and practice, seeing the results instantly.
Using a flash
Light travels in a straight line. When it hits an object, it is reflected at the same angle. This means that having a flash on top of the camera is the worst possible place it could be, as the light emitted reflects straight back into the camera. Because of this, we have to be very careful with the power of the flash we’re using to avoid harsh highlights and overexposure of the subject.
Just as exposure without the flash relies on aperture and shutter speed, the same is true when using the flash. All you need to remember is that shutter speed controls the amount of ambient (day) light entering the camera, while aperture controls the amount of flash light entering the camera.
This means that by having a faster shutter speed (up to a maximum of 1/200), you can control how dark your photograph's background is, even to the point of making an overcast day appear to be night. You then control the subject's exposure using the flash's strength and its distance from the subject.
Test it yourself
The get a good understanding of this, it is best to set up a test shoot with a still subject such as a bowl of fruit on a table outside. Ensure your camera is set to manual mode with an ISO of 100 and your color temperature is set to a constant setting, such as daylight. Set your aperture to F11 and your flash to half power.
Take your first shot. If your subject is too bright, move further away or turn down your flash's power until the subject is exposed correctly. If your subject is too dark, move closer to the subject or turn up the power of your flash.
Then take a series of shots, starting with a slower shutter speed of 1/50, going all the way up to 1/200. You should see that the background and sky get increasingly darker, and the subject's exposure remains the same. You can then test the effect of changing the aperture on the amount of flash exposing the subject.
How shutter speed and aperture work with the flash
Select the shutter speed that gave you the best background. Then, keeping the same distance from the subject, with the same flash power, take a shot at every aperture your lens allows and see its effect on the subject's exposure.
By carrying out this simple test, you will understand how shutter speed and aperture work with the flash, allowing you to control the ambient light in your photograph and give you the confidence to use your flash on more interesting subjects and places.
What has been your experience of using flash for the first time? What helped you get the best results?
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