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8 Steps to Better Flash Photography

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A quick primer on how to think about blending ambient and speedlight photography.

A quick primer on how to think about blending ambient and speedlight photography.


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  • 1. The images and words in the following presentation are for the express personal use oftodays audience. No distribution or reproduction (in whole or in part) allowed without theexpress written consent of Michael E. Stern.Thank you for respecting the rights of professional artists everywhere.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comPhotography Basics:
  • 2. Photography Basics:8 Steps to Better Flash PhotographsMichael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com
  • 3. Photography Basics:The objective of this presentation is to understand the basicways to set the flash exposure relative to the ambientexposure.This presentation assumes that you have a speedlight unitthat can be mounted on and off camera.Afterwards you will be able to build better personal andprofessional photographs.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 4. Photography Basics:“A successful photograph is a series of small decisions made correctly.”Michael E. SternMichael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 5. Photography Basics:The three ideas for today:1) ambient exposure2) flash exposure3) blending the twoMichael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 6. Photography Basics:With the following knowledge you will be able to build better photographs under a variety of lighting conditions.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 7. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comThe eight steps will help you build photographs vs. taking photographs.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 8. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comThere are two parts to the exposure equation when we combine flash and ambient light.The two exposures work together in order to build a better photograph.They don’t have to be equal but it’s the relationship between them that drives thetechnique.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 9. Photography Basics:Steps 1-4 set the camera controls for the ambient exposure. Do not alterthese controls or the next four steps will not render the desired result.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 10. Step 1: After setting the ISO, calculate a normal ambient exposure. Keep in mind themaximum sync speed of the particular make and model of camera being used.Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 11. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comStep 2: Decide what the aesthetic choice for the ambient exposure will be:Underexposed? By how much?Normal exposure?Overexposed? By how much?8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 12. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comStep 3: Find the equivalent exposure if you are attempting a specific affect byaltering the shutter speed to create blur, stopping motion or extreme DOF.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 13. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com*Step 4: Compute the filter factor if you have anything other than a skylight filteron the lens. If you are photographing in iTTL or eTTL modes then thiscomputation is done automatically.*If you don’t have a filter on the lens, skip this step.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 14. Photography Basics:Steps 4-8 set the flash controls relative to the previous ambient exposure calculations.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 15. Photography Basics:Step 5: If using your speedlight in manual mode, find the normal flash exposurebased on the guide number.Otherwise go to step 6.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 16. Photography Basics:A successful photograph is a series of small decisions made correctly.Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comStep 6: Relative to the ambient exposure, determine the flash exposure.Normal?Underexposed?Overexposed?By how much?1/3, 1/2 or 1 full stop, etc.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 17. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comStep 7: If a colored gel or diffusing cap is placed over the flash head, calculate thefilter factor.*If no gel or cap is present, skip this step.*The filter factor is the amount of light absorbed by the filter or diffusing cap.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 18. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comStep 8: If working in manual mode adjust the flash output taking into account thefilter in step 4*.If in iTTL or eTTL mode, this will be done automatically.*Remember this step is optional.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 19. Photography Basics:Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.comAs you begin shooting be open to changing either set of calculations to adjust any image to taste.8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 20. Photography Basics:Let’s Shoot!Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.com8 Steps to Better Flash Photographs
  • 21. Michael E. SternPhotographer Educator Author Radio Host818-422-0696BuildABetterPhotograph.commichael@cyberstern.com