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Demystify the camera flash with 4 simple flash photography tips



Your camera flash produces eye-catching photos with harsh shadows, no background, washed-out skin tones and eyes that look like they belong to a horror movie. Not surprisingly, these results lead to a flash phobia, and too many inexperienced photographers are afraid to use one of the best accessories for photography.

A good flash photography does not even look like a flash photography. Properly done, the flash blends seamlessly into the scene and is unnoticed by the untrained eye. Lightning is not only suitable for low light. It can fill in dark shadows caused by direct sunlight, freezing objects in motion, and creating creative effects of all kinds.

While professionals work on their lighting techniques for years, these are limited to a few basic concepts. Think of the four Ms of flash photography: changing, moving, manual, and mixing.

Flash photography is the most flexible of these tricks with a dedicated camera flash or even a wireless smartphone flash. You need to know this to make flash photos that you really like.

Change

The key to loving the flash look is to end the shot with just a flash. The flash itself is tiny, but powerful. It creates a hard, unattractive light and casts dark shadows.

The most important lightning modifier is a diffuser. A diffuser enlarges the surface of the flash, helping to distribute and soften the light. Even before you master the rest of the flash photography, it makes a big difference to put a diffuser on the flash, and does not cost much money.

My favorite diffuser is the MagMod MagSphere but the light globe is also highly rated, and even a $ 20 flash softbox will deliver excellent results. Even the flip-up lightning can be diffused with a cheap diffuser . The larger the surface of the diffuser, the softer the flash becomes.

If you know a lightning diffuser, which literally takes a few minutes, you can try out more lightning modifiers. For example, the grid will do the opposite and narrow the light, creating a spotlight effect and directing the light to a smaller area of ​​the photo. Color gels change the light color, either to match the ambient light color or to create creative effects.

Move

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Luciano Zanollo

A flash modifier keeps the flash in control But moving the flash can do even more. When we talk about moving the flash, we're talking about either deflecting the light to bounce it off another surface, or physically moving the flash from the camera. The best external camera flashes have tilting and rotating flash heads, and many even have built-in radio modes for remote triggering. (Of course, this does not work for built-in flashes.)

The larger the light surface, the softer and more flattering the light – but you can not attach a 6-foot softbox to the top of your device's camera. When you reflect light from a large, white surface, such as a wall or ceiling, this surface essentially becomes a lightning modifier. This also changes the direction of the light. This gives the flash something of the appearance of a flash outside the camera and can be more flattering and interesting than a direct flash.

Bounce flash can be even simpler than using a diffuser, but does not work in every situation. There is not always a good surface for bouncing, for example outdoors. Even some interiors have ceilings that are too high or walls that are not neutral in color. If you let the flash bounce off a red wall, the light has a red hue.

Moving the flash from the camera is one of the most powerful ways to control the flash. Once you master modifying, bouncing, and using manual mode, the flash opens up endless possibilities outside the camera. By disabling the camera, you can create different lighting patterns, use a variety of creative modifiers, and position the flash to precisely control where the light falls to create or remove shadows as you like.

Disabling the camera, you need a wireless transmitter and receiver, unless your flash has a built-in system (this system of Phottix is one of our favorites). Smartphone photographers can use lights like the LumeCube or Profoto C1 + for lights outside the camera. Another option that works with any camera is to use a continuous video light, like this LED panel, also from LumeCube. Constant light does not provide as much power as flash, but is easier to learn because you can see the effect of the light before taking a picture.

Manual

When auto is turned on, a flash is often too bright. Similar to manual exposure instead of auto exposure, the manual flash lets you control your pictures better by making the flash brighter or darker.

However, you do not have to switch directly to the manual full flash. Just like the exposure compensation of your camera, flash exposure compensation helps you to control the light without manually inputting the exact power. Flash compensation is useful for the flash on the camera as you move and the distance between you and your subject changes constantly. In this situation, you must set the flash brightness completely manually with each movement. Although this is ultimately more accurate, it is not practical in many situations.

Ultimately, using manual flash is what gives you the most control. Manual flash is best used with the flash outside the camera or when the distance between the subject and the flash does not change frequently. In manual mode, the brightness is set in fractions. At 1/1 the flash is set to full power – you will probably rarely use this setting unless you are trying to outshine the sun or use the flash outside the camera in a large modifier. A setting of 1/2 is half as high – or 1 level darker – and so on.

The use of manual flash is largely trial and error. The beauty of digital photography, however, is that you can immediately see your results and easily make changes there. With a little practice, you can easily estimate how much flash you need in a particular scene.

Mix

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Robin Van der Ploeg

The flash, of course, does not work independently – the camera's exposure settings also play a role in the look of the flash. The flash settings must be mixed with the camera settings.

Shutter speed. First, make sure your shutter speed does not exceed the flash sync speed of your camera. Otherwise, you either will not get any flash or a black bar on your photo. Most cameras have a flash sync speed of 1/250, but some are lower, e.g. Eg 1/160. Keep the shutter speed for your specific camera model at or below the synchronization time. (Note: Many modern flash units support a function called "High Speed ​​Sync" that you can record at any shutter speed, but this generally results in a reduction in maximum brightness. See the manuals for your camera and the flash for information on activation .)

In addition to the synchronization time, shutter speed is important because it controls the amount of ambient light (or light) in the image, but does not affect the brightness of the flash. If you take a photo with flash and the background is black, no ambient light enters the image – you need to reduce the shutter speed. If the background appears too bright, you will need a slower shutter speed. The exposure time compensates for the exposure of lights already in the scene.

When shooting with a flash, you can often get away with a much shorter shutter speed than normal. This is because the flash itself can freeze movements. There are some very entertaining tricks that you can use here – eg. For example, using a very slow shutter to capture motion blur and using the flash to freeze your subject – but these more advanced techniques are stored for a different day.

Aperture and ISO. Unlike the shutter, the aperture and ISO affect both the flash and ambient light. Adjusting these settings will make the overall picture lighter or darker. If your flash is in auto mode, you can use ISO and iris to compensate for the overall exposure. When you increase the ISO or open the aperture, the flash recognizes that less light is needed and reduces the light output. With the manual flash you have to set the flash output manually.

Lightning is one of the best photo accessories available, but it can be one of the toughest. Focusing on the four fundamentals of flash photography one after the other makes the task less difficult. And once you've learned how to modify, move, manually adjust, and mix the flash and ambient light, you'll find that you really love flash photography.

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