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Demystify the camera flash with 4 simple tips for flash photography



Left alone, your camera flash takes curvy pictures, with hard shadows, no background, faded skin tones and eyes that look like they belong in a horror movie. It is not surprising that these results lead to flash phobia and too many inexperienced photographers are terrified of using one of the best accessories for photography.

Good flash photography does not even resemble flash photography. Well done, the flash fits seamlessly into the scene, unnoticed by the untrained eye. Flash is also not only for low light. It can fill in dark shadows caused by the harsh exposure of direct sunlight, freeze objects in motion and lead to all kinds of creative effects.

While professionals have spent years improving their lighting techniques, they come down to some basic concepts. Remember the four Ms of flash photography: change, move, manually and mix.

Flash photography is most flexible with a flash for special cameras & even a wireless smartphone flash, but built-in flash can also be improved with some of these tricks. Here's what you need to know to take flash photos that you really like.

Change

The key to enjoying the flash look is to stop shooting with with only a flash . The flash itself is small, but powerful. Left on its own, it creates a rough, unattractive light and casts dark shadows.

The most essential flash modifier is a diffuser. A diffuser makes the surface of the flash larger, so that the light is diffused and softened. Even before you have mastered the rest of the photography of flash photography, it makes a big difference to hit a flash on the flash and it doesn't cost much.

My favorite diffuser is the MagMod MagSphere but the Lightsphere is also highly rated, and even a $ 20 flash softbox will produce excellent results . Even the pop-up flash can be spread with a cheap diffuser . The larger the surface of the diffuser, the softer the flash will be.

Once you have mastered a flash diffuser, which literally lasts a few minutes, you can continue to explore other flash modifications. For example, the grid does the opposite and narrows the light, creating a spotlight effect and directing the light to a smaller part of the photo. Colored gels change the light color either to match the color of the ambient light or to add creative effects.

Moving

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Luciano Zanollo

A flash modifier helps control the flash, but moving the flash can do even more. When we talk about moving the flash, we mean either redirecting the light to make it bounce off another surface, or physically moving the flash off the camera. The best external camera flash units have tilting and rotating flash heads, and many even have built-in wireless modes for remote activation. (This obviously doesn't work for built-in flashes.)

The larger the light surface, the softer and flatter the light – but you can't exactly get a 6-foot softbox on top of your camera. Reflecting light from a large, white surface such as a wall or ceiling, essentially changes that surface into a flash modifier. This also changes the direction of the light. This helps to create the appearance of an off-camera flash and can be flatter and more interesting than direct flash.

indirect flashing may even be easier than with a diffuser, but it does not work in every situation. There is not always a good surface to bounce against, such as outdoors. Even some indoor locations have high ceilings or walls that do not have a neutral color. If you bounce the flash off a red wall, the light will turn red.

Moving the camera flash is one of the most powerful ways to control your flash, but it is also the most advanced and trickiest to work properly. Once you have mastered the modification, bouncing and use of manual mode, off-camera flash offers endless possibilities. By getting off the camera, you can create different lighting patterns, use a variety of creative modifications, and position the flash to determine exactly where the light falls to create or eliminate shadows as you want.

To get rid of the camera, you need a wireless transmitter and receiver, unless your hot shoe flash has one built in (this system from Phottix is one of our favorites). Smartphone photographers can use lights such as the LumeCube or Profoto C1 + for off-camera lights. Another option that works with any camera is to use a continuous video light, such as this LED panel, from LumeCube instead. Constant light does not offer as much power as flash, but is easier to learn because you can see the effect of light before you take a photo.

Manual

If the car is switched on automatically, a flash is often too bright. Just like using manual exposure instead of automatically on your camera, learning manual flash gives you more control over your photos by making the light of the flash lighter or darker.

But you don't have to jump to full manual flash immediately. Just like exposure compensation on your camera, flash exposure compensation helps you control the light without having to enter the exact force manually. Flash compensation is useful for on-camera flash when you move and the distance between yourself and your subject is constantly changing. If you use completely manually in this situation, you should adjust the flash brightness every time you move, which, although ultimately more accurate, is simply not practical in many situations.

Ultimately, using manual flash will give you the most control. Manual flash is best used with off-camera flash, or when the distance between the subject and the flash does not change often. In manual mode the brightness is adjusted in fractions. At 1/1, the flash is set to full power – you will probably rarely use this setting unless you try to master the sun or use the flash off camera in a large modifier. A 1/2 setting is half that – or 1 stop darker – and so on.

Much of the use of manual flash is trial and error, but the great thing about digital photography is that you can see your results right away and easily make adjustments from there. With practice, you can easily estimate how much flash you need in a certain scene.

Mix

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Robin Van Der Ploeg

The flash, of course, does not work independently – the exposure settings on the camera will also play a role in how the flash looks . The flash settings must be combined with the camera settings.

Shutter speed. First, make sure that your shutter speed does not exceed the flash sync speed of your camera, or you get no flash effect or a black bar that passes through your photo. Most cameras have a flash sync speed of 1/250, but some are lower, such as 1/160. Keep your shutter speed at or below the sync speed for your specific camera model. (Note: many modern flashes support a function called "high speed sync" that allows you to shoot at any shutter speed, but this generally causes a reduction in maximum brightness. See the manuals for your camera and flash to see how you can turn it on.)

In addition to the sync speed, the shutter speed is important because it controls the amount of ambient light (or existing light) in the image – but this does not affect the brightness of the flash. If you take a photo with a flash and the background is black, there is no ambient light in the image – you need to lower the shutter speed. If the background seems too light, you will need a higher shutter speed. The shutter speed helps to balance the exposure of the lights that are already in the scene.

When shooting with flash, you can often get away with a much slower shutter speed than normal. This is because the flash itself can freeze movement. There are some very nice tricks that you can use here – such as a very slow shutter to capture motion blur and use the flash to freeze your subject – but we save these more advanced techniques for another day.

Aperture and ISO. Unlike the shutter, aperture and ISO affect both flash light and ambient light, and adjusting these settings makes the overall image brighter or darker. If your flash is in automatic mode, you can use ISO and the aperture to balance the overall exposure; raise the ISO or open the aperture, and the flash will recognize that less light is needed and compensate for this by reducing the output. With manual flash you have to adjust the flash intensity manually.

The flash is one of the best photography accessories out there, but it can also be one of the most difficult to learn. Focusing one by one on the four basic principles of flash photography makes the task less daunting. And once you have learned how to adjust, move, adjust and combine flash and ambient light, you will find that you really love flash photography.

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