View Full Version : Flashes

Mr. Peabody
03-16-2005, 08:41 PM
Is there any site that describes the basic techniques of using an external flash.

I just got my Canon Speedlite 580EX and would like to know the do's and don't of properly using it.

Mr. Peabody
03-17-2005, 07:39 PM
Now I have to learn about bouncing and stuff. I thought buying and using a flash was as easy as hooking it up to the 20D and just plain and simple taking pictures.

Oh my!

03-18-2005, 09:46 AM
Mastering flash techniques is one of the most difficult parts of photography. I barely limp by when it comes to having to rely on a flash - an increasingly more vital part of my work. Part of my frustration has been Canon's E-TTL system, which never seems to pick the same flash exposure twice. I have devolved to the tried-and-true "Auto Tryistor" technology, and have had much better results, but I have to constantly worry about the manual camera settings (and subject distances) for each shot I take.

I have heard that the 580EX on an ETTL-II body (like my 20D) is much improved - and I plan on renting one from my local camera shop for my next event. Please let me know what kind of results you get from yours - my life would be a whole lot easier of I had a smart enough flash (to make up for a dumb photographer...)

Having said all of that, there are a couple of things that will make your flash pics look more "pro", and less "deer in headlights":

When possible, bounce that baby - be aware of your surroundings, and point the flash up whenever you can. This technique works best with low, light colored ceilings - so it's useless in big gyms or churches - but it produces the most natural lighting. Just keep in mind that it is a physics exercise; like a good bank shot in pool, you need to have your angles right so that the light falls pleasingly on your subjects. With your "smart flash" you probably won't even have to compensate for the loss of light due to the flash not aiming at the target, but FEC will help to even things out if you notice the bounced flash is not lighting your subject like you'd like.

Drag the shutter - Nothing makes a pic more point-n-shoot than a subject that is brightly exposed in front of a background that is lost in the shadows. A common pro technique is to intentionally shoot with a slow shutter speed (1/30th and even 1/15th). Since the flash fires so quickly, it makes up for the camera shake at the slow shutter speed and freezes the subject. By shooting at a slower shutter speed, the sensor brings in more ambient light, leading to more well lit backgrounds. Play around with the manual settings of your camera until you find a combination that works best (e.g. try setting your aperture to f 5.6 and your shutter speed to 1/30 - the flash should pick the right exposure for the subject, and the settings should bring in the ambient light. Change your shutter speed lo lighten or darken the background). Incidentally, the "night portrait" mode on your camera will use this technique automatically, but without as much control...

Use a flash in broad daylight - In broad daylight the idea is to balance out the ambient light with a light fill that removes the shadows on an individual caused by the sun. It has the added benefit of adding a little sparkle to the eyes in a portrait setting. A little goes a long way here, as you can easily blow out your subject with just a touch too much flash. Try setting the camera to AV mode and choosing an appropriate aperture. The camera should expose for the ambient light and trigger a low power flash.

Good luck with your experiments - and let me know how you like that 580EX!