Daily tip: Power


Say that you are ready to take a TTL flash shot. Once you have set your camera to a certain ISO and aperture and flash exposure compensation, and you have decided how to point the flash, you can do your test shot.

Say it is too dark. Why? Is it “incorrect metering, subject too light, etc”, or is it just “not enough power at this ISO/Aperture” (the shutter makes no difference)?

To ascertain that, and to see how much reserve you have, set your flash to manual, full (1/1) power:

The example shows half power (1/2); you should select full power (1/1, or 100%).

If you now have an overexposed picture, you know you can do the shot. Go back to TTL (press “mode” until “M” changes to “TTL”) and try again, changing flash compensation until your picture is good.

But if instead, your picture is too dark still, then there is simply insufficient power available. So no amount of flash compensation or metering changes will help. Instead, you have to lower the F-number or increase the ISO until that is no longer the case. (Or you could move to a room with a lower ceiling, if you are bouncing the flash).

I.e. if I were to sum this up, I would say:

Never go to TTL unless in full power manual, your picture is overexposed.

Simple, no? But you would be surprised how many photographers struggle with this simple check.


Jane and hats

This is Jane Dayus-Hinch at today’s Bridal Show in Toronto:

As you see, Jane wears hats. Large hats. And these are extremely challenging, photographically. You will get very dark eyes.

What you can do:

  • If using flash, lower your lights a little, and perhaps move them a little farther away.
  • Tip the hat up a little.
  • Add a reflector underneath.
  • Use a white floor with a lot of ambient light mixed in (as I did here).
  • Do some post work.

Even with these, the conditions will still not be perfect, so you may have to live with slightly darker eyes. But at least the photos will be acceptable, as this one is. And as Jane’s photographer, I have to be able to handle hats!



Flash is for when it’s dark?

No, that’s not just what flash is for. Take this image, made on a sunny day:

That was a flash image. Without flash, it would have looked like this:

Of course I could have just increased exposure *(lower “f”-number, or slower shutter, or higher ISO). But then, the entire image would have been brighter:

That’s not bad, but it doesn’t emphasize the subject, and I lose the opportunity to shape the subject.

So there are many shots where flash is not necessary per sé; it just increases the creative options available to you. Always carry flashes, is my motto: it makes my creative life easier by giving me more options.


Today, I host a Photographic Art Garage Sale at my home (scroll down). There is a very special deal on the e-books (http://learning.photography/collections/books) as well. 9AM-5PM: Come by if you are near Oakvillle, Ontario!


Exposing to the right

I am studio shooting, and I like to get my exposure right. And there’s one things that always occurs to me: the difference between camera and Lightroom. The camera says this image is overexposed:

That’s what it looks like on the camera. But in Lightroom, that same image looks like this:

Looks pretty perfect, and that is confirmed by the histogram:

There are several reasons for this.

  1. The camera shows me the JPG that is built into the RAW as a preview. But in Lightroom, I have the actual RAW. Which has more exposure space due to its having more bits per colour channel.
  2. Lightroom prevents overexposure when importing, as part of its current develop profile (so if you like overexposed backgrounds, tough—I have commented on this before).
  3. Cameras and Lightroom are not calibrated the same. There’s always some difference.

So here’s my studio tip for the day: know your camera, and know how to expose on your specific camera to get an image that is exposed to the right (i.e. bright white areas appear at the very end on the right in the histogram, without actually touching the right side). Every camera is different. On my 1Dx, for instance, I need to see overexposure by about 2/3 of a stop, in order to get a Lightroom image that is just shy of being overexposed. As long as you know, this does not matter.

1/1/2015: you have a few hours left to buy three of my e-books at a 50% discount. Only today!



I shall now repeat a flash trick I have mentioned here before several times, in 2011 and 2013. Time for another refresher.

You all know how important it is to avoid, at least when the flash is on your camera, direct flash light reaching your subject. Both in order to avoid “flat” light, and especially to avoid those nasty drop shadows, like this (don’t do this at home, kids):

But you have also heard me talk (and those who come to my upcoming flash courses will learn hands-on) that you should “look for the virtual umbrella”. For most lighting, this means 45 degrees above, and in front of, the subject.

So when you are close to that subject, you aim your flash behind you to get to that point. Good.

But what when you are far, as when using a telephoto lens? Then the “virtual umbrella” may be in front of you. And aiming your flash forward is a no-no, since the subject will be lit in part by direct light.

A-ha. Unless you block the direct part of that light!

Like this:

As you see, I use a Honl Photo bounce card/gobo to block the direct light. Simple, affordable, and very effective. I use either the white bounce side, or the black flag side, depending on the ceiling and position.

Simple, effective – done!

And one more thing. Direct flash is not bad per sé. Not at all. As long as it is not coming from where your lens is, it can be very effective, like in this “funny face” shot of a recent student (you know who you are):

Lit by a direct, unmodified flash. And the hairlight, the shampooy goodness? Yeah. The sun. Just saying.