Aha Me A Riddle I Day

Not the Laura Love song, but a real riddle. What happened here?

My face is underexposed totally compared to the rest of the shoot, which was like this:

So there the sides of my face are well exposed. But then the photographer zoomed out, and we got the shot at the top. What gives?

If you do not know, let me give you a hint: we were using TTL.

If you still do not know, allow me to explain:

TTL is like “auto for flash”.

  • Auto flash exposure normally uses evaluative (“Matrix”) metering.
  • I.e. the screen is divided into little squares, dozens or hundreds of them, and each one is metered individually.
  • As soon as any of these little squares are overexposed, even one of them, the camera tries to fix that.
  • It does that by lowering the exposure. But you obviously cannot change just one part of the photo, so the entire exposure is lowered.
  • That’s the reason the picture at the top is underexposed: the flashes are visible, meaning a hot spot or two, and the camera “fixes” that by lowering the entire exposure (by using a lower flash power setting).

The fix: You can go to average metering. Or you can avoid hotspots like reflections or flashes.

That’s one of the little facts you learn if you take my flash course.

Are you aware that virtually all my courses are offered online as well? Live, one-on-one courses, like the one I just did today with a long-time reader from Melbourne, Australia:

If you go to this page and check the pull-down menu, you will see that you can even save money by doing it online. So wherever you are in the world, I would be delighted to do a one-on-one with you.


A new life

My first granddaughter was born today, at 03:22. Addison Margaret May Shepherd-Willems, weighing in at almost 7 lbs.

(1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO1000, probably with flash assist)

I had to shoot these in a very dark hospital room. Today I used a combination of:

  • High ISO, large aperture, no flash (I had an f/1.4 lens and an f/1.2 lens, as well as an f/2.8 zoom)
  • Medium ISO, flash
  • High ISO, flash assist

(1/100, f/1.4, ISO3200, probably without flash)

The thing is: I am not sure which ones I used flash for. And that is a key lesson to take away from this: good flash photos can often look like no flash photos.

(1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 1600, with flash assist)

Another key lesson: exposing to the right makes for low noise. I call this Willems’s Dictum: “Bright Pixels Are Sharp Pixels”. Shooting at high ISO is fine as long as you expose brightly: exposing to the right is as important as ISO.

In other words, a dark shot at 1600 ISO looks grainier than a bright shot at 3200 ISO. Noise, like cockroaches and politicians, hides in the dark. Do NOT under-expose. Even worse, of course, is under-exposing and then pulling up (thus increasing the noise). Exposing to the right *(i.e brighly) is good; exposing to the right and then darking is even better, if you have that luxury.

(1/250 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, flash)

A final note: of course you realize that shooting at f/1.4 means that you have to focus accurately, and that you had better be sure what is important in your picture. But clouds have silver linings: I use the shallow depth of field as a benefit. It allows you to choose one subject to emphasize and to blur out the rest.

Toronto residents: Saturday I teach at Vistek. Studio lighting and portrait lighting. Join me there, a great opportunity to get small class help from me! https://www.vistek.ca/events/ and sign up now: limited space.


Turn turn turn

Another reminder to those of you who do outside portraits: turn your subjects away from the sun. Like this, I photo I made yesterday of Oakville’ mayor Rob Burton and friends:

The advantages:

  1. The nice shadows coming towards you.
  2. The sun becomes the hair/edge light.
  3. The subjects do not squint.
  4. The light on my subjects’ faces is not harsh like sunlight.

Of course this needs a… flash. To light up their faces. I used a Bowens 400 Ws studio flash, powered by a Bowens “Travel Kit” battery.

Camera settings: 100 ISO, 1/250th, f/7.1. Flash set to 4 (out of 5), bounced into an umbrella.

And that is that. Simple.