The WIllems 4-4-4 Rule – redux

A readers asked, the other day:

Recently in some event shooting that I did, I followed the famous Willems 4-4-4 rule with my 430-EXII set to ETTL metering. The pictures that resulted were a bit overexposed and with the ambient light not doing as much “work” in behind the subjects. (I think could have been a variety of reasons such as brighter ambient light, distance of subjects, etc). In these instances, what is your first suggestion to correct this? Flash compensation? change shutter speed / ISO / aperture?

See the article above (under “ARTICLES”) for the 4-4-4-rule explained.

The 4-4-4 rule is a starting point. Your mileage may vary depending on many factors – ambient light intensity for one, but also distance, bounce surface, the flash power, and many others.

My suggestions:

First, the flash part:

  • First: if the flash part is too bright, use FEC (Flash Exp Comp) to decrease that (set it to, say, -1 stop).
  • If the flash part of too dark, you need to increase ISO, or open the aperture more (lower “f-number”).

Second, the background:

  • If the background is too bright, increase shutter speed.
  • If the background is too dark, increase ISO. 800, even 1600 is fine if you need it – you are aiming for -2 stops indicated on the meter, when you aim the camera at an average part of the room.

This is not the only way, but it is usually the best way.

Anyone with issues like this: send me a picture with EXIF data and I’ll tell you my suggestion/analysis.


1 thought on “The WIllems 4-4-4 Rule – redux

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the dedicated post! I went through and tried to download my files last night to find that that the venue shots were corrupt. Thankfully I followed your advise and shoot with 2 cards so I didn’t lose everything. I will try to follow your suggestions to see if I can successfully adjust for the background / foreground in future shots.

    Thanks again!

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