Simple Setting Tip

You have all heard this before, but one more time: here is a simple setting for “indoors flash in a typical living room”. For photos like this, in other words, of my friend and colleague photographer Taha Ghaznavi:

Not bad, eh? Would you like to learn to make photos like this, with those nice warm background colours, and natural looking shadows? Well – you can, if you have an SLR and a flash. Here’s how:

  1. Camera on MANUAL (“M”)
    1. ISO: 400
    2. Shutter: 1/40th second
    3. Aperture: f/4
  2. Set the White Balance to FLASH
  3. Ensure that the Flash is set to TTL (that is its normal auto mode: it says something like “TTL” or “ETTL” on the display on the back).
  4. Aim the flash 45 degrees up – BEHIND you (ensure there is a ceiling or wall).

Magic! Your background is dark, but not too dark. There’s no reflection off the glasses. The face looks not flat, but three-dimensional.

Simple starting settings like the Willems 400-40-4 rule above are important. Recipes. Of course they are just that – simple start settings. If your subject is too dark, for instance, it may be that the ceiling is too high for good bounce. In that case increase your ISO to 800 or even to 1600. Or if your subject is wearing white, you may need “+” flash exposure compensation. And so on.

So you may need to vary, but by starting with good rules of thumb like the Willems 400-40-4 rule you will not be too far off for a start!


These recipes are the basis for my Photography Cookbook – a recipe book that will get you started with many good situations. But a thorough knowledge of the fundamentals is also needed if you want to be a good photographer. The Pro Flash Manual is designed to teach that. Learn about both these e-books here on my web site.



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