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I'm terrified of flash

  
 
derKoekje
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · I'm terrified of flash


For some reason I've never warmed up to the concept of using flash and I honestly wouldn't know where to begin. Using a flash introduces so many variables that I feel quite intimidated by the whole idea. Fast shutter speed, slow shutter speed, intensity. Continuous lighting is so much easier to comprehend...

... But I have to learn sometime. I think I'd like to start with 1 flash. Is that even possible or should you get at least 2 flashes for a natural looking result? Is on-camera flash viable or is the result going to be look amateurish when compared to setting up an off-camera flash?

Suggestions on which flash to start out with on the A7R IV, and perhaps a good resource to get me started with using them would be appreciated. I understand this is all pretty amateur-level for the seasoned studio photographer but for me it's a whole new world. I'd like to start by shooting outdoors and using flash to compensate for the bright natural back light.



May 23, 2020 at 06:08 PM
johnvanr
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · I'm terrified of flash


Go to https://strobist.blogspot.com and check out the Lighting 101 posts.

I actually doubt that nowadays, you need to start anywhere. I hardly ever use a flash, what with good high-ISO performance.

It also really depends what you want to do with flash, just add a bit of light to a situation or have flash light the whole scene.

I used to be intimidated as well, but now find it fascinating.



May 23, 2020 at 06:16 PM
amacal1
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · I'm terrified of flash


High ISO performance of modern cameras is, indeed, pretty magnificent. It truly does remove a lot of the need for a flash. But, despite the quantity of light being less important, the quality of the light is still of utmost importance. Thus, there is still plenty of need for some means of controlling your lighting, whether through continuous lights or strobes.

For instance, the other night I was trying to photo my magnificent (read: horrendously unkempt) quarantine beard before I had to shave it. It was about 10min before I had to put the kids to bed and I had zero time to bother with pulling out my flashes or softboxes. I barely had time to put the camera on a tripod. Despite all of the light, I struggled to get a halfway decent photo because the lighting in my living room kept giving me "raccoon eyes". I eventually found a few ways to hold my head that didn't look completely absurd but also lit my face I'm a halfway flattering way.

Also, for outdoor evening portraits, I get magnificent colors by shooting subjects with their back to the late setting sun. However, without some way to get light on their faces, the subject will look dull, underexposed, and perhaps have color balance issues. I can use the high ISO capabilities of the camera to ensure I'm working with a decent shutter speed and ensure that I retain good IQ, but only a strobe or a reflector can guarantee that I have sufficient light on the subject's face to balance against the sky, sun, or background.

Here's a recent example:


A24A8975-20200407-FULL by Andrew Macaluso, on Flickr

It was a really overcast day, so there wasn't much I could do to make the sky interesting. But, a wireless flash in a softbox to camera right with a 1/2 CTO gel could at least ensure I get the subjects to "pop" a little.

You should definitely start with the Strobist blog that has been linked in the previous comment. His Lighting 101 series is a great, easy, and entertaining introduction, and his other series are also every enlightening. He links to other, more rigorous books and sources if you wish to pursue the subject more.



May 23, 2020 at 06:45 PM
rico
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · I'm terrified of flash


Strobist is the go-to resource. Flash can be complicated but starting with a simple configuration lets you ease into a wonderful world where light is both plentiful and full-spectrum 5600K. In comparison, available light is feeble, dingy, and comes from all the wrong directions. Unlike the film era, digital gives you instant feedback about light placement, intensity, and size. Start with a single flash (or strobe) and work indoors so you can eliminate ambient light. Filling a room 100% with flash is as easy as bouncing off a wall provided it's reasonably white:



Photo-bombing comes naturally to my daughter. This wall bounce creates 100% fill, meaning the light has no directionality. In contrast, direct flash creates directional light with hard shadows, and the only fill is the secondary bounce:





A complete, but basic, image will combine key and fill lighting using a ratio you choose, with higher ratios becoming more dramatic. Having two lights off-camera is easiest although one light on-camera is often workable if you have additional studio support (stands, reflectors). Finally, you can just stick the flash on-camera, then run and gun:



This is event-style flash work, and entirely pro-grade. When ambient light sucks—and it will—the solution is bringing your own light, and stopping down to f/5.6 so your 3-dimensional subjects fall into a practical DOF. One eye of one patron in focus is not acceptable. Plus, the colors with xenon flash are as clean as the noon-day sun.



May 24, 2020 at 01:57 AM
story_teller
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · I'm terrified of flash


Learning flash makes you more aware of light and how to control it. It can even make you a better natural light photographer. Regarding fear, flash will -
- not make you a social outcast (unless you're an annoying paparazzi)
- not reduce your current IQ
- will cause a minor depletion of current assets (more if you get hooked on lighting)
- expand your knowledge of light
- extend your capabilities as a photographer
- give you the ability to overcome crappy existing light situations (in many cases)
- won't affect your credit score (unless you really get hooked and hock everything to buy more lights)
- make you look cooler or more nerdy depending on the crowd you're shooting in
- strengthen your arms because of carrying the extra weight and gear i.e. light stands, modifiers, etc.

There are more, but you get the point. You're not going to back slide as a photographer if you try to learn flash. Think about the worst thing that can happen. You take some crappy shots that are dark or too bright, Not a big deal, just figure out what went wrong and delete them. Practice at home on jars, paintings, toys, etc. to get to a better level of comfort. No matter how far you go into lighting, you will learn something new you didn't know before.

Regarding equipment and your intended usage, you're looking to use an advanced flash technique generally called High Speed Sync (HSS). The reason I mention this is because you may want to initially invest in a more advanced light that can do HSS rather than buy a cheap speedlight and then have to invest again. You should also buy a 30 - 40 inch collapsible reflector (maybe silver on one side and white on the other). With those two items there are a ton of combinations, looks, effects that can be achieved.



May 24, 2020 at 09:24 AM
derKoekje
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · I'm terrified of flash


Yeah, I'm not so much afraid that using flash will make me a worse photographer, more that it's intimidating to get into since it's hard to preview the end result. Thanks for the link guys I'll definitely check it out.

So for my first flash I should be fine if I just use 1 flash for now (for portraits)? I'm thinking about the Godox V1 as it seems to strike a good price-to-performance ratio and you can easily equip some extra diffusion.



May 24, 2020 at 04:09 PM
rico
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · I'm terrified of flash


derKoekje wrote:
So for my first flash I should be fine if I just use 1 flash for now (for portraits)? I'm thinking about the Godox V1 as it seems to strike a good price-to-performance ratio and you can easily equip some extra diffusion.

Godox is attractive for price of new product and for their trigger system. The V1 is relatively expensive compared to any old used flash off eBay ($20), and either can be fitted with diffusion. To enlarge the source meaningfully, you need to use something larger anyway. Here's a headshot with bounce source up close:



Nikon flash, 40cm white cardboard from a frozen pizza.



May 24, 2020 at 05:07 PM
mrca
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · I'm terrified of flash


Using flash is like learning to cast a fly line. Once you understand a few basic concepts it's easy. And ti WILL take your work to another level. Now you have to work with the light you are handed, with strobes you can improve on it or create your own.
Principle 1. The light from your flash falls off quickly so the background can be minimally or not effected by the flash.
Principle 2. The flash is so fast, 1/1000 to 1/13,500 of a second so shutter speed has little or no effect on the flashed area, only the unflashed, ie bg. Therefore, you can control the bg darkness independentl of the flashed subject with shutter speed limited my the max shutter speed your camera will sync to or adding a nd filter.
Principle 3. Acually a corollary of #2, you control the flashed area with aperture.
So, start with one light. Out doors for example, adjust shutter speed to max sync speed. Adjust aperture to get the tone of bg you want without the light on. Turn on flash on subject, power it to get the exposure you want. Now you have created separation between subject and bg with out having to make the bg unrecognizably out of focus.
Next get a large piece of white foam core from Michaels. If you have adjusted the brightness on the highlight shadow of your subject way brighter than the shadow side illuminated by ambient, bring in the reflector from the shadow side and fill, ie lighten the shadow. You can make fantastic shots with one light and a reflector. Going diy, also pick up a 4x8 sheet of foam insulaton board that has crinkled aluminum foil on one side at home depot. Bring that in foil side in from behind the shadow side of subject at 2 o'clock reflecting a rim of light on the subject for separation. That will make powerful images. With just this, you can make killer images. You can build your lighting kit from there.



May 24, 2020 at 06:54 PM
mrca
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · I'm terrified of flash


And none of us were born knowing how to use strobe, we were all where you are at one time. If you have any questions, just ask. I and many here will be glad to help. If you can shoot in manual, operating stobes is no harder. It opens a whole world of control and creativity.



May 24, 2020 at 06:59 PM
ross attix
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · I'm terrified of flash


You have gotten some good answers already.

I would suggest getting the flash off the camera. You will be amazed how much more sophisticated the lighting will look. Yeah, you will make some mistakes with angle of light, etc., but it’s a learning process. Mistakes are good.

In most situations, start by seeing what the ambient is doing, and then think about what effect you want.



May 24, 2020 at 07:15 PM
 


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RoamingScott
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · I'm terrified of flash


I totally agree with you OP, and have always shied away from it myself.

To me, if it's obvious a flash was used, it's a bad application of flash. It takes a lot of skill to make the flash "disappear" so to speak, while still yielding the result you want.



May 24, 2020 at 07:39 PM
mrca
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · I'm terrified of flash


Scott, sometimes lighting is part of the subject of the shot. But when I hang 7 lights, most folks would never realize that is what lit my subject as they are all balanced and not over whelming. If you want to first get a speedlight, it can be bounced off surfaces. I studied with Denis Reggie and Joe Bussink, both were charging 40 grand a wedding 10 years ago. You can easily bounce to a wall 40 feet away and I have bounced from the back of a catheral to the front and back, 200 ft rd trip. Just another down and dirty lighting skill to have in your quiver.


May 24, 2020 at 08:10 PM
rico
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · I'm terrified of flash


RoamingScott wrote:
To me, if it's obvious a flash was used, it's a bad application of flash. It takes a lot of skill to make the flash "disappear" so to speak, while still yielding the result you want.

I agree with Robert @mrcs and go further: lighting that is part of the subject makes the only image of interest to me. Flash that "disappears" has its uses for regular clientele, and is achieved automatically in a shooting space with bounce:



One strobe, white umbrella. It's actually more difficult to create a high-contrast artificial look because stray light must be confined or absorbed:



As for being a bad application of flash, if it's good enough for Helmut Newton then it's good enough for me!



Copyright Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin. Much of his most famous work cannot be posted in prudish American forums, but check out the Master of Flash Lighting. This man is my god!

Ref: https://helmut-newton-foundation.org/en/



May 24, 2020 at 11:42 PM
tdlavigne
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · I'm terrified of flash


To answer your questions:
1 - I'd say start with 1 flash. You can work on movement/placement and trying different modifiers until you get to the point where you can pre-visualize the effect that one light will have depending on placement/modifier. No need to add a second until you're comfortable with the first. Plus, there's a lot you can do with one and in the event you decide flash just isn't for you you don't stand to lose as much if you invest a ton. Dont worry too much about "not being able to preview the end result", you'll pick it up pretty quickly with practice. You could even just buy a mannequin head and bring it out to the back yard and practice. Same concept and you'll quickly learn what light placement does.

2 - Unless you're specifically going for that "On-camera flash" look a la Terry Richardson's common work (sorry, it's getting late and can't think off hand of other photographers who use it...maybe some of Nan Goldin's work, or I think Ryan McGinley?), then it's not really ideal as it's very harsh and I guess you could say "In your face" almost. For your stated purpose (fill light for outdoors portraits) I'd move the light off camera.
You'll need the light, a stand, and some sort of trigger to set off the lights (and possibly receiver depending on what light you get). You'll also want some sort of modifier and that's where the fun starts. Common ones would be umbrellas and softboxes but I personally hate umbrellas (the strobist site that was recommended loves them) because they both act as a sail and often tip over in a slight breeze outdoors and also are just more difficult to control the light (where it does and doesn't go). Yes, there are exceptions but I think they suck for a beginner.
Either way I suggest trying a variety of modifiers out and seeing what works for you and what you like best.

3 - As for what light, for a beginner I like the Godox AD200's, although the 400 or 600 would offer more leeway. The 200 is enough for fill light though. Another plus for them is that you don't need to buy a separate receiver and can just get a ~$40 trigger. Roughly the same size as a speedlight (on camera flash) but ~2.5-3x the power iirc.



May 25, 2020 at 05:23 AM
derKoekje
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · I'm terrified of flash


rico wrote:
I agree with Robert @mrcs and go further: lighting that is part of the subject makes the only image of interest to me. Flash that "disappears" has its uses for regular clientele, and is achieved automatically in a shooting space with bounce:

http://makino.fi/rico/nikon/misc/john1b.jpg

One strobe, white umbrella. It's actually more difficult to create a high-contrast artificial look because stray light must be confined or absorbed:

http://makino.fi/rico/nikon/misc/j0022.jpg

As for being a bad application of flash, if it's good enough for Helmut Newton then it's good enough for me!

http://makino.fi/rico/art/hn100.jpg

Copyright Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin. Much of his most famous work cannot be posted in prudish American forums,
...Show more

Oh I love Helmut Newton ever since I discovered his work during a Thierry Mugler exhibition.

---------------------------------------------

tdlavigne wrote:
To answer your questions:
1 - I'd say start with 1 flash. You can work on movement/placement and trying different modifiers until you get to the point where you can pre-visualize the effect that one light will have depending on placement/modifier. No need to add a second until you're comfortable with the first. Plus, there's a lot you can do with one and in the event you decide flash just isn't for you you don't stand to lose as much if you invest a ton. Dont worry too much about "not being able to preview the end result", you'll pick it
...Show more

Thanks, that's great advice! Yeah, I was actually considering a mannequin of sorts I think there's one at a storage closet at my parents' home. I don't mind an off-camera flash but it sort of turns a simple portrait session into a whole setup. Where you normally need a camera, lens and a flash now you'll want a light stand, softbox, trigger, sandbag. I don't do any paid work so I think a setup that I can't run and gun with wouldn't be used very often. Maybe if I can get it compact enough for it to all fit in a Billingham of sorts... Hm..

Ah, I was checking out that Godox. It looks nice. Pricey though, what makes it better than the V1?



May 25, 2020 at 08:09 AM
umgrizz
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · I'm terrified of flash


I just finished a great video course on lighting with flash — Lighting 101 with Pye Jirsa. This whole course, more than 35 short lessons, is all about using one flash on camera. Pye starts from the very beginning and explains everything in a very understandable way. He does amazing things with one flash. Lighting 101 is available from SLR Lounge or from Creative Live (I think it is on sale now at Creative Live).

Curt



May 25, 2020 at 08:50 AM
mrca
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · I'm terrified of flash


Someone brought up on camera flash but that raises the next things to try after you get used to turning on the flash, getting it to fire with the camera.
How do you decide where to set up the lights? It starts with your vision,message or mood for the shot. When you shoot with available light, usually the sun, you have one source that produces hard shadows, ie sharp edged shadow edge transition. It moves on it's own out of your control other than chosing time of day and camera position and will soften, slow the shadow edge transition with clouds, fog or dust. With lights you control all that. Light has 4 characteristics: direction, diffusion, intensity and color. With lights you can pick and chose among them.

Direction: on camera axis flash produces flat, no shadow light. Think drawing a circle on a piece of paper, it's flat. Move the light away from camera say 45 degrees and you now produce highlight on the light side and shadow on the other. That shadow is like taking your pencil on it's side and shading the circle...making it a ball, 3 dimensional. with depth added. Research the standard main light patterns, paramount, loop, rembrandt and split and try kickers behind the subject to rim it with light and separate the subject from the background. Each pattern helps alter the appearance of theshape the face and flatter or detract from different facial shapes and the shadows can hide things like double chins in deep shadow.

Diffusion: shadow edge transition is controlled by the relative size of the light source. Although the sun is so large it is far away and relatively small and produces hard edged shadows with the rays lined up parallel. Clouds, or with your strobes, a diffuser panel or two including in soft boxes scatters the rays randomly and produces softer shadow edges. Soft for babies women hard for men and texture.

Intensity: when folks initially think of strobes they primarily think of getting "good exposure" and the proper exposure shows the actual tone of the skin. But part of the face is in shadow and how dark compared to how light the area lit is expressed as a ratio. Low ratio or little contrast for things like babies, women, gentle mood, high ratio for more dramatic, contrasty look. For men, drama, texture. See how these can be used combined with direction and diffusion to step up how light matches your vision? eg, dramatic male shot with direction other than paramount plus hard light and high contrast, you have maximized how light matches your message or vision. Women, paramount or loop, soft light low contrast, peaceful gentle romantic mood.

Color: You can control color using a gel, colored clear plastic on the flash. You can warm the subject to match the warm sunrise/set. Or color a background with a background light.

So, like I said in a prior post, it gives you all sorts of creative control you didn't have accepting what BOB, the big orange ball, the sun, hands you when you are standing there. Instead of flat, low contrast light on a guy on a cloudy day, you can harden it with a flash, power it high enough above ambient to have a higher contrast between the lit and shadow side and get the source smaller by using a maller light source and moving it further away. If you work with these concepts one at a time and see how they work then file what you saw in the back of your brain, when you envision a shot you will be able to draw from what you have created before to make a shot that is your style. I hope this post gives folks who have feared flash and no used it will see what a huge improvement it can make to your images. It's digital folks, if the shot is too hot, under exposed, etc, who cares, every shot is free. When I shoot with my medium format film camera today, every click is $2.50, you don't want to screw up a bunch of those.



May 25, 2020 at 03:23 PM
vbnut
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · I'm terrified of flash


johnvanr wrote:
Go to https://strobist.blogspot.com and check out the Lighting 101 posts.


Thanks for this recommendation. I read through Lighting 101, admittedly pretty quickly, without actually experimenting to internalize what he said. I'll go through again more slowly if I can be convinced it is worth it to me.

It seems like Lighting 101 all about people photography. There are only a couple photos in the entire series that aren't of people. I primarily do nature and wildlife, with occasional sports photography thrown into the mix. Its not obvious to me that Lighting 101 is relevant to my photography. Am I naive or missing something? I'm happy to be convinced that it can help me (especially since I have more time for learning at the moment), so try to convince me and help me understand how its relevant to my kinds of photography.

Thanks.



May 30, 2020 at 01:34 AM
johnvanr
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · I'm terrified of flash


vbnut wrote:
Thanks for this recommendation. I read through Lighting 101, admittedly pretty quickly, without actually experimenting to internalize what he said. I'll go through again more slowly if I can be convinced it is worth it to me.

It seems like Lighting 101 all about people photography. There are only a couple photos in the entire series that aren't of people. I primarily do nature and wildlife, with occasional sports photography thrown into the mix. Its not obvious to me that Lighting 101 is relevant to my photography. Am I naive or missing something? I'm happy to be convinced that it can
...Show more

I see no need for me to convince you to use flash. If you’re happy with your results, why would you?

Personally, I don’t use flash for nature or wildlife but some people do.



May 30, 2020 at 06:50 AM
Dragonfire
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · I'm terrified of flash


I took a class with Chicago wedding photographer and Canon Circle of Light instructor Bob Davis and I learned a few key points that alleviated all my fears and produced much better results for my clients.

http://bobanddawndavis.com/

I abandoned the wildlife flash after half a season.




May 30, 2020 at 08:18 AM
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