Built-In & Add-On Flash
Alright, so we're just about to dive into using the flash and we're gonna start with the very basics and that is the built-in flash for a lot of people. So cameras have built-in flashes for convenience, not necessarily for great lighting, and so it's fast, it's easy, there's a little button that pressed it'll come up, sometimes they'll come up on their own if you're in a certain mode on the camera. The downside is that the actual size of the light source is really small which means you're gonna have very distinct, harsh shadows on whatever you shoot with that. It's close to the lens, and so those shadows are gonna be very distinctly very close to your subject and very, very noticeable. You can't really adjust the distance, you can't raise that flash up and down and it has very limited power 'cause it's coming off the same battery power as the camera. Now unfortunately, this is an area that I have failed in this class and I have only one photo I can show you that I have taken in the rea...
l world, that's not like a setup photo. I was down in Chile and my camera had a built-in flash, and I thought it was perfect for illuminating the grapes along the side of the road. And one of the key things here is that there is nothing right behind the grapes to add that shadow onto and so in that natural environment, it's just what we would call a fill light and so that's my one example of using built-in flash where I think it came out pretty well, given the circumstances there. But, the built-in flash is highly limited. You get kind of this deer in the headlamps-type look with it it's the department of motor vehicle here in the United States that we talk about that look and you see that chin, that shadow right below the chin, not the most attractive thing. And then the other problem is, is that when you turn the camera vertically, there is this very awkward shadow that comes straight off to the side of your subject that is very, very noticeable, especially against a wall that's not too far behind it. Now the built-in flash actually does a much better job outside and leaving the camera in its automatic TTL flash where it's just doing everything automatically, it's better 'cause we don't have the shadow. However, the TTL flash system is kind of interesting 'cause it's supposed to take care of everything for us, and it tends to overpower the subject in many, many cases. I think the light on her skin tone is a little too bright here and this, in a technical perspective, in a histogram metering-type perspective, is the correct exposure, especially if you consider the brightness of the background. This picture is overall the correct brightness. When it comes to skin tones, and people, and what looks right, it's a little too much. Now I believe flash photography is a little bit like spice that you put in your food. It's nice to have a little bit of spice, but too much, it gets really bad very quickly. And so with light, one of the things that many photographers are trying to do, is to add a little bit of light to their subject so that you can see it properly, but not add so much that it becomes really, really obvious. And in this case it's really obvious that we used flash. So, most all cameras will have the option for powering down the flash in the flash exposure compensation. Which is the lightning bolt and the plus, minus. Now, we've talked about the plus, minus, which is exposure compensation, this is flash exposure compensation. Powering the flash down by about one stop, is gonna fix most of these problems and give you better skin tones on your portrait photography using either the built-in or even the add-on flash. Some cases you may need to go down to minus two, in some cases you'll need to go down to minus three. Let's go ahead and take a look at all of these and so you can see what the automated flash is doing and then when you tell it just back it off a little bit. And so for me, this is very much like going into a Thai restaurant, do you want one star, two star, three star, four star, or five star? And I usually think the TTL-1 is about the right flavoring. Now some people will go minus 2/3 or minus 1 1/3, whatever works for you in your particular situation. It will vary from person to person but it will also vary according to the background and other things going on and how much it's reflecting in that particular photograph. Alright, let's add on a flash so that we can have a larger light source and have that flash a little bit further away from the lens and so here we're gonna have more power. And what more power means is that we can shoot something further away, or we can shoot something closer, more quickly because the flash will be able to recycle more quickly in that regard. Little bit larger light source, granted it's not much, but I'll take every bit at this point. It's a little bit further away from the lens, which means you're probably gonna get a little bit more pleasing shadows in many cases. We have a bounce capability, so if we have a white ceiling, or a wall nearby, we can use that for reflecting the light back down onto the subject. And then depending on the model you have, you might have some special effects and we'll get into that in the advanced section. Now the downsides is, is that it is relatively still a fairly small source of light and it is relatively close to the lens. And so adding that on, you're gonna get a little bit better flash than you would with the built-in flash. One of the things that you can do is you can bounce the light up against the ceiling, you can pop out the little card on some of them, so that you're bouncing some of the light forward. And so, a lot of the light is coming from above, which is where we would expect it and it's very normal, but you'll see in the eyes that we are getting a bit of a catch light there which is good and it's coming off of that little card. Back before they had those cards, you know what we did? Three by five cards and rubber bands. A great little device that we used to just pull up right there on the back of those flashes. And so here we have a low white ceiling, and it's bouncing very natural light onto our subject. Turning your cameras sideways, bouncing it into a wall and then using a fill card to bounce it forward a little bit you can see in the eyes very closely, let's take a closer look at that, egads, alright, so now you can actually see the lighting of where the light is bouncing off of the wall and the original light source itself. And so if you ever want to reverse engineer lighting photographs, look under the eyes 'cause they're reflecting everything around it. So the way I'm photographing this is I have my subject in a hallway and I'm bouncing the light against the wall and that increases the area of the light and then there's just a little bit of light going straight forward, getting on the subject as well and so that's a little bit of a mixed lighting scenario that tends to work out quite well in a situation like that. So you have to be on the lookout for the right types of walls and ceilings that are the right color and the right distance for that to work out. Now in this case, the TTL flash did a horrible job. And the reason it did a horrible job, is 'cause she's wearing a very dark top and the foliage in the background is also pretty dark. And so technically, the camera doesn't care about one pixel versus another, it just wants an average over the entire area and this picture is technically correct. Alright, and this is where we need to add our human brain to the technology and say, tell you what, let's back off on this power a little bit, let's go into flash exposure compensation and power the flash down a little bit. One stop is better, in this case I think two stops gives us better skin tones, and then we can go down to three stops just to test it, see what it looks like. And so if you are shooting pictures of people with flash, in cam built-in flash or add-on flash, you're probably gonna need a TTL-1 set on your camera. If not, it's gonna be somewhere in that general range. And that's generally where I leave my camera setup for when I am using flash, I just leave it at TTL- and that just backs the edge off on that flash. Adding flash onto a cloudy day, once again, standard TTL is just gonna add a little bit too much flash in this case. And so back off on the flash and let's look at some examples at various levels, power down, looks pretty good at TTL-1, barely noticeable on TTL-2, and you can barely tell the flash was firing in minus three, but you can still see a little catch light in the eyes, which is always nice to have, just to add a little bit of life to it. And so here's a series from a cloudy day, adding the flash on, and you can definitely see that TTL flash just seems like a little bit too much. So, if anybody works at the department of motor vehicles, could you dial your flash down to TTL-1? I think it'd just us all look a little bit better in our photographs on our driver's license. And so adding flash, one of the best times to do it is when you're out in bright, sunny weather where there's lots of deep shadows and if you're close to your subject, you can fill in those shadows. When you are doing group shots, fill in flash is gonna give you a little bit more light on the face, little bit of sparkle in the eyes, and for me, I really associate flash with people. I don't tend to use flash photography out in landscape photography, I suppose I could illuminate the flowers in front of me, but I'm not gonna be able to illuminate the flowers that are 10 feet back and 20 feet back and 30 feet back, I'm only gonna be able to do this flat line. And that's just kind of the way that flash works is it falls off very quickly and you kinda have to have your subjects all lined up. And so very good to add in a little kicker flash when doing a group photo like this. We wanna be able to see people's faces, we're very curious about other people, we wanna see what they're looking and what they're doing, and adding a little bit of flash to the photo, just ever so slightly, enough so that most people wouldn't even know that you used flash. That's often the correct amount of flash to use. Now you might be trying for a completely different effect where it's a surreal or it's in a studio setup, and you want to have that type of look. It depends on what you're trying to do. It's not that there's one right or wrong but there is a good way of just adding a little bit of flash to make it look like natural light. Alright, the built-in or these add-on flashes are relatively small in size. And one of the ways we looked at, back in the gadget bag, is adding on a reflector here to add a much larger surface area. Now when you bounce it up into this reflector, you're gonna get a larger light source, but it's also gonna become much weaker, so it does not fire over as much distance. So you do have to be fairly close to your subjects. And what this is gonna do, is it's gonna soften the shadows of your subject a little bit.