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11-27-2011, 07:01 PM   #1
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External flash with kx

Greetings to all!,
With holiday get togethers in full swing, I'll be taking pictures indoors under various lighting conditions. With my Kx, I usually use the 18-55mm kit lens and a recently purchased Bower SFD926P flash unit. After taking pictures at a couple of events, I'm not impressed with the performance of the Bower flash; in fact, I don't see much improvement over the pop-up flash. I've tried different settings(auto & av) and I'm using the flash in the ttl mode. Perhaps the biggest problem is me! Can someone suggest a good place to begin with my camera settings and do I possibly need to invest in a different flash for the Kx. Thanks, Lannie

11-27-2011, 07:05 PM   #2
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Two possibilities: either the flash is too weak or the stuff you are shooting is too far away. If you're in auto and the exposure isn't right even when the flash fires, it's got to be one of those two.
11-27-2011, 07:35 PM   #3
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Are you bouncing the flash off the ceiling?

If you are firing the flash directly at your subject(s), then it probably won't be much better looking than the on-board flash. On the other hand, bouncing the flash off a white ceiling/wall will dramatically improve the results. You can also use the bounce card to provide a little blast of direct(ish) light to get nice catchlights in your subject's eyes.
11-27-2011, 08:09 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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I've posted this a few times before, but what you are finding is very typical. Bottom line 1) you need to bounce, 2) you need to get out of auto and semi-auto modes on your camera

===================
Yes that is typical, the camera is exposing for purely ambient light in auto or semi-auto modes, and does not take flash exposure into account in that mode. So, do not shot in auto or semi-auto modes whilst using pTTL on the flash unless you are only doing subtle fill flash. Indoors is not for fill flash.

So, put the camera in manual mode, ISO ~400 to 800, shutter ~1/100 to 1/180 (can't go any faster than this with that flash), aperture to taste. You want the meter to be saying you are under exposing by 1 to 3 stops. The flash should be in pTTL mode. Aim the flash preferably at a wall so light will bounce off that and illuminate your subject. Push the shutter. The camera will then instruct the flash to achieve overall correct exposure. Then chimp and if your subject looks to bright or dim after this then use the FEC compensation on the flash to adjust. Typcially I end up dialing in -0.3 or -0.7 FEC. If ambient is too dark or bright then use ISO, aperture or shutter to adjust, this will alter the mix between ambient and flash but not the total overall exposure (only FEC will do this).

Remember, in pTTL mode the camera will use the flash output to achieve overall correct exposure. The more negative the camera meter says the scene is, the more light will have to be dumped by the flash to achieve correct exposure (hence the greater the ratio of flash to ambient).

All this sounds complex but is actually very easy once you try it and get the hang of it. The results are fantastic so it's worth mastering.

The best site I've found on using TTL mode on the web is this one http://neilvn.com/tangents/. I think "the strobist" is the best site for off camera manual flash photography if you don't want to use pTTL.

Good luck and have fun experiementing

11-27-2011, 10:23 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by twitch Quote
All this sounds complex but is actually very easy once you try it and get the hang of it. The results are fantastic so it's worth mastering.
I have tried this and it's a great technique. I recommend it.

What I used to do before that was use Av mode and set a fairly wide aperture. That depends on the lens and my confidence in its autofocus, but usually close to wide open. Then I would raise the ISO a lot, like 1600. You can also switch to M mode, keep those same close to wide open aperture settings, and set a fairly low shutter speed, something like 1/30. These settings let in a lot of light, so the flash has to do less work. When the flash is just adding some light, the photo loses the harsh shadows and superbright highlights. It's partway to the method above but easier for me to remember.

Ultimate image quality will suffer a bit, but no one will notice. You may have a few weird problems with ambient light, which is the normal light in the room. With low shutter speeds, a moving subject can have ghostly trails, then one sharp image. The flash burst is at least 1/1000 sec, or shorter, so the flash freezes movement effectively, but those slow shutter speeds will let in motion after the flash burst. Another potential problem is color temperature differences. The flash produces a light that has a different color balance than most indoor lighting. The color difference between flash and incandescent is large. In some photos, you can see this dramatically. One more: bouncing off a colored surface adds more weird color.

My parents' old house has 7 foot white ceilings, excellent for bouncing.
11-29-2011, 12:19 PM   #6
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Thanks Dave for the info. This is just what I needed, Someone to get me started in the right direction! Merry Christmas!!!
11-29-2011, 12:22 PM   #7
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Thanks to you Twitch! Great information to help me get going correctly!!
11-29-2011, 12:46 PM   #8
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Here is an example of a photo taken with the techniques suggested above. I used a K-7, Pentax AF540FGZ and DA 16-45/4 lens at 24mm. White balance is the same for each photo. The flash was straight ahead because the ceiling here is too high for bouncing. For the left photo, I used ISO 200, set the aperture to f5.6, and let the camera set shutter speed (1/60 and choose flash power. The result is probably like the flash photos that the OP doesn't want. The white propeller tip probably caused the camera to cut back on flash power, making everything else kind of dark. (In my experience, something always has this effect in direct-flash photos.)

On the right, I used settings to let more ambient light in. That was f4, 1/30, and ISO 800, so in total, four stops more ambient light than the first image (1 stop from aperture, 1 stop from shutter speed and 2 from ISO). I like this one a lot better. The flash is adding light but not ruining the shot with harsh shadows.



That shot doesn''t have any moving stuff and the ambient light is well-behaved, so the technique worked very well.

12-01-2011, 09:55 PM   #9
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I've explained dragging the shutter to some friends with P&S cameras and they were very grateful indeed. It makes an even bigger difference given the lousy flash on those little compacts.

BTW, which aircraft is that? I'm afraid I don't recognize the model or the insignia, although both are distinctive. The fairing at the top of the nacelle looks familiar but I cannot cudgel my brain to recognition.
12-01-2011, 10:14 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by glanglois Quote
I've explained dragging the shutter to some friends with P&S cameras and they were very grateful indeed. It makes an even bigger difference given the lousy flash on those little compacts.

BTW, which aircraft is that? I'm afraid I don't recognize the model or the insignia, although both are distinctive. The fairing at the top of the nacelle looks familiar but I cannot cudgel my brain to recognition.
It is a Spad XVI in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, the big new one next to Dulles.

Spad XVI - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

"An otherwise undistinguished aircraft, the Spad XVI in the NASM collection is significant because of its association with Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. He piloted this Spad XVI on many observation flights over the front lines during pivotal battles in the last months of the war."

I went through those early planes in the morning trying to remember what plane Snoopy flew, and at about 8pm finally remembered Sopwith-Camel.
12-02-2011, 09:17 AM   #11
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Thanks, Dave. I had a chance to get out there a few years ago but could not lay my hands on the guide I'm sure I bought. It's a wonderful experience and I'd like to visit again but I need to get back to Dayton first. I like Dayton. Upon entry to the first big hanger (with the B-36 and B-52) ..... "Oh! Wow! There's one of those and one of those and one of those ....." And then my head unscrews and falls to the floor.

At least I live close enough to Oshkosh to spend a few days there every July. Just two hours from my driveway to the flight line on good roads with little traffic. Life is good .....

Last edited by glanglois; 12-02-2011 at 04:59 PM.
12-02-2011, 10:53 AM   #12
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My wife did not understand why I was excited to go with her to her last conference, on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The hotel had a shuttle to the airport, and the airport had a shuttle to the museum. I covered it pretty well, except they have an observation tower and the weather when I went up there was not that good.

Last edited by Just1MoreDave; 12-02-2011 at 03:08 PM.
12-02-2011, 02:06 PM   #13
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fwiw i have that exact flash (bought about 6-8 months ago) and have experienced excellent (for my need) results. day and night when compared with the "stock" flash. just follow the suggestions above and make sure to practice them before you need them (that way you will be profecient when that perfect opputunity arises)!
12-02-2011, 05:16 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
My wife did not understand why I was excited to go with her to her last conference, on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The hotel had a shuttle to the airport, and the airport had a shuttle to the museum. I covered it pretty well, except they have an observation tower and the weather when I went up there was not that good.
The choice between the museum and the conference on nAChRs must have made for a gut-wrenching decision for you. But in the long run, I think you made the right choice.

I use a formula to help me with those decisions: If the average number of syllables per word in the abstracts exceeds 3.5, I go to a museum. Any museum.
12-03-2011, 03:00 PM   #15
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Dave, The photos are a great help in learning this process. The first photo is what I'm used to seeing; the second one is what I want. I'll get to experimenting asap. Thanks, Lannie
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