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11-23-2009, 09:31 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
I prefer #1 and am just curious if we are able to use fill flash to fill in some of the background without sacrificing the ambient touch to the photos? #2 looks too bright to me. Is a compromise between #1 and #2 possible? If so, how do we do this?
Set the camera to get the exposure that Marc used in M manual mode. Set the flash to -2, then see what you need to adjust to get the effect of Marc's shot with flash to clear up some of the details.

11-23-2009, 09:36 AM   #17
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I was going to say the same thing as above, but I was going to say set the flash to something very low like 1/64, 1/32, or 1/16
11-23-2009, 10:19 AM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by MJB DIGITAL Quote
I was going to say the same thing as above, but I was going to say set the flash to something very low like 1/64, 1/32, or 1/16
I was assuming the on camera built in flash as fill only. If it is low enough power, it becomes less obvious.
11-23-2009, 10:56 AM   #19
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Marc, you shot in number #1 is an example of good photographer in documenting of the reality, whereas the number #2 shot does not provide the same mood at that moment. I would not notice that the second shot was taken with an expensive camera if you didn't mention it, (although most expensive camera owners do the same), it could have been taken with a P&S (e.g. G10). It appears to me that the person who took that picture uses direct flash and "auto" mode for not knowing better.

As one member here suggested, number #2 is preferred by most untrained eyes as they only see the flash is strong and picture is clear as a determining factor for "good" picture.

11-23-2009, 11:06 AM   #20
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This is a biased example; good low lighting technique vs horrible flash technique. Good flash photography is much more difficult and technical than ambient light photography.
11-23-2009, 11:09 AM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by aleonx3 Quote
<snip>
As one member here suggested, number #2 is preferred by most untrained eyes as they only see the flash is strong and picture is clear as a determining factor for "good" picture.
The #2 shot is one I would take to accompany a newspaper article about the birthday girl. The #1 shot is one I would take for me. A "between" setting would probably be about perfect for a family album.
11-23-2009, 11:19 AM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
The #2 shot is one I would take to accompany a newspaper article about the birthday girl. The #1 shot is one I would take for me. A "between" setting would probably be about perfect for a family album.

You have a good point - newspaper photography, that is where it belongs. Back to the original question, in the absence of flash, you need every bit of ambient light you can gather, that's why slower shutter, higher iso settings are critical. With proper balance of ambient light and flash, you could get a nice effect without destroying the mood. As you have suggested earlier, using M mode provides better of control of that magical balance.
11-23-2009, 12:17 PM   #23
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It looks like the flash photo was taken with the built-in? When I have to use the built-in I put a little Puffer in front of it to soften the glare.

11-23-2009, 12:18 PM   #24
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Thanks for all the comments, everyone! You're all hitting on exactly the same themes that occured to me - although I confess I hadn't noticed the fact that I was actually in shot #2 and this was apparent by my strap :-).

My point wasn't to say, oh look how terrible flash is, but to show some of the differences, to illustrate that taking usable candids in low light is not actually all that difficult, even with manual focus, nor does it require a great expenditure in terms of buying gear. I was also observing that even *having* sophisticated flash gear (I am pretty sure this was a relatively high end Speedlight, as I definitely saw him using something like that for other shots) is no guarantee of great results - it is, as Dan observes, as much about technique as equipment, and good flash photography can indeed be harder than ambient loght photography. But mostly, I wanted to foster some discussion of the topic that centered around something kind of specific. And I'm finding the discussion most enlightening (OK, I admit, that was pun was deliberate - I originally wrote "interesting").

I especially appreciated the comment about #2 being perhaps more suited for journalism. I suppose it remains to be seen how bounce flash would have worked here. My guess is that bounce would have produced an even better "newspaper" type of photo - it would have removed the harsh shadows of #2, but kept the detail and color. But I'd still have personally preferred the ambient light shot overall, for keeping more of the mood of the scene, and eliminating more of the unnecessary detail. It might well have been possible to find a good balance between ambient light and just a little fill flash - but it would have required someone with far more experience than I to pull that off in the few seconds we had available. I suppose I should really practice that more.

The photographer in #2, BTW, is actually rather better than this picture might suggest, and I feel bad for "blindsiding" him with this. Hopefully, he'll never see this thread :-). We were both caught offguard when the cake was lit and kind of snapped what we could. I think had there been more time to think he might have managed to set up for bounce. This was, as I recall, the only shot he got off (I only remember one flash burst). I prefocused on the candles and then fired off a fairly quick succession of 4-5 shots while she blew; the one posted was the only one really worth keeping. Had this one failed for whatever reason, there were two others that were "sort of acceptable" but not nearly as good that would have the keepers instead Had I posted one of those, this discussion would have gone a bit differently, as there would have been more focus on the shortcomings of my shot.

But I'd argue that's not just dumb luck - one of the advantage of this type of photography is that you can indeed often get off a quick succession of shots when you don't have to worry about AF flash recharge delays, or the annoyance of multiple flash bursts, and that helps your odds a lot. Note when I say a quick succession of shots, I don't actually switch to continuous mode - my K200D doesn't have a big enough buffer, nor is it easy enough to access that mode, to make that worth the effort. I just click several times in succession.
11-23-2009, 04:16 PM   #25
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IF flash was required in this shot, say no lenses fast enough available for argument's sake, it's very difficult in this situation to play with the flash exposure, as someone above suggested, to get the right shot. It would all be over by then. Some forethought is required, and maybe a test before the event should be done, as you know some candle blowing is going to be done.
11-23-2009, 09:08 PM   #26
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Marc--

Good on ya, mate. Yours is much more visually interesting and emotionally impactful. (Of course, I do have to award some composition points to the N*k*n shooter for including a pretty face in the background.)

As a fellow K200D shooter, I now have a new benchmark to which I can aspire. Thanks for sharing.
11-23-2009, 09:15 PM   #27
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As someone who is relatively new at trying to take photographs rather than just snapshots (that was a great way of stating it, mtroute), it's easy for me to say #1 is better. I think even before I started trying to take good photographs, I would have thought the same thing. Even though both pictures show almost all the exact same objects, the table looks very cluttered and in disarray in the second; this isn't the case in the first.

It's actually encouraging to see that one doesn't have to wait until all the bells and whistles are added to a basic setup in order to take quality low-light shots. A simple 50, along with some practice in knowing how to put it to use will suffice. Seems like the perfect setup for candid shots, the best of which come at very short notice, e.g. no time to set up the lighting the way you want it.

Thanks for the post Marc.
11-23-2009, 10:27 PM   #28
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If a little bit of effort was used on #2 it would have been more acceptable. By turning down the power on the flash and covering it with a diffuser would have lit the subjects a little better, killed the harsh shadow as well as retained the darkness and mood of the environment.
11-24-2009, 02:14 AM   #29
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Personally, I'm not sure I agree that the second shot is a more 'journalistic' one - unless we're talking about a family newsletter or similar where happy snaps are the norm. The first shot is just better, whether we're talking about the mood, the lighting, the onlooker, the lack of clutter, or simply the fact that in it, the birthday girl is the main subject - surely the whole point?

The second shot is just poor, and as Marc's pointed out, part of this is no doubt due to time constraints, rather than a crummy photographer who doesn't know how to use his flash. Still, the general consensus is that no 1 is the winner, and I suspect that the outcome wouldn't change whether you asked a group of photographers or a group of people on the street. The available light shot conveys mood, warmth and an idea of context, all of these are absent in no 2.

I think the best thing about the comparison isn't that the purportedly lesser gear got the better shot, but that shots like the first are possible with relatively affordable and readily available equipment. I live with two other enthusiastic amateurs (both of whom use other brands) one of whom has bought a fast fifty on the back of playing around with mine, and the other who's intending to.

Photos like this make me smile, and marvel at the wonderful opportunity to buy cheap, fast, manual glass that using Pentax affords.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
It was taken without flash, using my M28/2.8, a very inexpensive (usually $50-is) manual focus lens, at f/2.8 and ISO 1600 with a 1/45" shutter speed, on my very middle-of-the-road K200D:
Now now, no need to bad mouth the lowly K200D
11-24-2009, 05:55 AM   #30
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I think there are two points. First of all, it takes a lot of skill to learn to use flash correctly. I have a couple of external flash units and I seldom use them because I don't feel like I have a good grasp of what power to use them on, etc. It is easy to just overpower the light in a situation with your flash, hard to enhance it. The second thing is more of an artistic thing as mentioned above. Flash can effectively destroy the mood of a situation. I think your first photo, Marc, does a much better job of documenting that. In this particular photo, the details take second place to ambience.
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