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11-22-2009, 03:55 PM   #1
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Available light versus flash for a candid

This not a question, nor is it meant as a definitive statement on the topic. Just a single example that struck me recently, when I was sent a picture taken by someone else of a scene I had also photographed at the same time. I know flash has its place, and it's possible to get far better results with it than what I'm about to show. But this one example was just *so* striking to me, I had to share it.

Here's my image. 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:

Here's a shot taken at virtually the same moment by the birthday girl's brother-in-law, with a much more expensive (Nikon, not that it matter) camera, lens, and flash system. The flash allowed him to shoot stopped down and at a lower ISO and still get a much faster shutter speed than I did:

Is my shot a little noisier? Yes. Is it a little blurrier from subject motion and/or camera shake? Probably. Are his colors truer? Yes, although of course since I shot RAW, I could have chosen to remove more of the color cast from my photo.

But which do you prefer?

11-22-2009, 04:12 PM   #2
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It's the mood in #1 created by the non-axial lighting source that makes it more desirable to me.
The selective lighting of the woman blowing the candles and the man by the window, with little else in the room being lit adds to the drama.

Whilst #2 has all the detail, the feel of the scene is lost by the drab front-lighting (again IMO) and the too-well-corrected WB (ie. I like the yellow cast of #1 anyway). But hey, this capture is fine in its place - it has plenty of bright and contrasty colours and is very well exposed. Perhaps may have looked a little better with bounced flash.

So definitely, it's #1 - not for the camera or the lens, but by the selection of lighting for the scene. But it wouldn't have worked if the subjects weren't placed close to that side window.
11-22-2009, 04:48 PM   #3
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#1 is certainly my preference.

#2 is fine to simply document the moment, kind of like a news photograph, but #1 better captures the event as experienced by the participants, in available light, with all the warmth of colour (and mood) that was no doubt present in the event. That's what good photography is all about.
11-22-2009, 08:48 PM   #4
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What is the status of photographer number 2?

Correct use of flash can have a different impact compared to what we see here....

11-22-2009, 08:57 PM   #5
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#1 is a photograph, #2 is a snapshot...
11-22-2009, 09:00 PM   #6
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Isn't it obvious that #1 is the creatively nicer photograph that conveys the mood better. Just looking at the hideous shadow cast by the direct flash makes #2 better suited for the dustbin.
11-22-2009, 09:06 PM   #7
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No. 2 looks like a snapshot my wife would take with her Canon P&S.

No.1 is a well composed Photograph. It shows drama and has a balance to it that is missing from the other.

11-22-2009, 09:28 PM   #8
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The available light shot focuses attention on the birthday girl and one observer, making it much more intimate. The flash picture is too busy because the levels are even highlighting everything within the frame to the detriment of mood.
11-22-2009, 09:31 PM   #9
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Hands down #1. It has a strong and warm story telling, technically, there is excellent subject isolation.

#2 looks no different than a P&S shoot. The composition keep drawing the eyes to the muted demeanor of the girl in the background.
11-22-2009, 09:34 PM   #10
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I'll chime in and vote for #1 as well. Nice shot, Marc.
11-22-2009, 10:40 PM   #11
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Was #2's flash not capable of bounce? Or did #2 think top-dollar gear was a substitute for knowledge and (minimal) effort?
11-22-2009, 10:43 PM   #12
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#1 wins, hands down. The best part is that the Nikon flash lit up your Pentax strap.
11-23-2009, 07:01 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtroute Quote
#1 is a photograph, #2 is a snapshot...
This is more or less the way I look at these two examples. Based upon the image examples and the way I see them, whether it is intended or not, the image in the first example is more interesting to me because of the wide contrasts between shadows and light and the emotions we derive from those aspects.
In the second example, the way the flash is used and how it casts it light is a little less interesting, even though we can see the Pentax camera strap dangling.

Happy birthday to her.
11-23-2009, 07:24 AM   #14
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I just realized that this is in the Beginner's section so I hope I have not taken anything away from the discussion for anyone.
And to further the discussion or over think the premise way too much I am sure the majority of the members who would leave replies here will vote for photo number one simply because of how we tend to look at scenes. Take a poll of 10 less "artistic minded" people and they will probably say they like number two because you can see more.
We, as people who at least fancy ourselves as photographers, will imagine the scene and the moods of the light and shadow differently, most likely, than those who may see the second image as being better lit and more useful.
Irregardless of course of what cameras were being used to take either image. I mean of course the second image could have even been improved if you had moved the light source, both images taken with a Pentax or reversed and let the Pentax user take the "bad" shot.
11-23-2009, 08:13 AM   #15
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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?

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