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12-17-2009, 01:46 PM   #1
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Better pics with flash?

Hey all...Been away from PF for a while - "real life," esp. work has been keeping me quite busy. This said, I've been back lurking and catching up - hey, did you know Pentax released the K-x? - and now need some advice.

I'll be helping take some pics at my company's Christmas dinner tonight and I'd like to have my ducks in a row where the flash is concerned. Here are the vitals:

K20D w/ my new (used) Tammy 28-75mm/f.28 XR Di (thanks Edmund!) and AF-360FGz

I typically shoot Av mode - RAW+ (PP in Lightroom).

What would the strobist experts suggest, taking into account the details above and that most of the shots will be of the kiddos with Saint Nick. I'm not sure of the lighting where the dinner is being held, but planned to shoot AWB and have Santa hold a gray card up for the first shot, so I can then adjust light accordingly (and if needed) in LR.

Thanks in advance for any/all feedback. Oh, by the way, I'll be heading out the door in 1 hour, so if you have thoughts please share them now. Thanks!

12-17-2009, 01:58 PM   #2
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I wouldn't worry about WB since you're shooting in RAW! Just adjust in PP and copy those settings to the rest of the shots with minor adjusments. I think you'll need minor adjustments as the mixing of ambient and flash won't be the same each time - but I a starting point won't hurt.

Good luck!
12-17-2009, 02:06 PM   #3
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I'd suggest to have WB on flash or set your camera to Flash WB when using flash. It does matter (even if a little) when WB is way off the intended temperature.

Are you taking flash off camera for the lighting or just on the hotshoe?
You've got the flexibility to fire it wirelessly having it diffused by a shoot-through or reflective umbrella and create a softer, well-rounded light source for the scene.
12-17-2009, 02:32 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eruditass Quote
I wouldn't worry about WB since you're shooting in RAW! Just adjust in PP and copy those settings to the rest of the shots with minor adjusments. I think you'll need minor adjustments as the mixing of ambient and flash won't be the same each time - but I a starting point won't hurt.

Good luck!
Thanks for taking time to respond - love the nic, by the way...

QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
I'd suggest to have WB on flash or set your camera to Flash WB when using flash. It does matter (even if a little) when WB is way off the intended temperature.

Are you taking flash off camera for the lighting or just on the hotshoe?
You've got the flexibility to fire it wirelessly having it diffused by a shoot-through or reflective umbrella and create a softer, well-rounded light source for the scene.
Thank you too, Ash. I'm going to be using the 360 on the hotshoe. At some point, though, I do want to learn how to use it off-camera, with the built-in as the master.

Any thoughts on aperture setting - f/8 - f/10 or take a few shots and just go with what appears to work best?

12-17-2009, 03:08 PM   #5
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Can't you just WB off of Santa's beard?

Wider apertures will allow more ambient light in the mix and/or use less flash power. Raising ISO has a similar effect. If you're bouncing the flash, that might be the difference between enough flash power or not.
12-17-2009, 08:31 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by AlphaGAK20D Quote
Any thoughts on aperture setting - f/8 - f/10 or take a few shots and just go with what appears to work best?
If you want consistent results, and don't have a light meter, then it will take a calculation to work out how much flash you need (in manual mode) at a particular aperture and sensitivity.

You could, of-course, just set your aperture the way you want, and get P-TTL to calculate all that for you... but be weary of the shortcomings of P-TTL as mentioned by many (but I've been reasonably happy with it).
12-17-2009, 08:57 PM   #7
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Some things to consider:

WB may be a problem if the location is using tungsten or fluorescent lighting and you set the WB to Flash. the two different colors will fight each other. If you can gel the flash that would help.

Shoot in TV mode and drag the flash (1/30 or less) if you can. This will give you good balance with ambient light so you don't have black backgrounds.

Since you can't get the flash off the camera, use bounce. Just tape a card (a gold card would actually give you a warm tone to help with WB) to the flash. this will give more indirect light and (if the ceilings aren't to high) diffuse the light around hour subjects and add depth to there features.

Once you find settings that work, you might move to M mode to give you better control.

Good luck and post some of the work when you're done.

Last edited by mtroute; 12-17-2009 at 09:04 PM.
12-18-2009, 01:41 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtroute Quote
Some things to consider:

WB may be a problem if the location is using tungsten or fluorescent lighting and you set the WB to Flash. the two different colors will fight each other. If you can gel the flash that would help.

Shoot in TV mode and drag the flash (1/30 or less) if you can. This will give you good balance with ambient light so you don't have black backgrounds.

Since you can't get the flash off the camera, use bounce. Just tape a card (a gold card would actually give you a warm tone to help with WB) to the flash. this will give more indirect light and (if the ceilings aren't to high) diffuse the light around hour subjects and add depth to there features.

Once you find settings that work, you might move to M mode to give you better control.

Good luck and post some of the work when you're done.
Thanks for your response, even though it came after-the-fact; however, this is my own fault for not posting a bit earlier in the week.

What do you mean by "drag the flash?'' In your reponse, did you mean for me to shoot in Tv mode at whatever speed I choose, but then dial the speed of the flash to 1/30 or less? I did end up with some "black background" shots and though the people look OK, I'm beginning to see/understand that these shots are not ideal.

When you say "tape a card," how so? How should it be oriented? The 360 does have a diffuser and a catchlight panel that I used for a number of shots, but even here I'm using these features with limited understanding of how they should/could "best" be employed. Yes, I see some reading and a class or two about flash photography in my future...so much I wan to learn and so little time...

Once I've had a chance to go through the shots, I'll post back to this thread some of the good/bad/ugly.

Thanks to each of you for taking time to respond. I hope the continued dialog in this thread will help others avoid some of the mistakes I've been making where flash photography is concerned.

12-18-2009, 02:49 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by AlphaGAK20D Quote
What do you mean by "drag the flash?'' In your reponse, did you mean for me to shoot in Tv mode at whatever speed I choose, but then dial the speed of the flash to 1/30 or less? I did end up with some "black background" shots and though the people look OK, I'm beginning to see/understand that these shots are not ideal.
sorry should have said "drag the shutter". Meaning shoot in TV mode and set the shutter speed around 1/30th to 1/15th. This will let the ambient light collect and the flash will help to fill in the foreground. Here is an example of the results:

this was 1/13th at f/5.0 bounced off ceiling through diffuser



QuoteQuote:
When you say "tape a card," how so? How should it be oriented? The 360 does have a diffuser and a catchlight panel that I used for a number of shots, but even here I'm using these features with limited understanding of how they should/could "best" be employed. Yes, I see some reading and a class or two about flash photography in my future...so much I wan to learn and so little time...
the diffuser and light card that slide out should help. I use a sto-fen diffuser with good results:

Amazon.com: Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-PZ8: Electronics
12-22-2009, 08:29 AM   #10
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Basically, with flash, the FLASH exposure is solely determined by flash power (actually duration, how long the bulb is actually firing for), aperture and ISO. Ambient exposure is determined by ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (just like without any flash), so the trick is balancing the two. If I'm indoors in a smallish room (such as in someone's house), I usually just forget about ambient since the flash is powerful enough to light up the entire room (hence the 1/180s below, if the flash didn't fire, I'd have a more or less black picture) Now although you're shooting MANUAL Mode, that's only for the ambient exposure (the exposure needle in the viewfinder will blink warning you about underexposure, but ignore that). The camera's P-TTL metering will determine the needed flash output for a proper exposure.

Here's something I wrote on another forum -
"Easy" recipe for great P-TTL flash shots -
1)Point flash at ceiling
2)Put camera in MANUAL mode on the mode dial
3)Set FEC to +1 on the flash head

4)Shoot RAW (this allows you to recover some highlights that might get blown as a result of #3 above)

5)Set ISO to 200 (to start)
6)Set shutter speed to 1/180s
7)Set f-stop to whatever DOF you want


Now if the flash runs out of "power" because of high ceilings, you can raise the ISO or open up the f-stop to compensate. Or you can slow down the shutter to bring more ambient light into the exposure (in addition to adjusting ISO/f-stop) If the ceiling is REALLY high (like in a church), you may need a reflector to throw some of the light forward (I use the Joe Demb Flip-it).

Quick and dirty outdoor fill flash tutorial -
Basically, if your subject is in shade and the background is bright (ie under a tree) or majorly backlit, fill flash is your friend. Think of those times when you got a properly exposed background, but the subject was almost pitch black.

Put camera into Av mode, metering will set the shutter speed to expose the overall shot (which in the situations that call for fill-flash will generally be the background) based on your selected aperture/ISO.
Make sure flash is set to HSS (in case your shutter speed go faster than 1/180s) and P-TTL. Fire away! The shutter speed/f-stop/ISO will expose the background, and the flash should output enough power to light up the foreground.

Now to control the background exposure, you use exposure compensation on the camera body (which would adjust the shutter speed), to adjust how much fill for the flash exposure, you use Flash exposure compensation. The trick is balancing the two (as it is with indoor work), and that comes with experience/experimentation.
12-26-2009, 02:33 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtroute Quote
sorry should have said "drag the shutter". Meaning shoot in TV mode and set the shutter speed around 1/30th to 1/15th. This will let the ambient light collect and the flash will help to fill in the foreground. Here is an example of the results:

the diffuser and light card that slide out should help. I use a sto-fen diffuser with good results
thanks for clarifying and for the rec on the diffuser - going to look at ordering one. the party pic was great too!

QuoteOriginally posted by egordon99 Quote
Here's something I wrote on another forum -
"Easy" recipe for great P-TTL flash shots -
1)Point flash at ceiling
2)Put camera in MANUAL mode on the mode dial
3)Set FEC to +1 on the flash head

4)Shoot RAW (this allows you to recover some highlights that might get blown as a result of #3 above)

5)Set ISO to 200 (to start)
6)Set shutter speed to 1/180s
7)Set f-stop to whatever DOF you want


Now if the flash runs out of "power" because of high ceilings, you can raise the ISO or open up the f-stop to compensate. Or you can slow down the shutter to bring more ambient light into the exposure (in addition to adjusting ISO/f-stop) If the ceiling is REALLY high (like in a church), you may need a reflector to throw some of the light forward (I use the Joe Demb Flip-it).

Quick and dirty outdoor fill flash tutorial -
Basically, if your subject is in shade and the background is bright (ie under a tree) or majorly backlit, fill flash is your friend. Think of those times when you got a properly exposed background, but the subject was almost pitch black.

Put camera into Av mode, metering will set the shutter speed to expose the overall shot (which in the situations that call for fill-flash will generally be the background) based on your selected aperture/ISO.
Make sure flash is set to HSS (in case your shutter speed go faster than 1/180s) and P-TTL. Fire away! The shutter speed/f-stop/ISO will expose the background, and the flash should output enough power to light up the foreground.

Now to control the background exposure, you use exposure compensation on the camera body (which would adjust the shutter speed), to adjust how much fill for the flash exposure, you use Flash exposure compensation. The trick is balancing the two (as it is with indoor work), and that comes with experience/experimentation.
Thanks for taking time to share your "recipes" and for more background...like everything else, lots to learn but looking forward to digging deeper...

Below is a shot I took on Christmas Eve, utilizing the trailing curtain synch feature of the flash.



This is one of the pics taken the night of my original post - my son with Santa. Most of the shots turned out OK, but I was really flying blind. FYI, PP was done in Lightroom. I applied a 5x7 crop and Mithrandir's One-Step preset Mithrandir's Lightroom Presets: One-Step A link to all of his presets is here:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-processing-printing-software-darkroo...m-presets.html



Here's one of my faves from the evening - a co-worker's grandson with Santa:



Thanks again for the great feedback from everybody who responded! Please feel free to offer feedback anytime.
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