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08-27-2011, 04:06 AM   #1
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Fill flash k20d

Need desperate help on an old topic - use of FILL FLASH with a K20D on board flash.
Was on a whirlwind 18 Days conducted tour of western Europe by Thomas Cook. There were (3) other guys with Canon EOS 60Ds. With a twirl of the mode dial on the body LHS, they seemed to take beautiful fill flash shots. My shots of the same exact scenes made me look like a fool - sample attached. I tried fill flash in GREEN, P, and every other mode - yuk. Could get some shots after a lot of trial and error, but never consistently like the Canon chaps - no time to experiment with setting changes as the group tour was fast paced with limited time at photo stops.
Lost many great photo opportunities and the Canon chaps kept on making me look like a "fool" with "what Pentax?" - "they were OK in the film days"
August in Europe is hot, dry and very bright. In Barcelona, I had to apply (- EV) setting - who says the K20D always underexposes?? Also the bright hot sun (40 centigrade) made us run to shady spots, which called for fill flash, which sent me back to square one.
A desperate humble Pentaxian needs your HELP.
I am retired and cannot afford the K-5.


Last edited by nanhi; 11-19-2012 at 08:31 AM.
08-27-2011, 06:54 AM   #2
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Well your subjects actually look pretty good, but the background is wickedly overexposed. I would first try matrix metering mode and go into your flash menu and set the flash for +1.0 stop (Fn button>down arrow>thumb wheel) Hopefully that will bring the background down a bit while keeping your subjects properly exposed. If that doesn't work, switch to manual mode, hit the green button, and then crank that shutter speed up. Many times on a sunny say I'll use 1/500th or more. You'll want a lot of distance between your subject and the background though, you'll want the background to be at least four times as far away from you as your subject. That will allow the flash to fall off.

Another thing to think about is the color of the flash. Does it match the color of the ambient light? If you're shooting in the shade for instance, the flash will be considerably warmer than the ambient light. So what do you set your white balance to? If you set it for the flash, the background will look cold, if you set it for the shade, your subject will look hot. Solution: invest in a cheap set of color correction gels, and make your flash the same color as the light in which you are shooting. You can find Rosco or Lee gels just about anywhere. In this hypothetical scenario you would probably want a 1/2 or full strength CTB (color temperature blue) and then set your white balance to shade.
08-27-2011, 06:04 PM   #3
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Not sure all that is needed, maxfield. I just use Tv, with shutter speed at 180, and then dial in flash exposure compensation of -0.5 to -1.5 depending on distance to the people, with center metering. It isn't infallable, but it usually works better than the above result. I will usually chimp one or two to make sure people aren't too dark or too light.

Nanhi, I don't think it is a matter of Canon vs. Pentax so much as it is being fully comfortable with your camera. I spent a long time getting crappy macro pictures, running through several lenses, before I realized my shutter speeds were just too slow and/or my apertures were too wide. Once I tried a tripod, I realized the gear wasn't the problem. Also, on a recent trip to Yellowstone, I never noticed that my wife had (accidentally) changed to spot metering. I knew I was getting crazy results, but didn't figure it out until I got home. Luckily many of those were salvageable, if not as good as I would have liked. I hope you got a few good shots from your trip!
08-27-2011, 09:58 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanhi Quote
My shots of the same exact scenes made me look like a fool - sample attached.
You should post shooting information or leave EXIF info intact in samples if you want to get any useful advice.

From what I see, I'm not even sure that your flash fired in that sample shot.

08-28-2011, 10:03 AM   #5
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Dear Laurentiu, I am a steadfast exponent of Exif Data. I again checked the resized photo on my computer and the exif data is intact. I think the Pentax Forum is stripping the data ?? I know you mean to help and I am extremely sorry. The exif says flash was used. It was the Colosseum in Rome, but lucky I took many many shots and some came out great.
And thanks Nick. I too use Tv mode. I just mentioned the Canon 60D, as it seemed to turn out perfect shots when I had duds. I think it has some kind of smart program that perhaps Pentax can emulate. The Canon EOS 60D impressed many people in our group of 46. Three of them bought it at Media Mart in Cologne, Germany for EURO 1140 with the 18-135 IS Lens.
And Maxfield Sir, I have started experimenting with your instructions in a stimulated environment here. Thank you so much.
08-28-2011, 01:30 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanhi Quote
Dear Laurentiu, I am a steadfast exponent of Exif Data. I again checked the resized photo on my computer and the exif data is intact. I think the Pentax Forum is stripping the data ?? I know you mean to help and I am extremely sorry. The exif says flash was used.
Can you provide the other shooting information: ISO, exposure time, aperture? Did you shoot this RAW or JPG? How did you set your camera's image tone (curve) and contrast settings?

If you have the RAW file, you might be able to reprocess it and recover information from the highlights. If you have shot JPG, it's time to give a thought to shooting RAW. If you've used some settings to enhance JPG output right from the camera, you might want to tone those down and shoot at the blandest settings so you can capture as much information as you can - an agressive curve can make it easier to clip highlights, which is what happened here. Also, if your ISO was set high, your DR was limited from the start.

These are just some ideas - without shooting information, it is very hard to figure what happened with this particular shot. But your K20D sensor is very close to that of the 60D, so you should be able to get similar results with proper settings.
08-28-2011, 03:16 PM   #7
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Hi,
Another solution is to get and use an external flash. Some of those Chinese or Sigmas are very affordable. Also, Metz 48/50 or Pentax 360.
As for 60D, I kind of doubt that it has HSS capability for the on-board flash.

AK
08-28-2011, 03:32 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanhi Quote
Need desperate help on an old topic - use of FILL FLASH with a K20D on board flash.
Was on a whirlwind 18 Days conducted tour of western Europe by Thomas Cook. There were (3) other guys with Canon EOS 60Ds. With a twirl of the mode dial on the body LHS, they seemed to take beautiful fill flash shots. My shots of the same exact scenes made me look like a fool - sample attached. I tried fill flash in GREEN, P, and every other mode - yuk. Could get some shots after a lot of trial and error, but never consistently like the Canon chaps - no time to experiment with setting changes as the group tour was fast paced with limited time at photo stops.
Lost many great photo opportunities and the Canon chaps kept on making me look like a "fool" with "what Pentax?" - "they were OK in the film days"
August in Europe is hot, dry and very bright. In Barcelona, I had to apply (- EV) setting - who says the K20D always underexposes?? Also the bright hot sun (40 centigrade) made us run to shady spots, which called for fill flash, which sent me back to square one.
A desperate humble Pentaxian needs your HELP.
I am retired and cannot afford the K-5.
The problem is the huge difference between a pleasant exposure needed for your subjects and a complementary exposure for their surroundings. You correctly knew you would need the flash to add light to the subjects so you're on the right path.

That's disappointing the P and Green Modes didn't work for you. When I'm rushed and want to use flash, they usually work fine.

If I wanted to shoot a darker subject in front of a bright background and the camera did not get it automatically right through P and Green Mode, I'd do this:

Find your background exposure
  1. Set metering to matrix
  2. Set the camera to TV
  3. Select a shutter speed of 1/180
  4. Select a low ISO like 100 or 200
  5. Set the main exposure compensation to zero
  6. Fill the frame with the bright part of the background
  7. Take a test shot
In my experience, the K20D will probably underexpose this a bit so I usually dial +0.5 or +1.0 exposure compensation in and re-shoot to confirm. Once the background is how you'd like it, note what aperture the camera picked for that good shoot.

Add fill flash
  1. Set the camera to M mode
  2. Dial in 1/180 for the shutter and whatever the aperture was for the shot you liked above
  3. Set the flash exposure compensation to zero
  4. Raise the flash
  5. Compose the subjects and background how you want the final shot to look
  6. Take a test shot
If the subjects are too dark, you can try setting flash exposure compensation to +0.5 or +1.0 but there's a chance that won't be enough because the flash is already at full power. The solution for this is to pick a wider focal length and move closer to your subjects to maintain the same framing.

It looks like a lot of work, but once you understand the process (find background exposure, add fill flash to taste) and practice making the changes, it shouldn't take more than 30 seconds. Even better, if you find a background exposure you like and the lighting conditions don't change much, you can skip the first section and go straight to the fill flash part. You already know the shutter needs to be 1/180 so just remember to set the aperture and ISO to the values that worked for you.

To save more time, don't wait until a picture opportunity appears to get set. Once the tour makes a stop, try to find your background exposure as soon as you can. That way you'll already know a good aperture to use if a quick situation arises with a bright background and dark subjects.

08-29-2011, 04:27 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Charles Hueter Quote
Add fill flash
  1. Set the camera to M mode
  2. Dial in 1/180 for the shutter and whatever the aperture was for the shot you liked above
  3. Set the flash exposure compensation to zero
  4. Raise the flash
  5. Compose the subjects and background how you want the final shot to look
  6. Take a test shot
If the subjects are too dark, you can try setting flash exposure compensation to +0.5 or +1.0 but there's a chance that won't be enough because the flash is already at full power. The solution for this is to pick a wider focal length and move closer to your subjects to maintain the same framing.
I'm still trying to learn how to use my flash properly, so this is an honest question. As an alternate to the bolded part, couldn't you just open up the aperture a half to full stop, assuming that it isn't already at max? I suppose one negative consequence would be the thinner depth of field if you were trying to get some of the background in focus, too. But exposure-wise, would this give the desired result?
08-29-2011, 05:50 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jason 407 Quote
I'm still trying to learn how to use my flash properly, so this is an honest question. As an alternate to the bolded part, couldn't you just open up the aperture a half to full stop, assuming that it isn't already at max? I suppose one negative consequence would be the thinner depth of field if you were trying to get some of the background in focus, too. But exposure-wise, would this give the desired result?
It would bring up your subject, yes, but it would also make the background brighter. The point of increasing the flash is to make the subject brighter, but keep the background where it is. Since the shutter speed is already set at 1/180th, the max sync speed of the camera, the only way to increase the ratio of flash to ambient is to dial up the power on the flash or decrease the flash-to-subject distance. Well, ok, maybe you could shoot in RAW and then decrease the exposure of the whole image while masking off the subject, but that's cheatin' :P
08-29-2011, 06:33 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by nanhi Quote
the Canon chaps kept on making me look like a "fool" with "what Pentax?" - "they were OK in the film days"
How stupid and petty of them.
If your shots were great and theirs were disappointing would they have asked you for the name of a place to buy a Pentax because they were going to dump their Canons?
Today's cameras can produce very good quality photos regardless of what brand .
That is not to say that there is no reason to chose one brand over the other or one model over the other, just that good or bad shots are produced by any brand.
To claim that the difference is totally in the camera brand is ignorance and just fan boy oneupmanship on their part. "Look, he did not buy what I did at a big box store so of course he can't take pictures as good as mine!"
The camera is a tool of the photographer and his knowledge and experience with that tool will produce good or bad pictures especially under the usual travel conditions if any other brand will.
Hey, give a talented experienced sculptor any old hammer and chisel and give me the top of the line sculptor's tools and I still wont produce anything worth the name of sculpture !
You are right to seek advice here. Heed it and practice, practice with your Pentax and the next time when they ask how your Pentax can take such good pictures, smile, and explain to them it is the technique not the camera. Show them some tips - and give them the name of your Pentax dealer.

Last edited by TomK; 08-29-2011 at 06:35 PM. Reason: Spelling
08-30-2011, 08:54 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
If that doesn't work, switch to manual mode, hit the green button, and then crank that shutter speed up. Many times on a sunny say I'll use 1/500th or more.
I need to amend something I said, with the K20d you won't be able to fire the flash at speeds over 1/180th, I was thinking about another camera I had borrowed. So instead set the ISO as low as you can (you can do 200 with the d-range feature, but I like 100 for more detail in the shadows) and stop down until the background is properly exposed, or maybe even a little under. If you don't want to go all the way to f16 or f22 you can always add a few stops with a ND filter.
08-30-2011, 10:05 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
It would bring up your subject, yes, but it would also make the background brighter. The point of increasing the flash is to make the subject brighter, but keep the background where it is. Since the shutter speed is already set at 1/180th, the max sync speed of the camera, the only way to increase the ratio of flash to ambient is to dial up the power on the flash or decrease the flash-to-subject distance. Well, ok, maybe you could shoot in RAW and then decrease the exposure of the whole image while masking off the subject, but that's cheatin' :P
Ok, I think I was turning the slower-shutter-speed-equals-brighter-background around to mean that a wider aperture would do the same for the subject. I see why I was in error now.
08-30-2011, 10:18 AM   #14
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Hi my Fellow Pentaxians, I have made a word file of the techniques given here, and as I said I have begun shooting fill flash shots in conditions close to the Colosseum in Rome. Only problem is Bangalore has British clime and its been raining most days. I checked the Forum Search for Fill Flash and came up with almost nothing except this new discussion. So Thank You my Pentaxian friends.
Laurentiu Sir, here is a screen shot of the EXIF Data - attached. But it bothers me why the upload is stripping it from 600 KB JPEGs??
TomK Sir, thank you for a point well made. At least they acknowledged Pentax's heydays when it WAS a best seller. And to be honest with you, in my (18) days sojourn thru (6) European countries, I saw just (2) Pentax DSLRs - one white with a Japanese girl.
Sorry for saying this again, I think the Canon 60D had some kind of an intelligent program that made fill photos easy and repetitive. Whereas I had to take (2 or 3) test shots before I got it right.
Sinus007 Sir, I did have a decent Module based dedicated Quantaray Flash bought from Wolf in San Jose. I don't know why I refused to use it. What an opportunity lost.

Last edited by nanhi; 11-19-2012 at 08:31 AM.
08-30-2011, 11:44 AM   #15
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If that is the exif data for the picture above I think the metering mode (Spot) is most likely why the picture came out the way it did. It looks like Spot Metering did expose your subjects properly but ignored and blew out the background. I believe Matrix metering would have exposed your subjects and background more evenly.
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