the low-down on flash

Disclaimer: This post is long and a little techie. It might not interest you in the least. ;-)

I know, I'm supposed to be off the computer, but I'm so stinkin' excited about my "flashy" pictures I just had to pop in.

The background: I started to get interested in photography about a year ago, and initially all I heard was natural light, natural light, natural light. Flash was yucky, flash was gross, and all you had to do was spin your subject around in a circle until you found those big, beautiful catchlights. Well, scratch the record folks, that's not always possible.

Lately, I have felt very limited in photographing my kids, because in certain locations where I found that "beautiful light,' well... the background was yucky. Or maybe I found a really cool location, but the light there made for blah eyes. Frustrating! I felt like I could only go here at this time of day, or only there at that time of day. Do you ever feel that way?

Enter the flash that the hubs bought me 5 months ago and I have used twice. He bought me the Canon 580EX II, an awesome external flash (not the kind that pops up on your camera), but I was so overwhelmed by it that I pretty much tossed it back in my bag and assumed I'd just figure this natural light thing out.

When I saw the recent pictures from Ashley's childrens' portrait session, I knew, I just KNEW she had to use flash. It didn't look like it in the least, but I knew for the indoor shots...no way was the natural lighting that good. Turns out, she did use flash. So this morning she emailed me some tips. The bottom line: put your flash on manual at 1/4 power. Keep your ISO at 100 or 200, your aperture at f/4-5.6, and your shutter speed around 1/60. (Normally 1/60 is borderline too slow to handhold, but remember flash stops motion, so you can get away with a slower shutter speed).

Keep in mind, the shots below are not going to make the scrapbook. I just wanted to share my test run with you. I got confused and slightly messed up Ashley's instructions, so my flash was on 1/4 power, shutter speed 1/60, but my aperture was f/2.8. Close enough for now. Livia is facing with her back to a glass door. The way she is facing, there is no natural light anywhere.

Excuse the (unpleasant) expression:

See how her cheek on the RIGHT side of the picture is lit up? There's no window there. It's just the light bouncing off the refrigerator.

To compare (below):
If your batteries are low on your external flash, it takes a second to recycle. This is just a case of me taking a picture too fast before the flash charged back up.

A couple more examples, straight out of the camera - no editing. Do these look like "flash" pictures to you? They don't to me, not with those big catchlights.

I'm not crazy about Livia's expression below, but I wanted to share this picture because she was looking up at me, and you can really see the catchlights. Pretty amazing for a flash, don't you think?

Ashley recommended a link from Becoming Mom on using a speedlite. I found it to be very helpful. A flash (used correctly) will give you much more freedom and flexibility over your surroundings. If you're afraid of using a flash, I hope this info will help! :-)


Ashley Sisk said...

You're such a good student! This looks wonderful Karli and now that you've got the hang of it, I think you're going to be using your flash a lot more. Besides, winter is coming and we'll all be stuck inside a lot more with much shorter days. Flash will just become necessary. Great work!

Brooke said...

I was just thinking that!!! With winter coming it is going to be impossible to get any good photos..... Boooo... maybe an external flash is something to look into :D Honestly, I have been terrified of buying one - they look a little scary!

Jhen.Stark said...

Ok- Christmas list is now an external flash! And I've bookmarked this post! Thank you for explaining it and sharing it, and Goodness, that Ashley Sisk is amazing and I just LOVE LOVE LOVE that she is so willing to share where most photographers WONT!

Mama Hen said...

Karli Livia is the cutest model! I use flash a lot! I am not a photographer, but I do take hundreds of pictures. Have a great night my friend!

Mama Hen

Ashley said...

I'm so glad I found you and Ashley etc, I'm learning so much!

Clare B said...

So on my list ... good tripod, speedlite, 25-70mm, 7D... lol. Great tutorial too. Natural light is all well and good - unless there isn't any.

Jessica Griz said...

These are beautiful! This is perfect for those adorable inside snuggle moments that I just wish I could capture.

Natalie said...

Thanks for this! I am going to study and read more when I have some time. I recently got a speedlite and I know I'm not using it to it's full advantage. I needed this to motivate me to figure it out.

Cutie girl as usual. :-)

Jboo said...

So cool!! Thanks for sharing!


happy me said...

Karli, I was just preparing to put my SunPak auto 383 & Gary Fong lightsphere on e-bay because I "had" to have both a year ago, but once I got 'em I despised what they did to my photos. :(

Do I even have the ability to give your technique a go with this flash, or is just a "fancy" onboard flash?

I personally *love* a 'techy-post' and I always enjoy looking at that cute little face! :)

Debra www.aphotographicmemory.typepad.com

Casey Martinez said...

I just took some pics last night of my little one in the dark bathroom and was soooo pleased with how well the white balance and exposure came out with the flash and even compared it to auto and saw a drastic difference. Auto was orange tinted and dark and manual with flash was soft and white. I have the 430 Ex 11:) Have a great day and thanks for sharing! Your gal is gorgeous smiling or not. She has the cutest cheeks:)! hehe

Unknown said...

What a difference! It really does look like light from a window.

She's such a pretty subject. :)

Katie said...

This was so incredibly helpful, thanks! Now if only I can find an awesome speedlite in my price range...