Posts Tagged 'Learn Flash Photography for beginners'

Off Camera Flash Exposure

Flash Photography Tips

Part 7: Off Camera Flash Exposure

In previous article I discussed fundamental techniques of Off Camera Flash Photography. In this article we are going to look at some principles of off- camera flash Exposure and ideas for how to use these techniques to set the off camera flash exposure correctly.

How do I set the flash exposure in off camera mode?

If you use a TTL Flash trigger, basically you don’t need to do anything different from TTL with on camera shooting. Just set your shutter speed, aperture and ISO and your camera and the flash will take care of the rest for you.
If you don’t have a TTL flash trigger or you don’t want to use the trigger, then you may want to pay close attention to this next part!
You will need to measure and adjust the exposure according to the output of the flash gun. There are three easy ways to correctly set the exposure:

1- Using a Flash meter

If you have a flash meter, simply read the exposure from the flash meter and set the exposure.

Off Camera Flash exposure

A flash meter can measure the exposure in off camera flash photography

2- Know the Guide Number for your flash

Guide Number is the measurement for the flash gun’s power. The guide number for an electronic flash measures its ability to illuminate the subject to be photographed at a specific ISO sensitivity and angle of view. A higher guide number indicates a more powerful flash. Here is the formula to calculate the exposure using the guide number:
GUIDE NUMBER divided by DISTANCE (in feet) equals the F STOP or Aperture Value.
You can also find the guide number of your flash in the Owners Manual or on line. It is usually marked at 100 ISO. If you increase the ISO by one stop, it doubles the guide number value.
For instance if I use a flash gun with Guide number 60 and set the flash four feet away from my subject, at ISO 100, the proper F stop is f15 or f16. The equation looks like this:
@ISO 100   60/4= f15 or f16
Now if I increase the ISO to 200 (one full stop increase), then the guide number increases to 120, and the calculation will be as follows:
@ISO 200   120/4= f30 or f32
So let’s say I don’t have f32 on my lens, and we know that the shutter speed won’t change the flash exposure, but I need to shoot at ISO 200 and f5.6 to balance the ambient light. What can I do to make the right exposure? The answer is the distance from the flash to subject! I simply move the flash to 20 feet away from the subject and here is the new calculation:
@200 ISO   GN 120/20 (feet) = f6 – f5.6
Using a Guide Number to calculate flash exposures is fun and rewarding because you get correct exposures every time. Here is one assignment to help you better understand this method: I want to use my flash gun (Guide number 60 at ISO 100) to shoot my subject at f8 and my flash can’t be any closer than 15 feet, what ISO should I use to achieve a correct exposure?

3- Adjusting Flash output

This is probably the easiest way to set the flash exposure, with instant feedback from digital camera technology! Almost all flash guns allow you to set the output power from full (1/1) to all the way down to 1/128th power. Thanks to digital camera’s image review, you can take advantage of the ability to review your shot and fine tune the exposure. Here is a little tip which often works for me if I don’t have my flash meter or I am too lazy to use the guide number calculation.

off camera flash exposure

You can select the flash out put in manual setting

I usually set my camera shutter speed in sync zone, set the aperture to f5.6 or f8, and then select ¼ power for my flash output. I typically set my flash 5 to 6 feet away from the subject and take my test shot. By reviewing the test shot I am able to find out if I need more or less power, to change the flash to subject distance, etc.

I cover more of flash photography in our upcoming Flash Photography Workshop. Check our upcoming classes for more info and to register for the flash photography class.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more photography techniques articles!

Ted and the Omnilargess Team


Flash Photography Tips 6

Flash Photography Tips 6

Part 6: Off Camera Flash Photography

While on-camera flash photography is creative and fun, off-camera flash photography can take you to a whole new world of creativity. In previous articles I discussed fundamental techniques of Flash Photography, basically for on-camera techniques. In this article we are going to look at some principles of off- camera flash and ideas for how to use this technique.

What is Off Camera Flash Photography?

Off Camera Flash Photography means that you use the flash gun off the camera hot shoe. It means that not only can you adjust the amount of light to your liking, but also you choose the angle and direction of light. You can use more than one flash gun to control or create different highlights and shadows. In simplest terms, you can have a small portable studio wherever you go!

What are the advantages of off camera flash?

To begin with, you can control the angle and direction of light. Also since the flash is not mounted on your camera, you carry less weight which can be a big bonus especially in long hours of shooting. With Off camera flash you can use different light modifiers such as an umbrella, soft box, grid, etc. to modify the light. Another big advantage is that you have complete control over the ambient light by increasing the flash output and place the flash closer to your subject.

Flash Photography

Off Camera Flash Photography Techniques


Can I use TTL in Off camera flash techniques?

Although in this article I am going to cover manual shooting for off camera techniques, you can use TTL as well. Using the TTL system, you need to invest more money on triggers and flashes though.

How does an off camera flash fire?

For your camera and flash to “talk to” one another you will need to use a wireless trigger. The starting price for a pair of wireless triggers is just under $100.
Flash photography


One transmitter is attached to your camera’s hot shoe and the second one (receiver) is for the flash unit. When you take a picture the camera sends the signal to the transmitter and the transmitter sends the signal to the receiver to fire the flash remotely.

Flash Photography

Samples of Off Camera Flash Photography. Click on the image to see large size picture.

How about using the camera’s built in flash?

The built in flash in many new Prosumer DSLR cameras can work as a commander to fire another TTL flash or flashes remotely. This type of trigger works via an infrared beam which the built-in flash transmits to the remote (slave) flash unit to fire the correct amount of light.

Are there any disadvantages with an infrared trigger?

The biggest disadvantage is that the camera and remote flashes must be in line of sight to work properly. So if you place your off camera flash under a cover (such as behind a wall) the infrared beam cannot reach the flash and fire it. Another complaint about this method is that the camera’s built in flash has to fire, which means you may not get the exact effect you are after due to light from the built in flash.

I discuss TTL off camera flash in detail in our Flash Photography workshop. Check our Upcoming Classes to find the flash photography class and register.

That’s all for this short article. As always, please contact me if you have any questions.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Flash Photography Tips 5

Slow Shutter Synch Flash Photography

Flash Photography Tips 5

Now that we’ve looked at the main differences between constant light (Ambient) and flash photography, it is time to experiment with some creative techniques in the wonderful world of flash photography. It may help if you basically consider flash photography as a double exposure picture, with one exposure for ambient light and the second exposure for the flash gun.

It may sound a little complicated and in our Flash Photography Classes we cover this topic in great detail. In the photo below I used ambient light to create a nice, attractive background and fired the flash to light the subject.

Flash Photography

By using Slow Shutter Sync, I manage to capture the light reflection and using the flash to capture the model.

What is Slow Shutter Synch?

Slow shutter synch means using a long exposure and the flash to freeze the movement. In the above picture I used a one second shutter speed and while I was rotating the camera, the flash fired and captured the subject. By rotating the camera it captured the lights in the background and created a nice pattern of movement, and when the flash fired it captured the girl’s image.

When does the flash fire during the long exposure?

It’s very important to know how the flash fires during a long exposure. If you use a TTL flash you have two different options for slow shutter synch: First (Front) curtain and Second (Rear) curtain. Most Manual flashes fire as soon as the shutter is fully opened (First/Front curtain).

What is First/Front Curtain?

This is the default setting for the flash synch, manual or TTL flash. The flash fires as soon as the shutter is fully opened and the shutter stays open to capture the ambient light and motion in the scene. It is an easy technique to create some nice effects such as Zoom Burst.

Flash Photography

Flash Photography is very creative provided you learn how to control the camera and the flash.

How about Second/Rear Curtain?

This technique is opposite of the First curtain, which means that the shutter opens but the flash does not fire until the shutter starts to close. This technique is very useful to show the motion of an object and the direction of movement. You can use Second/Rear Curtain with TTL or compatible flashes only. You need to set your camera or flash for this function (refer to the camera and flash owners manual for information about how to set Second/Rear curtain)

flash photography

In this photo the shutter opened, but flash didn’t fire till shutter started to closing and then flash fired to captured the subject.

Learning Flash Photography is a great way to take your photography skills to the next level. As I mentioned before flash photography means a double exposure, one with the ambient light and the next one for flash. The more you learn about these techniques the better you can capture the moment and not be limited by the ambient light. In the next article I am going to explain Off Camera Flash Photography. Go to our UPCOMING CLASSES page to find out more about Flash Photography Workshop.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Our next Flash Photography class is scheduled for July 6th and 13th. It is a 2 part workshop with lots of hands ons!

Flash photography Tips 3

Flash Photography Tips

Part 3: TTL Flash Photography special features

In previous articles I discussed the differences between constant light vs. flash photography and also some tips about TTL Flash Photography. In this article I am going to cover some important features of TTL flashes. Often photographers have asked me why TTL flashes are so expensive compared to non TTL flashes. The reason often comes down to convenience; below is a list of some of these conveniences.

1- Camera controls the output of the flash, so you have peace of mind that you always get correct exposure.

2- When you mount your TTL flash, your camera automatically sets the correct White Balance for Flash Photography, so you don’t need to worry about colour shift. Many of the new Nikon flashes (SB900, SB910, SB 710) come with colour correction filters; when you use these filters, the camera recognizes the colour filters and adjusts the White Balance accordingly.

3- Allows shooting using High Speed Synch (HSS).

What is High Speed Synch (HSS)?

High Speed Synch is one of the most useful features of TTL Flashes. High-speed synch flash is your DSLR’s ability to use a flash at shutter speeds faster than the camera’s native synch. Most cameras have a native synch of 1/200th of a second, and anything faster than that is beyond the camera’s ability to synch the shutter with the flash. But if you happen to be in a situation that requires faster shutter speeds to effectively capture the action, or for other aesthetic reasons (like a wide aperture), then you’ll over-exposure your image. However, high-speed synch flash/camera combinations allow you to use the flash at higher shutter speeds.

When are the times to use High Speed Synch?

High-speed synch flash is used when you want a shutter speed that is faster than your camera’s native flash synch speed, or when you want to use a wider aperture setting that requires a higher shutter speed as is often the case with outdoor daylight shooting. For example, you want to take an outdoor portrait and your TTL meter tells you that the f-stop should be f/16 with a 1/125s shutter. Those settings will give you too much depth of field, way too much actually. Nearly everything in sight will be in focus. Instead, what you want is a sharp subject, but a soft, blurred background, which would be achieved with an aperture of about f/2. That’s six stops of light difference, effectively putting your shutter speed up to 1/5000s. This is easily achievable by setting the flash to High Speed Synch. When you take your photo, you’ll have that beautiful, soft background that the pros get when shooting outside. You’ll also want to use HSS when you’re shooting with a telephoto lens, trying to capture fast action, using a fast shutter speed as well as a high f-stop. So in sports photography High Shutter Synch is ideal, and in some wildlife situations as well.

Flash Photography Tips

In this chart you see how by increasing the shutter speed and passing the synch speed effects the look of the photo

How does High Speed Synch work?

With a high-speed synch flash-capable camera and dedicated flash unit, all you do is set the camera to that setting. But how does it really work? Basically, at high shutter speeds the rear curtain starts to close before the front curtain fully opens. This way only a sliver of exposure moves across the image sensor. It is within this moving sliver of exposure that the flash fires, and voila! A high-speed shutter speed is synchronized to the flash. The flash does fire several times more during shutter traveling time than with standard flash mode. In standard flash mode, the flash fires once and the duration is much shorter than the time it takes for the shutter to move across the image sensor, and before the partially opened shutter covers part of the frame leaving large sections of black in your image. The underexposed black bands in the image is not good, to say the least!

Flash Photography tips

In High speed synch you can freeze the movement.

Stay tuned for our next article about Manual Flash Photography. Meanwhile head on over to our Upcoming Classes page and check out our exciting lineup of upcoming workshops. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Ted and Omnilargess Team

Flash Photography Tips 2

Flash Photography Tips

Part 2: TTL Flash Photography

In the previous article I discussed one important aspect of the differences between Flash Photography vs. constant light photography, which is the shutter speed. In this article I am going to talk about TTL vs. Manual Flash Photography.

What is TTL flash?

TTL stands for Through The Lens. With TTL flash, the camera and flash control the flash output (i.e., the power) as you adjust any of the other settings. That’s it in a nutshell – the differences between Manual flash and Auto / TTL flash.

How does TTL work?

Flash metering is achieved through the lens, using the camera’s metering system as it analyzes the scene through the lens you’re using.

Nikon first introduced TTL (Through The Lens) flash technology in 1980. The basics of TTL operation is rather simple and applies to all camera systems. With TTL flash exposure, when the shutter is tripped, the light from the flash fires off, racing to hit the subject. Let’s look a little more in depth at how TTL flash works. When you press the shutter release, a TTL flash will fire a Pre-Flash before the actual shot and the camera measures the Pre-Flash with the ambient light level to calculate the power needed in the actual flash for the shot. Don’t try looking for a Pre-Flash though, it happens very fast, only milli- or micro-seconds before the main flash, so you will only see one flash, not two, because the human eye is too slow to able to separate and see the two individual flashes. (The Pre-Flash in TTL flash photography can cause blinking in some people.)

Why is it important to learn how TTL Flash Photography works?

In manual flash photography you need to constantly adjust the out put of the flash according to the ISO, F stop, and distance. With TTL flash, the flash output is varied and controlled by the camera’s metering system. This means that within a certain range, our chosen aperture or ISO, or distance to our subject, does not influence our TTL flash exposure.

Flash Photography

In TTL Flash Photography you can maintain the exposure for your main subject while changing the ambient light

This is such a crucial point to understand about TTL flash, that I want to mention it again for emphasis.

With TTL flash, our chosen aperture or ISO (within a certain usable range), does not affect our exposure – and in a sense becomes transparent to our exposure metering. (Our camera and flash work together in calculating what it deems to be correct flash exposure, by increasing or decreasing the output from the flash.)  What does affect our exposure, is the reflectivity of our subject, and how large our subject appears within our frame.

In other words:  Aperture and ISO do not control flash exposure when we use TTL. This is because the camera will tell the flash to emit more (or to emit less) light as the camera deems necessary for correct exposure.

Then how can I control the exposure in TTL flash?

The only way to control TTL flash metering is with Flash Exposure Compensation. While you can control Manual flash exposure with any of the four variables mentioned earlier, with TTL flash you must use flash exposure compensation to influence or make changes.

What is the better metering mode for TTL flash?

The best metering mode is Centre Weighted mode when working with TTL flash, for better results than with the other modes.

What is the best Exposure mode in TTL flash photography?

You can shoot TTL in any exposure mode, but the one I prefer is Manual exposure. Since your camera controls the flash output, in manual mode you can set your shutter speed (within the synch speed), ISO, and aperture according to how much of the ambient light you want to capture, and your flash would fire the correct amount of light to lighten the subject. I cover more about TTL exposure in our TTL Flash Photography Workshop with plenty of opportunities to shoot and compensate for ambient light.

That is all for now. If you want to learn more about Manual shooting check out our new Manual shooting in Field Photography workshop  on April 2. It is a full day of field photography where we are going to use only Manual exposure mode. Or check our Upcoming Classes to find more amazing photography workshops.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Flash Photography

Flash Photography Tips

Part 1: Flash Photography

Exposure is the main key in photography in general and with Flash Photography, exposure plays an important role for successful images. If your exposure is not correct you may get a darker or brighter picture.

Histogram in Over exposed photo

Histogram in Over exposed photo

Flash Photography

Sample of an Under exposed image

Correct exposure under constant (ambient) light is controlled by the dynamic threesome of:


-Shutter speed

-and ISO

The combination of these variable settings is what makes correct exposures.

Flash Photography

A correct exposure

How about exposures with Flash Photography?

Flash Photography is different from constant light photography for many reasons. One of the most important differences is the duration of flash. Usually the duration of flash is 1/1000s to 1/4000s; flash photography can be fun when you fully grasp the principles and learn some fundamental techniques.

How does such a short duration of a flash change the basic rules of exposure?

For correct flash exposure, four things need to be controlled and balanced:

– Aperture


– Distance (from the flash to subject)

– Power (the flash’s actual blitz of light, taking into consideration any diffusion)

Two things relate to camera settings, and two things relate to the flash itself. To really understand flash photography, it is essential to memorize those four things. You may have noticed shutter speed is not among these controls, and the reason is the duration of the flash. In the simplest of terms: regardless of what shutter speed you use, the duration of light that emits from the flash is around 1/1000s.

Does this mean I can shoot at any shutter speed in Flash photography?

One of the times shutter speed does come into play has to do with the SYNCH SPEED; if it helps to understand this, think of it as a maximum speed limit enforced by your camera and the only time it comes into play is when you use flashes or strobes. You can find the synch speed in your camera’s owner manual. The synch speed is usually under or around 1/200s.

Can you be more specific about Synch Speed? 

In normal flash modes, you need to ensure that the shutter speed is set at or below the ‘synch speed’ for your camera. DSLRs have sync speeds of either 1/200 sec or 1/250 sec, depending on the model; if use a faster shutter speeds part of the image will be obscured by the falling shutter curtain.

Can I use slower shutter speed for flash photography?

Slower than Synch speed is the most creative choice with flash photography. We will cover both techniques, including slow synch flash photography, later.

What if I want a super fast shutter speed in flash photography?

This is possible only if you use a TTL flash gun. This technique is called High Speed Synch (HSS) and we will cover this technique as well. So stay tuned for upcoming articles!

What role does distance have in flash photography?

It’s called Light Fall off. Light falls off because of something called the Inverse Square Law. The light spreads quickly and literally falls off (weakens); because of this spread, the distance from subject (and background) from the flash influences correct exposure.

What does this mean for flash photography? 

An object (like your background) that is twice the distance from a flash head will receive a quarter (1/4) of the illumination – or two stops less light. An object that is three times the distance receives one ninth (1/9) the illumination – or three stops less light. An object that is four times the distance receives one sixteenth (1/16) the illumination – or four stops less light, etc.

For more in-depth learning check our Workshop List  for complete list of workshops and field trips. We are going to have a TTL Flash Photography workshop on March 17 and 18. This two part workshop covers the most popular settings in TTL Flash techniques and will help you master the creative possibilities of flash photography.

Off Camera Flash Techniques

Off Camera Flash Techniques Part 2

Exploring ways to create a variety of portrait lighting with just one light 

In a previous article (Off Camera Flash Photography) I explained how the position of a light source can really change the look of your subject. In this tutorial I am going to show you some popular setups for Off Camera Flash Techniques, which can be used to capture outstanding portraits with just one flash and a reflector.

For the images in this tutorial I used:

  • One Nikon SB900 flash in Manual mode, set at 1/8 power, mounted on a stand.
  • One 32” Octagon soft box (as flash modifier)
  • One 32” silver reflector
  • Nikon D3 camera body mounted on a tripod, set on manual exposure with 1/125s shutter speed, Flash White Balance (it is important to set the white balance manually whenever you shoot with off camera flash), ISO 200.
  • Nikon 105 Micro lens with an aperture setting of f 8.
Off camera Flash

32″ Octagon Soft box

Basically that’s all the equipment you need for off camera single flash portraits! Here are some lighting diagrams showing how I placed the flash in different positions to achieve a variety of looks.

Off Camera Flash Techniques

One flash with soft box

Off Camera Flash Techniques

One flash with soft box behind the subject

Off Camera Flash Techniques

One flash with soft box behind the subject and reflector to fill the shadow

One flash with soft box and reflector to create Rembrandt effect

One flash with soft box and reflector to create Rembrandt effect

Portraits and a variety of Off Camera Flash Techniques

Now let’s take a look at the samples together.

Off camera flash

In this photo I placed the light (Flash and Octagon box) to the right side of the camera a little higher than the model’s head. Notice the shadow under the chin and eyes are dark. But the nose got very interesting depth.

Off camera flash

Same as image one, with the addition of a reflector to fill the shadows. Notice the eyes are brighter, the shadow under the chin is smoother and the nose maintains the nice shape.


off camera flash

I moved the light to the back of the model. Notice how the light on her face creates a moody effect.

Off Camera Flash

I opened up the aperture to allow more light in. Back lit subjects have a dreamy effect.

Off camera flash

I set the aperture back to f8 and added a reflector to create a romantic effect. Notice how smooth the light is.

Off camera flash

I moved the light to right side of the camera and at a slightly higher level. This is called Rembrandt Effect. This classical lighting is often used for business portraits.

Off camera flash

Adding a reflector can smooth the effect and create a softer, more romantic image.

Off camera flash

By rotating the octagon box towards the camera, I managed to reduce the light spill to the background. Notice the background is a darker shade of grey, while I maintained the Rembrandt effect on my subject.

Off camera flash

I placed the light right above the subject for another moody effect.

Off camera flash

Adding a reflector to bounce some light back to the face creates a very soft effect. Notice that the size of the eyes and the shape of the neck have changed.


That is all for now. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial about the variety of technique possible with only one off camera flash. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Stay tuned for the next tutorial which will look at off camera flash techniques using two lights.

Our TTL Flash Photography class is scheduled for October 29 and 31. This two part workshop will explore the wonderful world of TTL flash photography, on camera and off camera flash.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team


Auto White Balance Vs Presets

Auto White Balance Vs Presets 

When and how to use White Balance Presets.

As discussed in the previous article (White Balance in Digital Photography), our digital cameras do not have a brain to adjust for colour cast. Almost all new digital cameras come with Auto White Balance, some sort of Presets and a Custom White Balance setting.

What is Auto White Balance?

Each digital camera has the data of thousands of images built into its processor. When you use any of the auto modes (Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure, Auto area auto focus, etc.) the camera compares the scene to the data of these images and selects the one that is closest. The result might be close or be quite far from accurate color and exposure.

You may have noticed that the newer digital cameras take better photos. It is not because these cameras are better made, but mainly because the manufacturers added more data to the newer camera to use as references!

When should I use Auto White Balance?

This being said, if you have a newer digital camera and are taking pictures with only one source of light, the Auto White Balance will create a decent image for you. If there is more than one source of light (e.g. daylight from a window and tungsten light of an indoor lamp) the chances are higher that your camera can’t make the right decision, which will result in a heavy color cast in your image.

How do digital cameras measure the White Balance?

Generally speaking, digital camera searches for 18% gray in the scene, and whatever resembles closest to 18% gray will be used as a reference for gray and the colours adjusted accordingly. This is why photos in a forest with no white or gray present in the scene will often end up with a deep green cast over your images.

Auto White Balance Vs Presets

There is no white or grey colour present in this shot, that is why auto white balance couldn’t adjust the colours properly. (notice that the sky is overexposed and camera can not consider it as white or grey colour

What are White Balance Presets?

Almost all digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances; these presets are tuned to provide a fixed correction for common lighting scenarios. The camera relies on you to choose the right setting for the scene. The most popular presets are:

Direct Sun






The description and symbol for the above white balances are just rough estimates for the actual lighting they work best under. In fact, cloudy could be used in place of daylight depending on the time of day, elevation, or degree of haziness. In general, if your image appears too cool on your LCD screen preview (regardless of the setting), you can quickly increase the color temperature by selecting a setting further down on the list above. White Balance presets are not always accurate: for example the colour temperature for a shade area varies from summer to winter.

Auto White Balance Vs Presets

Auto White Balance vs Cloudy preset. (Notice that the preset did a better job)

Auto White Balance Vs Presets

Auto White Balance vs Fluorescent preset. The preset created a better colour

Any tips on using White Balance presets properly?

As a matter of fact in most cases the Auto White Balance does a better job than Presets, but if you are using a flash as your main source of light, then it is a good idea to set the White Balance to Flash and your camera will provide perfect colour.

That is all for Part II of this discussion. In the next article we are going to explore the amazing possibilities with Custom White Balance.

Did you know that Flash photography can be very creative? We scheduled our next Flash Photography workshop for beginners for October 29 and 31. This two part workshop has classroom sessions and practical experience with shooting with flash as main or fill light. Make plans to join us!

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