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Flash for beginners :)

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by fransglans, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Hi guys and girls!
    Sometimes I really don't afford to miss a shot, like indoors dim light at birthdays etc.

    I have this inbuilt flash in my pen ep3 but I never really got a hang on how to use it properly. I don't want to go full auto i rather stay at A priority. So what setting shall I use?
    Mostly are people my target and they use to sit still :)

    Flash is an unknown area for me so try to explain simple.. :)
     
  2. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    Unless some setting have changed, your flash should work to make fairly properly exposed photos in "A" mode without any tweaks. Or maybe you tried it and it didn't?

    The trouble is : direct flash is quite poor for people at dim parties, making their faces too glary.

    You really want to bounce it off the ceiling but your pop-up flash won't bend back like that in the e-pL1 & e-pL2.
     
  3. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thanks for your reply! Yes I tried it a bit and always end up frustrated. It gets way overexposed sometimes. I tried to slower the sync to 1/20 and it gets near ok, and then there is this about full light, fill light and second take and list goes on. It feels like I'm just fumbling around. I guess I need to read the manual:)
     
  4. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    pellicle
    Hi

    problem is that direct flash falls off fast {the rate is 1/(distance squared)} so if things up front are closer (and smaller) they'll get burned out, and things in the distance will often be darker.

    This is just the way it is. A bigger flash will simply make it worse.

    I've found that in home room situations that bounce flash will often give better results. Something that you just can't do with the dinky little iddy biddy flashes on the cameras.

    There is an old photography adage "one flash and you're ash"

    Now, if you can manually dial back the flash in the settings you can be on to a winner, but that of course involves a cycle of 1) take picture 2) inspect and adjust 3) retake with exactly same composition.

    for partys that's just not going to happen ;-)

    The easiest way is to understand what will and wont work, and avoid what won't.

    Keep all subjects at a similar distance and hopefully not too far from the background.

    HTH

    Oh, some time ago I reacquainted myself with an old friend. A Metz 32 that does not do TTL metering (on flash meter). It gives great results.

    http://cjeastwd.blogspot.com/2008/09/metz-on-my-coolpix-newer-isnt-always.html

    pick on up second hand for just a few bucks ...
    :)
     
  5. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thank u! I read something about old ttl flashes that could damage a modern body, don't know really but..

    I'm not after the perfect shot or even a beautiful one, just a documentation sort a thing. My experience until now is that my iPhone 4 with its flash are giving me better results than my olympus. But I think it's my fault :)

    I will do some serious testing of the flag tonight. Must get a grip on this!
     
  6. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    This is more of a habit from shooting on camera flash in other formats, I transfer the same concept to using the smaller flash that comes with the camera.

    Applys more to shooting a dim indoor scene
    -shoot manual
    -assess what the ambient exposure is without flash (don't activate flash - see what the camera metering tells you)
    -roughly choose settings based on the ambient exposure. Underexposing ambient environment a little is not a big deal, if getting the 'correct' exposure means lowering the shutter speed too slow or ISO too high
    -adjust flash exposure compensation. If you are particularly close to the subject will probably need to drop the FEC
    -take photo with flash
    -readjust flash exposure compensation if too bright/dim. Keep in mind the small flash can only do so much. If it's too dim, you might need to get closer to the subject instead.

    e.g. I'm shooting in a dim room with 17mm f1.8 lens: Probably have aperture at 1.8 unless I really need more DOF. Shutter speed at 1/30th (you can go lower if your have steady hands and a still subject. Might need to be higher if you want to avoid subject movement). If it's particularly dim I'm probably using 3200 ISO, I'd prefer 1600 (or lower) though.

    When shooting flash, by default the camera (at least my EM5) chooses ISO 200. In a dim environment, this creates an ambient background that tends to be too dark. This particulary makes the flash particularly noticeable on the subject. By controlling the ambient exposure, the background behind the subject will be less dark. If the flash still looks too noticeable on the subject, this is where the FEC comes into play.

    Note:
    -to be honest with the small flash, I find FEC can be difficult to guage.
    -as mentioned by others, bouncing the flash would be good. You'll need a bigger flash to do so.
    -because the white balance is usually taken for the flash WB, your ambient background will tend to be more orange/yellow. If it bothers you, you could try fixing in post processing by using brushes and selecting different WB for the subject and background.

    Let us know how that goes for you. Hope you find it useful...
     
  7. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Had a dig around for an example... not a great photo, but you get the idea.

    1/30th , ISO 2000, F1.8
     

    Attached Files:

  8. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    I re-read you post where you said you want to keep it simple and shoot in Aperture priority mode.

    If so I'd say;
    -pick Aperture priority
    -pick your widest aperture
    -pick ISO 1600 or 3200
    -(camera will probably pick shutter speed of whatever you've set for flash 'slow limit' speed)
    Take a photo with flash
    -if it is too bright or too dark, adjust flash exposure compensation

    Don't forget to change ISO back to auto for when you next use the camera.
     
  9. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thanks! But what about flash setting. Go auto flash or full/ fill , red eye etc...?
     
  10. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    Bangkok
    rob collins
    +1

    But MOST important.

    pick ISO 1600 or 3200

    The way Oly cameras are set up with flash if you are on 'iso auto' with your camera and you open your flash in a dark setting - it will set your iso to 200. Then using the flash will end up with a bright flash area and a dark background.

    If you raise the iso - ie set it higher - your flash will balance the ambient far better.
     
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  11. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Is it ok to just raise iso when I'm in A mode(when using flash of course)? U mentioned that camera is choosing base ISo as default. Or am I forced to shoot only in manual? Sorry for my reptile brain :)
     
  12. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    This thread piqued my interest, so I decided to explore the various flash modes and the on-board flash a little more.

    I'd suggest using fill in flash. (when using aperture priority mode, shutter speed won't go below flash slow limit speed)

    If you use slow sync, slow sync will meter the ambient exposure and set parameters accordingly. This may result in a shutter speed much slower than desired.

    I assume slow sync 2, is second curtain (or rear curtain) flash. I'd suggest googling for more info on how to use it, e.g. light trails

    Note: slow sync isn't available in manual mode.

    Now here's one issue I've come across with using the included flash. Sometimes adjusting FEC doesn't reduce the brightness of the flash and the subject is still too bright, even when I do -3 FEC. I've come to the conclusion; because I'm shooting at higher ISOs, the flash is already shooting at it's lowest power. If you want the brightness to reduce, you'll need to move further away from the subject.

    I guess conversely, if you find increasing the FEC doesn't increase the flash brightness of the subject. You might already be at the limit's of the flash's power and you might need to move closer.
     
  13. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Raising ISO when in A (aperture priority) mode should also work okay so long as you are using 'fill flash' mode (just make sure your 'flash slow limit' speed is set appropriately). Try shooting a controlled environment and slowly increase the ISO from 200-400-800-1600-3200. You should see the background exposure increasing as you raise ISO.

    I forgot the mention before, my ISO1600->3200 suggestion is for the new sensors. If you are using an older sensor, have it at the highest ISO which you can tolerate the noise from.
     
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  14. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thank you hazwing for your time and effort! Helpful! And thank to others in this thread ! I saw that gx7 had this tilting flash, that may help bouncing to the roof, if that built in flash is strong enough for that?
     
  15. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    941
    Oct 20, 2011
    Important basic elements of flashes. Guide Number, Aperture, Distance to subject. The Shutter will only affect the ambient light not being reflected by the flash. As the light by the flash is so fast it acts as it's own shutter. Backgrounds too dark? slower shutter, Too light? faster shutter.

    Read your manual. Figure out your GN on the flash. EG if the GN is 28, at iso 200 at 10 feet. Your Av MUST be f/2.8 at 10' in an average dim light situation. A touch more or a touch less depending on ambient conditions and reflectivity of subject (shiny skin? back off the Av). Like salt and pepper.

    So if you go to 5' half the distance your flash will be 4x (2stops) as bright, drop your fstop to quarter the light, so f/5.6.

    As a beginner, I'd stay at the whatever the iso of your GN is to keep the math simple. Once you double your iso to 400 you will need to stop down to account for that as well. IMO, stay in doubled increments of your GN's ISO value. EG: 200, 400, 800, 1600.
     
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  16. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thanks Jim , that's some serious info there. I will read your stuff and the manual and practice tonight!
     
  17. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    For a small flash unit like that I suggest fill flash only (meaning you use the ambient light for the majority of the exposure, and the flash to provide a little bit of "fill" light to lift shadows on people's faces etc.). I also recommend bouncing the flash if at all possible, because direct flash from a small flash unit is usually pretty harsh and likely to create red eye or skin glare.

    For the first (fill flash), what you need to do is use manual mode or at least aperture priority with a fixed ISO as noted in an earlier post. The idea is to get close to a correct exposure with ambient light, and underexpose by a little bit, maybe 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop for example. Then when the flash fires, you're only using it to bring the exposure up a small amount and lift shadows without overpowering the scene. I'm not sure how much control you have over the flash exposure compensation or power output on an E-P3, but you should have at least some control over flash power one way or another. What you want to do is underexpose by a little for the ambient, then adjust your flash power until it looks good.

    For bouncing the flash, since the E-P3 can't be bent back to bounce off the ceiling, I'd recommend you check out the Demb Pop-Up Flip-It - it's just a bounce card with a mirror that bounces the flash up and outward. Very simple but effective at softening an on-board flash if it's all you have. Also has the benefit of being usable with or without nice white ceilings :smile: Bouncing the light off the bounce card and/or ceiling will diffuse the light and look much softer than direct flash. The trade off is it will require more power and probably slow your recycle times between shots.

    Hope some of that helps. If you want to delve into flash more I highly recommend Neil Van Niekirk's blog Tangents and his books like On-Camera Flash and Direction and Quality of Light which may help you think differently and more in depth about light in general and flash in particular.
     
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  18. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    That's a fair bit of math to get my head around. So the included flash with the EM5 has a guide number of 10 metres (rated at ISO 200). So this means at ISO 200, distance of 5 metres, I need to be at F2? And if I want greater depth of field and be at F4, I'll need to either get closer (2.5m) or bump up ISO to 400?

    You suggest altering the shutter speed to adjust ambient background, but if your shutter speed is already very slow... you will need to adjust ISO instead, right? Changing aperture will also affect ambient as well, right? But if you already have it wide open, once again we need to increase ISO?

    If I want to shoot at ISO 800, a distance of 5 metres, aperture of F2, I will need two negative stops of FEC?

    What happens when you throw in bounce flashing? That then makes it near impossible to calculate right? The light reflected from the ceiling/wall will depend on a large variety of factors such as the colour of the wall, distance, angle of the flash. What do you do then?

    Man... my brain aches trying to figure this out. I think chimping and adjusting FEC is easier for me.
     
  19. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Shutter speed can sometimes be adjusted lower than normal when using flash, because the flash itself will freeze motion a bit. But barring that, if you can't go any lower with the shutter speed then yes, ISO is your only choice to match the ambient.

    I find it helpful to think of it as 2 separate exposures you're setting; 1 is for ambient and the other for the flash. So I would think "ok, how much of the ambient light do I want in this photo" and base my exposure settings on that first. Then use flash to bring up the scene the rest of the way. Obviously that's a little over-simplified but it's basically the idea, especially when working with a single flash.


    That's actually one of the reasons I like TTL flash, though a lot of strobists seem to stick to manual mode. When you're using TTL the flash actually measures the light from the flash itself and adjusts output accordingly, so it's adjusting to the variable factors for you. Of course, it's not perfect so you typically still need to ride your flash exposure compensation a bit. But compared to trying to manually set the flash for bouncing off ceilings/walls etc when moving around, it's easier to manage (for me in my limited experience at least).

    Color of the wall/ceiling matters, and yes sometimes you get color cast with bounce flash. But I also think people worry about that more than it warrants in actual practice. Even the tiniest bit of fill flash applied with good directionality can be worth the effort & risk of a little color cast.
     
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  20. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    991
    Jun 12, 2012
    Sweden
    gus
    Thanks jloden for your input here. I definitely see my total lack of knowledge here regarding cameraflash... But I gather all info here guys and try to implement as much as I can!