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Learning to use on-camera external flash

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by sprinke, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Debi
    Yeehaw, got my Metz 50 AF-1 this weekend and had some fun playing with it in TTL and M modes. I look forward to making great pics with this.

    I'm looking for any online resources for how to use ON-camera flash to best effect. I know about Strobist.com but that focuses on off-camera flash. I'm sure I'll get there eventually but right now I don't even have a stand I could put the Metz on. Well, I have light stands but no way to attach the flash to them. And I doubt I'll be getting wireless triggers anytime soon (although I could use optical slave mode as a trigger).

    I'm also a bit confused about when to use TTL-HSS mode vs. regular TTL. I fully understand what I get in HSS mode, but I'm unclear when I would want to use it.

    So I guess my point is: I've read the manual and I understand technically how to use the flash, but I want to learn more about how to use it artistically!
     
  2. DekHog

    DekHog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    579
    May 3, 2011
    Scotland
    Well, you're never going to get great looking photos with on-camera flash, and you're definitely not going to be artistic with it stuck on the hotshoe either, so if you can get it off the camera, do it! Get a hotshoe adapter for the lightstand, and use the optical slave to trigger it.

    HSS mode - normally outside in bright light. Your camera only syncs at say 1/160th, but you want/need 1/1000th to underexpose the background a bit and also light the subject with flash at the same time and/or to use a wide aperture.

    It's not going to work at 1/160th so enter HSS mode. The flash will pulse (although you won't be aware of it) light which will enable you to use much higher shutter speeds than normal. It will also kill the batteries in your flash pronto if you use it a lot!

    If you need more than normal flash sync speed, you need HSS mode....
     
  3. BarefootPilgrim

    BarefootPilgrim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    517
    Dec 23, 2009
    Westchester, IL
    Bob
    It will also fire each pulse at less than full power, therefore your range may be limited. I don't know the Metz intimately (I use Oly FL-36R and FL-50 R) but you should find some sort of a table in your Metz instruction book that will give you a rough idea of what to expect. But the only way to know what to expect is to experiment! Play around with the settings until you learn what they'll do and not do. :thumbup:

    If you're gonna use the unit on the camera's hot shoe you'll improve the look of your photos tremenhdously by not pointing the flash at your subject. :confused: :confused: Instead, point it at the ceiling or wall and bounce the light. Or find a sucker -- oops... an assistant -- to help you. Have that (gullible fool) person hold up a big sheet of white poster board and bounce the light from that.

    You can also buy one of those high-dollar flash modifiers like a Press-Lite or Gary Fong or Lumiquest diffuser doohickie, but frankly they're a waste of money (IMHO).

    You can accomplish the same look in your photos for about $5 (US) by visiting your local WalMart. Get yourself some translucent plastic shelf liner and a bit of stick-on Velcro. Then spend 10 minutes at home cutting and sticking to make your own flash diffuser. There's an Instructables how-to here that's essentially the same thing.

    Also take a look at this post on DPReview.


    Better yet, try googling "home made flash diffuser." Explore some of the results that pop up. You'll find a slough of ideas and you'll also get a great education in how others are using on-camera flash.

    BTW... these will help you fasten your flash to a light stand without having to screw anything on and without marring the flash's finish. Just position the flash on the light stand pole and wrap 'em around to secure in place.

    Have fun with your new toys!
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Mu-43 Regular

    84
    Aug 20, 2011
    Another vote for OCF. :thumbup:
     
  5. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    Sorry that is just wrong. There are plenty of ways to be creative with on camera flash. I suggest the OP go here...

    http://neilvn.com/tangents/

    And read everything he's got and then buy the book.

    Gordon
     
  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Yes, the proper modifier can easily make on-camera flash look good... pointed directly at the subject, and not bounced. Bounced light can create uneven lighting, and has no directional control. If you bounce off the ceiling for instance, then the lower half of your subject will probably be in shadow. And of course, what will you do without a bright ceiling or wall nearby? A good light modifier is far, far more valuable than bounce, in my books.

    A flash bracket will also help.
     
  7. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    I see your point but personally I mostly hate flash modifiers when used on camera. A simple flag can make all the difference with directional, controllable bounced flash. I only use the ceiling as a last resort. I'd rather flag my on camera flash and use a wall. It's actually really easy to simulate diffused window light with on camera bounced flash off a wall. Have a look at Neil's stuff. It's very impressive indeed.

    Gordon
     
  8. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada

    Well, the first item on his tangents page you linked us to shows the Orbis Ringflash for speedlights. That's what I mean by a good light modifier. ;)
     
  9. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    Yep. Hate ring flash. Hate. Hate. Hate. :biggrin: But that's just me. People do great stuff with ring flash. But im not inspired to get one. Same with beauty dishes. Neil's a lighting guru who does all kinds of amazing stuff. But he's best known for his on camera flash techniques. Just like Dave Hoby is for strobist and Joe McNally is for off camera TTL. These three guys are the kings of small flash. If youre into small flash i think anyone should get everything they can from these three. Go back a year or so in the tangents blog and get into some of the simply brilliant stuff Neil does with a single on camera flash.

    It's so common for people to get told to buy a ring flash, or a Fong Dong or five hundred bucks of Lumiquest accessories. There's an explosion in small flash accessories at the moment doing what camera manufacturers do. Promising that buying a new toy will give you brilliant light and images without actually having to learn how to work with light to get it. The reality is you can do so much with a single on camera flash and a piece of black card. All you've got to do is learn how to work with light.

    I'm not against off camera flash, manual stuff, studio strobes or really almost anything else. But I put myself out there by saying that on camera flash can be creative, flexible and beautiful and the tangents blog is my proof.

    Gordon
     
  10. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Debi
    Thanks Gordon, this is the kind of thing I was looking for.

    As it turns out, the dining room in my house, which is, strangely enough, a location where I take a lot of casual pictures of my family, has a white ceiling that is curved around the edges, white walls, and white curtains. Bounce flash works wonderfully in there. :biggrin:
     
  11. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Well, if you look at the photos on my website (click the link in my signature), you'll see that I love flat, full, even lighting. :D Not that I use ring flash, but I'm just comparing the type of lighting that ring flash is best known for.

    That's the beauty of light modifiers, is that there's one for everybody's style of lighting. ;) The problem comes when people don't understand what modifiers are for, like the many wedding photographers who think the Fong Dong is something you use for everything. The Fong Dong is probably the most limited application light modifier in the market, lol.
     
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