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Flash Photography Exposure Basics

Watch Flash Photography Exposure Basics on YouTube

Flash photography is a skill not many try to master.  Its like people just don't want to learn it and just muddle through with their camera and flash on auto.  I'm here to tell you: its super easy!!!  The basics of flash exposure:

  • Shutter speed affects ambient light only
  • ISO and aperture affect ambient light AND flash
  • Flash distance, power, and modifiers all change its output.

When you understand that concept its easy.  If you want to adjust the flash change ISO, aperture, flash power or flash distance.  If you only want to change the ambient light in the scene then adjust your shutter speed.  I have all my students start out in manual exposure mode with the flash on manual too.  That way you are controlling the flash and learning how it works, not just getting by.

Have any great flash photos?  Let's seem them!

Photos after the break…

 

Photos also here…. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cazillo/sets/72157625860014208/.

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/30th sec f2.8 NO FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 1600, 1/30th sec f2.8 NO FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 1600, 1/30th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/30th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/15th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/30th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/60th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/125th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

Flash Photography Basics
ISO 800, 1/250th sec f2.8 WITH FLASH

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0 # Barnett Gomez 2011-06-02 08:07
I would like to share some pictures of my off camera flash photography. How do I do so? Help please.
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+1 # Scott 2011-06-02 08:14
I did not know that shutter speed ONLY effects the ambient light when shooting with flash.

Thanks for this!
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0 # Candice 2011-06-02 09:01
took a while to post the facebook button but I think it might be me and morning. Worked! I like it.
Great info and thanks for the settings on the different effects you can get. I can run down each and try them all without having to refer to the videos over and over.
Your site is really progressing.
Windows 8 is a great look but owning a touch screen I find I use tablet and keyboard still, as they are faster for me and I don't have to deal with fingerprints constantly. LOL.
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+1 # Michel 2011-06-02 09:39
Nice video Greg. I start to understand flash photography. Very instructive, very usefull.
Thanks!
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0 # Melvin Kusuma 2011-06-02 10:59
Hi Greg.. How are U? :D

Btw I wanna ask U about flash photography after I watched your video..

I have conclusion First we must know our ambient light setting (in this case you suggest with manual control but I'm still confuse.. set the shutter first n follow with the ISO or the opposite way?) and after that we set our flash power or one of exposure triangle..

Is that correct? Hehehe :), correct me if I'm wrong..

N my last question, what's your sb900 setting? (is it in SU-4 mode or others? n how much power do U use?)

Thanks a lot Greg..
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+3 # Tomas 2011-06-02 12:42
This was epic!! The photos at the end were the perfect way to visualize the whole process. Thanks Greg!!
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0 # George 2011-06-02 12:54
Hey Greg have a look at my flash photos, i ve used a 430ex ii on both off camera(using the wireless commander on my 7D).
flickr.com/.../...
flickr.com/.../...

Btw feel free to comment.
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0 # Fernando Rui 2011-06-02 14:01
Greg, I really loved your "Flash Photography Exposure Basics" video. I feel I am becoming a PRO. Thank you!
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+1 # Stephen Roberts 2011-06-02 15:38
Hi Greg! greetings from South Yorkshire UK and just recently, (in the last year or so), started out in iStock photography. I do use off camera flash a lot, I found your video very refreshing and enjoyable and the rewind bit made me laugh! just what I needed! I think you've got a very good way of explaining things and making them very clear.

Much appreciated Stephen Roberts
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0 # Ari in DC 2011-06-02 16:32
Wow, you did make that very easy to comprehend. I'm going to practice those fundamentals over the weekend. I look forward to some more flash videos where this one left off.
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+3 # Dave 2011-06-02 19:12
Really enjoying the vids, Greg. Picking up some good info with each one. Really appreciate your efforts.

Cheers!
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0 # Lance C 2011-06-02 21:05
here is a flash image. Three off camera flashes. Can you figure out where I placed them?
www.flickr.com/.../photostream
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+3 # Kleemy 2011-06-03 06:37
Thank you Greg, a very helpful video.
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+1 # ian 2011-06-04 04:03
Great stuff Greg,just got a sb 900 and some pocket wizards now i can go and play.
Keep up the good work.
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+1 # Kleemy 2011-06-04 14:40
Ok, now i tried it out - flash (SB900) and camera (D700) all in manual. Works great, thanks again!
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0 # Gary Thursby 2011-06-06 19:27
Thanks so much for the video big G! I am finally starting to get the hang of how to use the flash, at least theoretically! Now I just need to go out and purchase one so I can master it! Oh one last question Greg, my d300s has a built in flash that has a commander mode I believe its called. Does that mean I do not have to purchase 2 flashes to go wireless. Just use the built in flash to trigger the other off camera flash?
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+1 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:53
Quoting Gary Thursby:
Thanks so much for the video big G! I am finally starting to get the hang of how to use the flash, at least theoretically! Now I just need to go out and purchase one so I can master it! Oh one last question Greg, my d300s has a built in flash that has a commander mode I believe its called. Does that mean I do not have to purchase 2 flashes to go wireless. Just use the built in flash to trigger the other off camera flash?

You can use the built in commander mode to control a recent Nikon strobe. I recommend buying a SB-700 or 900.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:53
Quoting Lance C:
here is a flash image. Three off camera flashes. Can you figure out where I placed them?
www.flickr.com/.../photostream

1 above and 1 on each side.
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+1 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:54
Quoting Stephen Roberts:
...the rewind bit made me laugh!

That was the goal!
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:55
Quoting Barnett Gomez:
I would like to share some pictures of my off camera flash photography. How do I do so? Help please.

facebook.com/ca zillophoto, twitter @cazillo or place a link here.
Reply | Report to administrator
 
 
0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:57
Quoting Melvin Kusuma:
Hi Greg.. How are U? :D

Btw I wanna ask U about flash photography after I watched your video..

I have conclusion First we must know our ambient light setting (in this case you suggest with manual control but I'm still confuse.. set the shutter first n follow with the ISO or the opposite way?) and after that we set our flash power or one of exposure triangle..

Is that correct? Hehehe :), correct me if I'm wrong..

N my last question, what's your sb900 setting? (is it in SU-4 mode or others? n how much power do U use?)

Thanks a lot Greg..

Set shutter and aperture first then ISO to get your ambient setting. Add flash at whatever power is required in the scene.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 08:27
Quoting George:
Hey Greg have a look at my flash photos, i ve used a 430ex ii on both off camera(using the wireless commander on my 7D).
flickr.com/.../...
flickr.com/.../...

Btw feel free to comment.

Nice job, the portrait is a little flat, next time raise your shutter to darken the ambient and add more interest/shadow s with off camera flash.
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0 # Remco van de Sanden 2011-06-07 23:59
Hey Greg, superb video. Perfectly explained.

Can you do the same with none stationary objects? Because when shooting people, weddings etc. you might run in to problems with the long shutter speeds. I's love to see how you solve these problems of combining the ambient light with a moving couple in a church or something. Needing the flash to get the couple nice soft lighted, but not leaving the back all black so the ambient light is "nicely" present.

Thanks Greg, loved this video, going to post some pics soon using some 300w/s studio flashes.
Take care.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-09 09:20
Quoting Remco van de Sanden:
Hey Greg, superb video. Perfectly explained.

Can you do the same with none stationary objects? Because when shooting people, weddings etc. you might run in to problems with the long shutter speeds. I's love to see how you solve these problems of combining the ambient light with a moving couple in a church or something. Needing the flash to get the couple nice soft lighted, but not leaving the back all black so the ambient light is "nicely" present.

Thanks Greg, loved this video, going to post some pics soon using some 300w/s studio flashes.
Take care.

Yes, just keep your shutter speed above 1/60th of a second.
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0 # Norm 2012-06-08 00:30
Shutter controls the SUN
Apature controls the FLASH
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0 # gchamp 2012-08-28 20:48
Greg, Just want to say that your videos are really helping me out. You are teaching me things that just had not occurred to me before. And you express the principles in a way that makes it easy to grasp (as with this tutorial ). This is easily the most useful photography site I have found.
Thanks,
gchamp
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0 # Daniel Pérez 2012-10-02 18:22
Grieta Explanation Greg. Thank you very much.
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0 # Rabel Yarina Ramos 2012-10-07 09:04
Very helpful. Thank you Greg, this video makes me feel more confident and I'm sure that it will help my friend too because I already share the video with her. Thank you again!
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0 # John O 2013-01-21 14:54
Great explanation. I'm going to watch it once more and I know I will now understand what I'm doing, instead of just shooting and hoping I get a good photo.
You are correct in telling everyone to STOP using Auto and learn Manual mode. It really is the only way to learn and understand what and why you are doing.
Thank You
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0 # lance j. reha 2013-02-06 10:36
Great video Greg. I am just getting into flash photography, & I just got my 1st flash, a Nikon Sb-700.. I look forward to more instructional videos on the subject as I like your 'style' of teaching etc..

PS: Off topic, but what is that 'bell' that rings during your videos? Is that a timer of some sort?
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0 # Norm 2013-02-06 19:16
Good examples of
"SHUTTER CONTROLS THE SUN
APERATURE CONTROLS THE FLASH"

However in the case above the electronic flash is contolling the flash output.

The above RULE is more for "FILL-IN FLASH" WITH THE OLDER TYPE OF FLASH GUNS - (MANUAL)
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0 # NikoB 2013-07-13 15:21
Hi Gregg, I love this particular video. It really flipped a switch in my learning.
I have a sort of related question or maybe not so related.

In my efforts to stretch out my experience, I just purchase a used medium format film camera (Bronica). It does not have internal metering and by todays standards it is very basic. For exposure readings I will rely on my inexpensive Sekonic L188 exposure meter. It's good enough for general shooting without a flash. How can I figure out the proper exposure if I want to use a flash for fill and controlling the background light? Last night while thinking about this, I used my DSLR to figure out that in my living room at maybe 2 meters, there is about a 5 stop difference. Back in the day, before they had $600 micro-processor controlled exposure meters, how did pro photographers calculate the exposure when using a strobe.
Thanks in advance. Niko
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