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Reliable flash exposure with iTTL?

4 years 3 weeks ago #4974 by Chad
I've been banging my head against flash exposure since I picked up my flash earlier this year (first off camera flash I've owned, and SB700) to go with my second DSLR (d7100, moved up from a d5100).

In general it seems to work ok, but I recently read that the flash metering is different than the in camera metering and went off on a long trip through the internet reading about iTTL, FV lock, how the camera meters the flash off the center of frame, not the selected focal point.. and my head generally exploded.

After all of that, it seems to do what I originally sought out to do -- meter for the background in a fill flash situation, then pop some flash to ensure my subject (and not the whole frame) has a balanced exosure -- I should do something roughtly like this:

1. camera manual
2. meter wherever, clouds let's say, set up the exposure and do a test shot
3. point the camera straight at subject, focus (to inform flash of distance to subject), hit fv lock to get a preflash exposure check on the subject
4. recompose, focus on intended focal point
5. shoot.

Since it seems there's no way to get the flash to expose for my selected metering point and 'fill in some light' after I setup my background to where I want it, this is the only way I could think of, aside from full manual flash and a lot more tinkering, to take a reasonably quick shot and get it close.

How do others do it? Ignore spot metering and let iTTL center meter or do a full frame meter and attempt to give you a (likely impossible to achieve) balanced exposure?

Any advice much appreciated!


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4 years 3 weeks ago #4979 by Brent Ross
I meter, take a shot, look at histogram, dial in a flash exposure compensation, and that is it.

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3 years 11 months ago #5265 by Mike Lostraglio
I also have a SB-700. Generally, the way is shoot with flash is to meter off the background (ambient light), Manually set the flash to -1.0 to -1.7 (depending on level of darkness, Take a test shot, adjust according to the histogram and take the real shot. Unfortunately, I haven't found the TTL to be reliable in all situations, so I just got into the habit of using it on strictly manual mode.

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3 years 11 months ago #5272 by Roy van Ommen
Hi Chad,

I missed this conversation untill Mike responded on this :)

It will all depend on what you are shooting. If you are shooting on your camera, iTTL will do the job normally. If you point your flash towards the subject, you will get harsh light and a huge hard shadow. If you bounce it of to a normal ceiling or wall, you will get a better lighting.

But if you take your flash off and shoot through a umbrella, the best way is to set it on manual and try it out. Try different settings on a normal subject like a doll, or even a plastic bag.

It all comes to trial and error first if you don't understand light yet. And if you get it right, try to understand what is happening. Move the flash forwards and backwards....

If you are shooting on the camera, and you just want to use your flash as a fill, you can try 2 things.

Let me give you an example.

I was shooting outside, a historic building made out of clay, wood and hay. I wanted the building to be lighten up and the sky. yes, i could use HDR, but i wanted to give myself a little challenge. So what i did was this.

I metered for the sky to get the clouds in my shot, i took the shot and saw that the building which i was photographing was black. So i took my flash, gave it normal power and took another shot. And it was flat... so i dailed back the flash by 2 stops.. and took another shot and tweaked that untill the exposure was okay.

So, thats what i tried, and now, i know for the next time how i will work this situation.

Hope this helped a bit.


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3 years 11 months ago #5288 by Gregory Cazillo
Roy is right, manual mode is best when the subject or your equipment is not moving. If I am shooting a family portrait or studio portrait the flash is on manual mode, not TTL. I wouldn't say that TTL isn't reliable, because it is, you just have to get used to how it works.

For flash beginners in an outdoor setting I suggest getting an accurate ambient flash exposure first, then adding in each strobe one at a time.

If you are in the studio ALWAYS set your strobes on manual mode.

Lastly when you are at an event using the flash on camera TTL is usually best. You may need to adjust it up or down a bit with the over/under compensation on the strobe but thats it.

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