The Art of the Manual Flash

Started Jun 9, 2013 | Discussions
NYCphotoman
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The Art of the Manual Flash
Jun 9, 2013

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.  Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

CraigBennett
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 9, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.  Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill.    Worked great for me.  camera on manual,  shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much.  Manual setting is the most stable.  TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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NYCphotoman
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to CraigBennett, Jun 9, 2013

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.  Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill.    Worked great for me.  camera on manual,  shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much.  Manual setting is the most stable.  TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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CraigBennett
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 9, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.  Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill.    Worked great for me.  camera on manual,  shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much.  Manual setting is the most stable.  TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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You asked for how we do it, this is how I do it.  Not to use TTL flash on camera and only use manual for everything, IMO is a non-workable solution for event work.  Too many things going on to try and balance your fill for every situation.  Fill is the only time I use TTL in this situation.  It works, is predictable, and consistent.

Regards,

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Sailor Blue
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 10, 2013

The general rule is if the subject to flash distance is variable then use TTL.  If the subject to flash distance is fixed then use manual power control of the flash.

With TTL chimp a lot, expect to be using Flash Exposure Compensation a lot, and expect to do a lot of exposure modification in post processing.  TTL isn't anywhere near perfect but it does have its use.

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CraigBennett
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to Sailor Blue, Jun 10, 2013

Sailor Blue wrote:

The general rule is if the subject to flash distance is variable then use TTL.  If the subject to flash distance is fixed then use manual power control of the flash.

With TTL chimp a lot, expect to be using Flash Exposure Compensation a lot, and expect to do a lot of exposure modification in post processing.  TTL isn't anywhere near perfect but it does have its use.

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Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

Absolutely.

I do find mine to be very consistent with TTL on camera as fill though.  Once I set my FEC, I find I get very consistent shots during the event, with very little variance from shot to shot.

I set up my room flash units in key locations to provide a nice even room illumination.  I take several room shots without camera fill light to make sure I'm getting a nice ambient and adjust the light stand power levels as needed.  Once I get what I want with my chosen Aperture and ISO, I then take a few test shots with TTL on camera fill and adjust my FEC for the desired flash fill.

If I change my aperture, I usually adjust my ISO to compensate as to not disrupt my remote manual flashes.

Setup is fast and I get very nice and consistent images.

With our low noise, high ISO cameras of today, it certainly makes life easier when shooting large event halls.

Regards,

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kgbruce01
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Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 10, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.

TTL always works the way I expect it to, %100. But I'm lucky, because I don't shoot events(anymore). I shoot in %100 controlled conditions (aside from outdoor shoots/ambient light), and have %100 control of timing and pace of the shoot.

Under these conditions, TTL is the same as all the other techniques I use, you just go about the steps differently.When I shot events, and know with other things I shoot, I used whatever would work for that particular shoot, and it always varied.

The 'techniques' for manual flash are Strobist, Joe McNally, and Niel V. Kirk. Read them all, three times in a row. Good luck and if you have anymore questions, feel free to ask - I suggest getting a nice 3rd party speed light like a Youngo or Bowen (Bower?) with manual settings and a radio trigger.

Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

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Zee Char
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 10, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it.  Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor.  I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography.  This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture).  You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill.    Worked great for me.  camera on manual,  shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much.  Manual setting is the most stable.  TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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IMO you will have a have a tough time with that. If you are standing in the same one spot and your subjects are always the same distance to you then manual will be a perfect option. However this does not happen at event event photography so you will have to shoot and chimp just like using TTL or learn how to use the guide numbers and be continually calculating. Great for direct flash but will not help you with bouncing. Guide numbers is what the photogs used in the days of film and no TTL.

Unfortunately this is the way of things. I will always choose manual flash if I can but go with TTL when shooting in a constantly changing environment. This requires chimping and quick FEC adjustments to fine tune. I use whites and my histogram to hit the correct exposure when white is available. Having the blinkies on as well really helps in case something is brighter in the background, etc.

TTL is a great tool but just like your camera's light meter (which has nothing to do with flash) needs some fine tuning depending on the conditions. I've stopped worrying about long ago. I judge the scene, set the FEC and fine tune as I go.

Here are a few things that can help you.

http://super.nova.org/DPR/Histogram/

http://super.nova.org/DPR/WhiteTowelRatios/

http://neilvn.com/tangents/using-the-histogram-to-determine-exposure/

My flash guru. Above link is from this site.

http://neilvn.com/tangents/

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NYCphotoman
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All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to CraigBennett, Jun 10, 2013

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct.  I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time.  The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes.  What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II?  Think about it.

It seems complex, but its rather simple.  In manual flash photography, the flash is set at a constant power...1/4, 1/2, etc. The variables are the ISO, shutter and aperture.  Usually most photographers do not change the ISO or the aperture so the shutter speed becomes the only variable for them.

When you use TTL/Auto mode on a flash then the settings become the constant with the flash changing power around the settings.  The problem with TTL/Auto mode is you have no idea how the flash is programmed to work and the sensor on the camera gets fooled.  Ask any photographer how the onboard TTL is programmed to work and you will get some shrugs.  No one really knows how it was programmed to work, but it just seems to work for them and they accept that.

While I dont know how TTL works because I am not a programmer of flash systems, I do know a lot about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  I can push the limits if I bring the handle mounted on bracket flash to full power which is not advisable with your $600 Speedlights, but I can do it all day long with my Quantums.  I can bring the flash to full power and push the aperture, ISO and shutter speed to the limit.

If you use TTL all the time then you are basically stuck with however its going to turn out as governed by the electronics in the body.  There are other creative avenues with manual flash.  Its not as daunting as you make it seem.

If you tell me you have too many things going on then thats like a US Marine telling me they cant work their rifle because too much is going on around them.  As a professional, you should know your camera so well that even in the most distracting environments you should be able to make the adjustments.  At my events, there is never any warning of anything and so adjustments oftentimes have to be made on the spot with very little time.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it. Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor. I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography. This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture). You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill. Worked great for me. camera on manual, shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much. Manual setting is the most stable. TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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You asked for how we do it, this is how I do it. Not to use TTL flash on camera and only use manual for everything, IMO is a non-workable solution for event work. Too many things going on to try and balance your fill for every situation. Fill is the only time I use TTL in this situation. It works, is predictable, and consistent.

Regards,

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Zee Char
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 11, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct. I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time. The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes. What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II? Think about it.

It seems complex, but its rather simple. In manual flash photography, the flash is set at a constant power...1/4, 1/2, etc. The variables are the ISO, shutter and aperture. Usually most photographers do not change the ISO or the aperture so the shutter speed becomes the only variable for them.

When you use TTL/Auto mode on a flash then the settings become the constant with the flash changing power around the settings. The problem with TTL/Auto mode is you have no idea how the flash is programmed to work and the sensor on the camera gets fooled. Ask any photographer how the onboard TTL is programmed to work and you will get some shrugs. No one really knows how it was programmed to work, but it just seems to work for them and they accept that.

While I dont know how TTL works because I am not a programmer of flash systems, I do know a lot about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I can push the limits if I bring the handle mounted on bracket flash to full power which is not advisable with your $600 Speedlights, but I can do it all day long with my Quantums. I can bring the flash to full power and push the aperture, ISO and shutter speed to the limit.

If you use TTL all the time then you are basically stuck with however its going to turn out as governed by the electronics in the body. There are other creative avenues with manual flash. Its not as daunting as you make it seem.

I don't about that. Although I don't use it the approach of setting a flash to 1/4 or 1/2 power and using ISO, shutter and aperture for exposure makes sense. The need to chimp would still be there for me but the old guide numbers system for film would have to be applied for film.

With ETTL I set my cam on manual, select the ISO want which is usually high for indoor events, shutter for ambient control, and aperture for my DOF. I shoot, check and adjust FEC as required to hit the whites (if available) as close to the right as I can. So I am working all three camera adjustments as I require for the scene plus I fine tune the flash for the subject exposure.

Seems to me that with the flash on manual approach you are working the camera for the subject/s exposure. With ETTL I'm working the camera for ambient exposure and using the flash for subject exposure. Just two different approaches.

If you tell me you have too many things going on then thats like a US Marine telling me they cant work their rifle because too much is going on around them. As a professional, you should know your camera so well that even in the most distracting environments you should be able to make the adjustments. At my events, there is never any warning of anything and so adjustments oftentimes have to be made on the spot with very little time.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it. Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor. I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography. This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture). You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill. Worked great for me. camera on manual, shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much. Manual setting is the most stable. TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

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You asked for how we do it, this is how I do it. Not to use TTL flash on camera and only use manual for everything, IMO is a non-workable solution for event work. Too many things going on to try and balance your fill for every situation. Fill is the only time I use TTL in this situation. It works, is predictable, and consistent.

Regards,

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UKphotographers
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 11, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct. I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time. The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes. What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II? Think about it.

They all shot negative and printed it to suit.

Also, they didn't have the problem of mixing images shot with zoom lenses adjusting flashes and changing GN's. Their flash had only a fixed angle of coverage and fixed GN. Usually the lens was a fixed focal length as well - determining a fixed distance from subject - resulting in the same exposure each time, and indoors they also used Auto.

Auto is highly effective. It isn't as easily fooled by subject brightness like TTL is by black tux's or white/light dresses falling in the wrong place in the frame. Today, Auto can be helped by setting a sensor limit so that you don't overexpose your subjects if your flash decides you are wanting to light the whole room rather than just your subjects. Set it to 12 feet at an event and most situations are covered.

Why not multi-TTL? Subject TTL and background TTL work fine together, you can even set a ratio or mix a manual background with a TTL subject. Having background lit by one lighting setup and subject by another means that your subject lighting isn't trying to light the background at the same time resulting in blown subjects.

Most crappy event images are the result of flat lighting. Off camera flash helps, with on camera fill and a shutter speed to allow some background interest or even as already suggested add some light there yourself.

You can use Manual OK, but it would be as problematic as TTL or Auto could be.

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GHwell
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 11, 2013

Still the old f 16 rule

you can also look up and learn guide numbers but this way is faster and a much smaller chart

f16, iso 100, full power, at 12 ft on a 580   From here you can find any setting you need.  I carry a little chart I made with all the break downs and different ISO and f stops

So I start at f5.6 1/8 power at 12 ft.   remember half the distance doubles the power double the distance half the power and so on. double the distance again and you lose 4 times the power.   Every time you add a flash you gain one f stop  read your histogram do not rely on the camera screen unless you have already adjusted it.   I set my 5d and 6d screens to minus 2 if I want them to be a close match to what the file will be

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Zee Char
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to GHwell, Jun 11, 2013

GHwell wrote:

Still the old f 16 rule

you can also look up and learn guide numbers but this way is faster and a much smaller chart

f16, iso 100, full power, at 12 ft on a 580 From here you can find any setting you need. I carry a little chart I made with all the break downs and different ISO and f stops

So I start at f5.6 1/8 power at 12 ft. remember half the distance doubles the power double the distance half the power and so on. double the distance again and you lose 4 times the power. Every time you add a flash you gain one f stop read your histogram do not rely on the camera screen unless you have already adjusted it. I set my 5d and 6d screens to minus 2 if I want them to be a close match to what the file will be

Not the first time I heard of this. I'm not so sure I could go with a chart and try figuring all that out when I'm busy. Although it looks daunting the first few times when you read it like anything else once you put your mind to it. Thanks for the info. I think I'll stick to ETTL, let the system figure 80% of it and tweak the rest.

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Zee Char
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to UKphotographers, Jun 11, 2013

UKphotographers wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct. I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time. The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes. What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II? Think about it.

They all shot negative and printed it to suit.

Also, they didn't have the problem of mixing images shot with zoom lenses adjusting flashes and changing GN's. Their flash had only a fixed angle of coverage and fixed GN. Usually the lens was a fixed focal length as well - determining a fixed distance from subject - resulting in the same exposure each time, and indoors they also used Auto.

Auto is highly effective. It isn't as easily fooled by subject brightness like TTL is by black tux's or white/light dresses falling in the wrong place in the frame. Today, Auto can be helped by setting a sensor limit so that you don't overexpose your subjects if your flash decides you are wanting to light the whole room rather than just your subjects. Set it to 12 feet at an event and most situations are covered.

Yep. In TTL evaluative mode (flash menu, not camera metering) the metering zones compare ambient to the pre flash, isolates the closets object which is typically the subject and determines the correct output based reflected light from the subject. Thus the overexposing of the tux or underexposing of the white dress.

If you use Average (again flash menus) the system meters the entire scene. So if a white dress is in the frame there will more than likely some darker areas around it. Some people say it is more accurate indoors but not very good for outdoors or very big very venues like a convention centre.

The last is stop metering which is accomplished via Flash Exposure Lock. I did not like it because people thought the first flash was the actual picture.

I had a Metz 58 AF2 flash and Auto was insanely accurate. Only problem was being a high ISO shooter I would get the overexposure warning at 3200 or even 1600 depending on the aperture. I discovered that unlike ETTL in Auto the flash fires at full power and when the flash determines the exposure is it shuts the tubes off. It has to take into account those tubes have to drain as well. If it figures they will not have enough time to shut off and drain without overexposing you get the warning. In ETTL the pre flash pre determines flash power.

I had Canon 580's, Metz, Yongnuo and PCB triggers. I sold it all, purchased 3 x 600 RT and an ST-E3-RT and have not looked back. I have yet to test the Auto on a 600. So much easier working with one system now.

Why not multi-TTL? Subject TTL and background TTL work fine together, you can even set a ratio or mix a manual background with a TTL subject. Having background lit by one lighting setup and subject by another means that your subject lighting isn't trying to light the background at the same time resulting in blown subjects.

Most crappy event images are the result of flat lighting. Off camera flash helps, with on camera fill and a shutter speed to allow some background interest or even as already suggested add some light there yourself.

You can use Manual OK, but it would be as problematic as TTL or Auto could be.

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GHwell
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Re: HERE IS THE CHART in a jpg file
In reply to Zee Char, Jun 11, 2013

made in excel it prints out at about 4 in x 1.5 in.    cover it in tape and stick it in your wallet, tape it to a camera strap.

It is not perfect but with a little testing on you own you should hit a correct adjustment with in 3 shots 99 % of the time

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GHwell
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Re: chart here
In reply to GHwell, Jun 11, 2013

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Zee Char
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Re: HERE IS THE CHART in a jpg file
In reply to GHwell, Jun 11, 2013

GHwell wrote:

made in excel it prints out at about 4 in x 1.5 in. cover it in tape and stick it in your wallet, tape it to a camera strap.

It is not perfect but with a little testing on you own you should hit a correct adjustment with in 3 shots 99 % of the time

Thanks.

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CraigBennett
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 12, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct. I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time. The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes. What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II? Think about it.

It seems complex, but its rather simple. In manual flash photography, the flash is set at a constant power...1/4, 1/2, etc. The variables are the ISO, shutter and aperture. Usually most photographers do not change the ISO or the aperture so the shutter speed becomes the only variable for them.

When you use TTL/Auto mode on a flash then the settings become the constant with the flash changing power around the settings. The problem with TTL/Auto mode is you have no idea how the flash is programmed to work and the sensor on the camera gets fooled. Ask any photographer how the onboard TTL is programmed to work and you will get some shrugs. No one really knows how it was programmed to work, but it just seems to work for them and they accept that.

While I dont know how TTL works because I am not a programmer of flash systems, I do know a lot about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I can push the limits if I bring the handle mounted on bracket flash to full power which is not advisable with your $600 Speedlights, but I can do it all day long with my Quantums. I can bring the flash to full power and push the aperture, ISO and shutter speed to the limit.

If you use TTL all the time then you are basically stuck with however its going to turn out as governed by the electronics in the body. There are other creative avenues with manual flash. Its not as daunting as you make it seem.

If you tell me you have too many things going on then thats like a US Marine telling me they cant work their rifle because too much is going on around them. As a professional, you should know your camera so well that even in the most distracting environments you should be able to make the adjustments. At my events, there is never any warning of anything and so adjustments oftentimes have to be made on the spot with very little time.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it. Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor. I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography. This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture). You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill. Worked great for me. camera on manual, shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much. Manual setting is the most stable. TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

-- hide signature --

You asked for how we do it, this is how I do it. Not to use TTL flash on camera and only use manual for everything, IMO is a non-workable solution for event work. Too many things going on to try and balance your fill for every situation. Fill is the only time I use TTL in this situation. It works, is predictable, and consistent.

Regards,

-- hide signature --

Craig Bennett

I am a Electrical Engineer PE (retired) and I do understand how the camera's Flash system works.

You really don't know what you are talking about, do you?

Craig Bennett
http://www.craigbennettphotography.com

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NYCphotoman
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to CraigBennett, Jun 12, 2013

Craig,

Honestly, do you really know how the ETTL system on the Canon works exactly?  Were you right there with the Canon engineers in designing the system?  Do you know the exact limits of the system?  It doesnt matter if you have a PHD in anything, but what matters is knowing the exact limits of the system.

If all you know about the ETTL system is that "it just works" then clearly you cant take it to the limits of creativity.  The ETTL system is good for general photography or just getting shots which "work", but what if you wanted to truly be creative and go beyond the system?

As for me "not knowing what Im talking about", your words are not friendly and not becoming of a wedding photographer.  I would not want you or your company at my own wedding causing so much trouble and introducing such attitudes into such a pleasant affair.  I cant believe you are posting this objectionable material under your own name.  No matter what you think of my opinions, and I have not posted anything profane or really objectionable in that regard, this is not the way to address someone.  Clearly, clearly inappropriate and very childish.  Not the type of person I would want at a wedding even if they were the hired help taking pictures.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct. I know a lot of event photographers around here who use manual flash all the time. The funny thing is usually the older photographers in their 60s cruise around on full manual while the younger more energetic guys go with TTL/Auto modes. What did they do in weddings during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s without the benefit of ETTL-II? Think about it.

It seems complex, but its rather simple. In manual flash photography, the flash is set at a constant power...1/4, 1/2, etc. The variables are the ISO, shutter and aperture. Usually most photographers do not change the ISO or the aperture so the shutter speed becomes the only variable for them.

When you use TTL/Auto mode on a flash then the settings become the constant with the flash changing power around the settings. The problem with TTL/Auto mode is you have no idea how the flash is programmed to work and the sensor on the camera gets fooled. Ask any photographer how the onboard TTL is programmed to work and you will get some shrugs. No one really knows how it was programmed to work, but it just seems to work for them and they accept that.

While I dont know how TTL works because I am not a programmer of flash systems, I do know a lot about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I can push the limits if I bring the handle mounted on bracket flash to full power which is not advisable with your $600 Speedlights, but I can do it all day long with my Quantums. I can bring the flash to full power and push the aperture, ISO and shutter speed to the limit.

If you use TTL all the time then you are basically stuck with however its going to turn out as governed by the electronics in the body. There are other creative avenues with manual flash. Its not as daunting as you make it seem.

If you tell me you have too many things going on then thats like a US Marine telling me they cant work their rifle because too much is going on around them. As a professional, you should know your camera so well that even in the most distracting environments you should be able to make the adjustments. At my events, there is never any warning of anything and so adjustments oftentimes have to be made on the spot with very little time.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

I want to get away from TTL flash.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

Shot a gig last night with Auto and TTL mode and it didnt quite work the way I expected it. Usually these modes work great for me, but this was a large dining room with high ceilings and it fooled the sensor. I didnt have time to fool with the flash.

So Im going to start getting back to manual flash photography. This is where you set the flash or flashes to one specific power and control the exposure with the camera settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture). You monitor the exposure with the LCD screen and on Canons they have this highlight detection.

What are the techniques you use for manual flash and event photography?

Nikon has a good flash control system, not familiar with Canon's, but I'm sure it is similar.

I shot an event last night in a fairly large hall and used two flashes in room set at manual, from 1/32 to 1/16 power and used my on camera flash set for TTL, used it for fill. Worked great for me. camera on manual, shutter at 1/125 shutter (no ambient to speak of), aperture set to what I wanted. I relied on flashes for the exposure.

I never use Auto for my remote flashes, it varies too much. Manual setting is the most stable. TTL on camera flash or using an assistant for light pole works well for fill, just dial down or up the flash exposure compensation for the fill you want.

-- hide signature --

You asked for how we do it, this is how I do it. Not to use TTL flash on camera and only use manual for everything, IMO is a non-workable solution for event work. Too many things going on to try and balance your fill for every situation. Fill is the only time I use TTL in this situation. It works, is predictable, and consistent.

Regards,

-- hide signature --

Craig Bennett

I am a Electrical Engineer PE (retired) and I do understand how the camera's Flash system works.

You really don't know what you are talking about, do you?

Craig Bennett
http://www.craigbennettphotography.com

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