The Art of the Manual Flash

Started Jun 9, 2013 | Discussions
CraigBennett
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 12, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

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.

First off, I don't have a Phd, I am a Professional Engineer (PE). You can understand any design by observing the reactions of the item under test to various conditions. This is called observation and experimentation.

No, I do not know how the Canon eTTL system works, I shot with Nikon and I do understand how their CLS AWL iTTL works.

One thing about me is I do not hide behind internet names. If I have something to say, I will always say it to your face. That's called being a man.

I believe anyone reading your comments would see you as an elitist.

You are full of opinions and frankly bad assumptions, guess I'm being childish again (you love labeling people, don't you?). You really need to learn to read instead of putting words where there are none.

So now you can infer how my attitude is with my clients? I do weddings because I enjoy doing them. I love my clients and they love me.

Since I don't shoot with a Canon, don't own a Lumedyne or Quantum flash and don't shoot full manual on everything, I would be disqualified to shoot your wedding.

However, you sir are not my client and frankly never would be. You have an opinion on everything, but listen to none. You would be a Groomzilla, I am too old and don't need the money to put up with you.  I would weed you out at our first meeting.

But hey, if you don't care what I say, stop responding or put me on your ignore list.

Anyway, how's that manual flash shooting going?  I would never hire you for my event for fear of you missing a shot because you are too busy looking at your histogram trying to understand your settings, instead of watching the event and knowing your settings are correct.

Regards,

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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.

Actually, that is not what he said.  He uses Manual for his remote flashes and TTL for his on-camera fill flash.  This sounds like a good idea, to me, and I'm going to steal it.

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Roy

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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to CraigBennett, Jun 12, 2013

How large are you talking, Craig?  I am going to do a couple of weddings next year, and I am just now studying, gathering my equipment, and getting ready to practice.  I know there will be some outdoor group shots, but I don't know how large the indoor areas will be.  I do want to have a SB-700 on camera as Master with SB-900 and maybe a Yongnuo for remote.

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Roy

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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

I can tell you have never done marketing.  Do you honestly believe that posts like yours will not turn away customers?  You are basically flaming on a publicly viewable message board.   Anyone with Google can find your discussions.

This isnt about "being like a man", but promoting your wedding photography business.  Long complicated messages with a negative spin will not further your business which you are trying to promote by your presence on this site.

If I were you, I would identify any post with a strong opinion or complex message or could be regarded as flaming, find a moderator and work with them to have them deleted.  Your posts do not serve the purpose of furthering or promoting your business especially the angry flaming variety.

CraigBennett wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

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.

First off, I don't have a Phd, I am a Professional Engineer (PE). You can understand any design by observing the reactions of the item under test to various conditions. This is called observation and experimentation.

No, I do not know how the Canon eTTL system works, I shot with Nikon and I do understand how their CLS AWL iTTL works.

One thing about me is I do not hide behind internet names. If I have something to say, I will always say it to your face. That's called being a man.

I believe anyone reading your comments would see you as an elitist.

You are full of opinions and frankly bad assumptions, guess I'm being childish again (you love labeling people, don't you?). You really need to learn to read instead of putting words where there are none.

So now you can infer how my attitude is with my clients? I do weddings because I enjoy doing them. I love my clients and they love me.

Since I don't shoot with a Canon, don't own a Lumedyne or Quantum flash and don't shoot full manual on everything, I would be disqualified to shoot your wedding.

However, you sir are not my client and frankly never would be. You have an opinion on everything, but listen to none. You would be a Groomzilla, I am too old and don't need the money to put up with you. I would weed you out at our first meeting.

But hey, if you don't care what I say, stop responding or put me on your ignore list.

Anyway, how's that manual flash shooting going? I would never hire you for my event for fear of you missing a shot because you are too busy looking at your histogram trying to understand your settings, instead of watching the event and knowing your settings are correct.

Regards,

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Zee Char
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to BackInTheGame, Jun 12, 2013

BackInTheGame wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct.

Actually, that is not what he said. He uses Manual for his remote flashes and TTL for his on-camera fill flash. This sounds like a good idea, to me, and I'm going to steal it.

-- hide signature --

Roy

Yeah that works. Used fairly often when I read about wedding techniques at POTN. I have yet to try this but I do shoot will shoot TTL with my on camera flash. I just picked up 3 Canon 600 EX-RT and want to try that method. Now that I can control the remotes easier with the master I can tune them from the centre of the room.

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

Zee Char wrote:

BackInTheGame wrote:

NYCphotoman wrote:

You stated that manual flash is totally unworkable for an event which is absolutely not correct.

Actually, that is not what he said. He uses Manual for his remote flashes and TTL for his on-camera fill flash. This sounds like a good idea, to me, and I'm going to steal it.

-- hide signature --

Roy

Yeah that works. Used fairly often when I read about wedding techniques at POTN. I have yet to try this but I do shoot will shoot TTL with my on camera flash. I just picked up 3 Canon 600 EX-RT and want to try that method. Now that I can control the remotes easier with the master I can tune them from the centre of the room.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking.  Using the SB-700 or SB-900 as master on the camera, you can set your manual remotes right from there, if you want to change power output for those rather than adjust aperture.

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Roy

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mbloof
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to BackInTheGame, Jun 14, 2013

The technique of bringing the ambient room light up via manual strobes seems to be fairly common. I've been to a few receptions where the hired shooter was doing this.

Then of course we still have the issue of lighting the subjects. There seems to be three different methods all of which have advantages and pitfalls. All are somewhat dependent on how your lighting your subject(s) (your providing one or two extra lights) and if your in a static or dynamic situation. I define a 'static situation' as one where I'll get my light meter out and 'dynamic' as leaving the light meter in my pocket.

For the purely manual folks, I suppose that if your using a prime lens and have your portable flash(es) preset that if you maintain the same subject framing and distance to your portable light stand or assistant holding a 'light on a stick' then you'll have fairly constant exposures.

Granted that if your using a zoom lens and/or different framing and subject distances you'll have to ether have a good eye+head for figuring distance and calculating different power level(s) and 'chimp' the resulting shot and then fire/chimp 2 or more shots to get it right.  Some shooters may use subject-light distance to adjust flash exposure, some might use ISO/Aperture and others might adjust their flash power levels.

All chest pounding aside, all three methods are functional and have their advantages and draw backs and require 'chimping' the shots.

iTTL/eTTL2 shooters do pretty much the same thing but instead 'ride' their FEC knob up/down.

Big deal.

I gauge each method on three measures: 1. How often is the 1st exposure correct, 2. how quickly can I fix it if its not correct and 3. how much work does it leave me in post.

I suppose for shooters that take more than a few hundred images at a event the amount of post processing (or not) needed may be of primary importance. I'm generally not 'snap happy' and come away with ~1IPM (image per minute of shooting/coverage) so after culling the pure 'duds' I'm working with < a few hundred images and always hand tweak each and every one in LR.

The canon eTTL2 system is fairly well explained in more than a few places on the web. Surely if I'm going for something 'creative' anything 'automatic' may not even be considered but in dynamic situations I've found that eTTL2 gets me 'close enough'. I don't know about the rest of you but even in 'static situations' I've yet to create an image where I did not play with the levels even a little bit in post.

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MarshallG
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Re: All/Pure Manual Flash is workable for an event
In reply to CraigBennett, Jun 15, 2013

NYCphotoman wrote:

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.

First off, I don't have a Phd, I am a Professional Engineer (PE). You can understand any design by observing the reactions of the item under test to various conditions. This is called observation and experimentation.

No, I do not know how the Canon eTTL system works, I shot with Nikon and I do understand how their CLS AWL iTTL works.

One thing about me is I do not hide behind internet names. If I have something to say, I will always say it to your face. That's called being a man.

I believe anyone reading your comments would see you as an elitist.

You are full of opinions and frankly bad assumptions, guess I'm being childish again (you love labeling people, don't you?). You really need to learn to read instead of putting words where there are none.

So now you can infer how my attitude is with my clients? I do weddings because I enjoy doing them. I love my clients and they love me.

Since I don't shoot with a Canon, don't own a Lumedyne or Quantum flash and don't shoot full manual on everything, I would be disqualified to shoot your wedding.

However, you sir are not my client and frankly never would be. You have an opinion on everything, but listen to none. You would be a Groomzilla, I am too old and don't need the money to put up with you.  I would weed you out at our first meeting.

But hey, if you don't care what I say, stop responding or put me on your ignore list.

Anyway, how's that manual flash shooting going?  I would never hire you for my event for fear of you missing a shot because you are too busy looking at your histogram trying to understand your settings, instead of watching the event and knowing your settings are correct.

Regards,

-- hide signature --

Hi Craig,
At the end of the day, either the photos look good, or they don't. The official slogan of the Perl programming language is TMTOWTDI: There's More Than One Way To Do It.

I'm sure that your advice is good, but that doesn't mean it's the only way. Let me give you an example: I took a lighting seminar yesterday. It was great, and so this morning I took some photos of my daughter. I put the flash in wireless mode and my wide held it at an angle, I used manual exposure and put everything to use, and I loved the photos.

Then, just to prove how much this improved my pictures, I took a shot in Green mode. And the picture from Green mode looked great, too. Argh!

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Tim Wheeler
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 16, 2013

Manual flash is posible, using the flash's Guide Number. That's what photographers used to do before auto flash and TTL flash came along.

You will find the guide number in your flash's instruction manual, or online.

Set an aperture that equals the Guide Number divided by the distance.

eg, the SB900 GN is 131 (if measuring in feet) or 40 (if using meters). This is for ISO 100, full power, and 35mm zoom.

Therefore, at 6 feet, the exposure is f22. (131÷6 = 21.8). Or f11 at 1/4 power. Or f5.6 at 1/16 power.

I used to have a chart taped to the flash head, and became used to estimating distance and changing settings quickly.

With modern flash units, your preferred exposure may be different to the calculated one. Just create your own exposure chart.

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Zee Char
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to Tim Wheeler, Jun 16, 2013

Tim Wheeler wrote:

Manual flash is posible, using the flash's Guide Number. That's what photographers used to do before auto flash and TTL flash came along.

You will find the guide number in your flash's instruction manual, or online.

Set an aperture that equals the Guide Number divided by the distance.

eg, the SB900 GN is 131 (if measuring in feet) or 40 (if using meters). This is for ISO 100, full power, and 35mm zoom.

Therefore, at 6 feet, the exposure is f22. (131÷6 = 21.8). Or f11 at 1/4 power. Or f5.6 at 1/16 power.

I used to have a chart taped to the flash head, and became used to estimating distance and changing settings quickly.

With modern flash units, your preferred exposure may be different to the calculated one. Just create your own exposure chart.

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Tim Wheeler
www.wheelerstudios.com.au

I used to wonder how the film guys did this until I learned about the Guide Number system. Works well. If you shoot often enough it eventually becomes second nature. I'm still gonna stick with ETTL.

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Suntan
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I chimp
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 17, 2013

When you know what the histogram is telling you, you can do it pretty quickly.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/41024465

-Suntan

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vdotmatrix
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jun 28, 2013

I hated flash but I am slowly warming up ( pun ) to it.  I shoot  5Dm3, (3) 580ex2 and the PW flex(s).

I will set up the 580s on stands with flex and with out with umbrellas.

I start MANUAL on the camera at 800-1200 ISO right off the bat with 1/200th if there is a lot of ambient indoors ( to eliminate any ghosting) and try for some good depth of field @ f5.6-8 and shoot auto focus.

From there I dial in the light banks with the AC3 on ETTL.

If I have the opportunity I will walk over and meter the lights for shits and giggles and shoot a photovision target for a point of reference for WB.

ON camera, I shoot manual and dial back the exposure with FEC on the back of the camera.

I still hate flash until I calm down during a shoot.. but once I see that the images are looking good good enough to be slaveged in post if necessary i can concentrate on the important stuff.

I shoot in RAW of course.

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nelsonal
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jul 1, 2013

For small events (like family holidays) I place flashes in locations to cover the room.  Then chimp a few shots to find the proper power level to match the exposure to any ambient sunlight and go for it.

For bigger events, with flash on camera, I'll find a combo of zoom/powerlevel and aperture that will be the default (say ISO 200, f/4, and 1/4 power (or perhaps up the ISO another stop to save batteries) that will work for a given distance (say 8' from camera to subject) and then guess distances and adjust the angle of the bounce as needed for the event (for this I really like the simplicity of Yongnuo's single big toggle to raise and lower the flash power a stop as distances change.  If I swap from bounce I dial it back a stop to cover the reduction in distance.  No chimping necessary though a small amount of trigonometry comes in handy.  You'll need to adjust if the ceiling changes dramatically but that's not usually too difficult at most venues.

Most of the time it'll be a prime lens so the distance isn't going to be varying all that much unless I want a very different framing.

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hirejn
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jul 1, 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?

If you understand how TTL works, you can use it to get great pictures. See my article here.

Flash is best off-camera firstly. Secondly, with it off-camera, you can keep it the same distance from the subject no matter where you are and thus one setting will properly expose the subject at the set distance every time. If the light or the subject moves, use aperture to compensate.

Do an experiment to find out how much light your flash puts out at a given ISO and aperture at a given distance. Use a light meter. Record the results and use this as a starting point for manual flash on location.

Use shutter speed or ISO to control ambient light. With TTL, any variable can control the ambient light in manual mode, while TTL puts the same light on the subject. I don't shoot a lot indoors except wedding receptions. I lock in an ambient exposure in manual and let TTL fill in the rest. I've tried manual flash and usually it's too difficult to plan distances and people are always moving, so I use TTL.

The problem with program mode is the camera makes too many decisions and it's not always easy to adjust. I never use it. At most I use aperture priority, but I try to go manual when possible.

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svphotog
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to NYCphotoman, Jul 2, 2013

you can try to get away from TTL, but for dynamic shooting environments, it's a better choice IMHO. normally you don't have the time to adjust manual flash(es) during an event. so, TTL is often the only choice.

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hth

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CraigBennett
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Re: The Art of the Manual Flash
In reply to BackInTheGame, Jul 18, 2013

BackInTheGame wrote:

How large are you talking, Craig? I am going to do a couple of weddings next year, and I am just now studying, gathering my equipment, and getting ready to practice. I know there will be some outdoor group shots, but I don't know how large the indoor areas will be. I do want to have a SB-700 on camera as Master with SB-900 and maybe a Yongnuo for remote.

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Roy

Hi Roy,

Been away for awhile, very busy with weddings and events. I typically use 2 SB-9xx as remotes in receptions. Seldom do I need to bring out additional lights. It all depends on the aperture, ISO, and flash power/coverage. I'm sure there is a "rule-of-thumb" but I just look at the room and know pretty much where I want the lights.

If you can visit the sites this year and try a couple of setups, that will get you comfortable with your setup. Or just turn your lights way down in your living room and set one remote up at very low power. Pick an aperture you like (say f/5.6) and practice getting a nice exposure for different objects. I find that I have been using fairly low flash power levels lately with my D800e, so I've been bumping up my shutter speed to 1/125 to stop ghosting while they are dancing.

Neil vN has some really good discussions on flash use on his website. He also has several good books on the subject of flash. I don't use his foamy thing, but I do use a Flashbender for my on camera flash. I encourage you (if you have not already) to look over his site. IIRC, he typically setups one or two lights at the stage area. I believe he shoots into umbrellas. For other shots at the reception, he relies on high ISO and indirect bounce flash. Great results.

You either like him or not.  He is an electrical engineer like me, so I guess we think similiar.

Someone here showed a very large event room that he shot with 4 remote speedlights. They were setup in a balcony area overlooking the hall. Looked real good to me. I believe he shot at ISO 3200 as well.

It use to be in the "old days" you really needed some flash power for receptions do to shooting ISO 400 film and/or digital. But now, with the cameras we have, I don't hesitate for a minute to shoot at 3200 and sometimes (though rarely) 6400 ISO.  LR pretty much cleans up the image and the little bit of noise there is adds to the ambience of the image.

Edit: On your weddings next year, when you do have remotes setup, try to shoot 90 degrees to them, that way they are not in your image.  I would concentrate on only lighting the dance area, which is usually small compared to the room.  Shooting higher ISO's will bring up the room fairly nice so it will not look like a cave.  What to get away with the look of flash, so that helps a lot as well.

I typically set my remotes at 1/16 to 1/32 power and then run my on camera flash in iTTL with my flashbender on.  Get great results and pretty consistent.  I still tweak each and every image in LR, but that only takes a few seconds.  I import the images into LR with all my standard settings applied automatically.

Regards,

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