This is page 4 of 4. "Flash" begins here.
In order to do this your camera must have the ability to use wireless. Not many cameras have that ability. Most of the time you'll find that you have to mount them directly to the hot shoe. This will eliminate the use of two or more lighting units unless you connect them with wires.
When you first start shooting with a setup like this it is quite the workout. The difference in your photographs makes it very much worth the effort once you become accustomed to the weight.
There is a popular saying in photography. It goes “Use so much lighting that it looks like there is none.”
I use two units. Whenever you use only one you will get a harsh shadow somewhere. It shows most when your subject has a wall behind them. Even if the wall is 20 feet back that pesky shadow will show up plain as day.
With two flash units, place one left of your lens and the other straight above or to the right. Place them at different distances off center. Also, placing them at different heights makes a difference. Typically you can even set each for different power output.
All this adds up to pleasing, natural looking shadows. If you decide to get this involved with lighting you will have to practice - - - - a lot. Start out by following these guidelines. Then change to your own preferences as you gain experience.
There is a really cool option available for the camera mounted units. It’s a diffuser. With the two flash units you see above, you will have harsh lighting unless you use diffusers for the light.
There are a bunch of different ones on the market. I like the umbrella one you see in this picture. It gives me results very close to studio lighting.
When you are shooting people use a diffuser. Diffusion is important to soften the effect of the bright lights. That is why built in flashes invariably look so harsh. They have no diffuser. Diffusers make a world of difference.
Many units that mount on the “hot shoe” of your camera have a built in diffuser. These help but they do not work as well as the umbrella or other more elaborate units.
My built in diffusers pop out and down over the lens. Ever wonder what those things were for? When I’m not using them they slide back up and out of the way.
You don’t want them always out because they soften the light where you may need more. The built in diffusers are less effective than my plastic domes. I found that I got in the habit of using the built in diffusers in conjunction with the plastic domes. Together they work wonders.
I like to hand hold my camera. Continuing that mindset I don’t like being bogged down by equipment. Studio lighting bogs me down. Like studio lighting, I can mount one of my portables on a tripod for different angles. And I don’t need electricity. I remain completely mobile.
The next step up, for quality and greater speed, would be to use studio lighting. They are available for quite a bit less than the regular flash units.
With that you need outlet power or huge batteries. You can use a generator or find a place to plug in. This will severely limit your freedom to move about and shoot. That’s why I don’t use it.
Camera mounted flash units get pretty costly. I invested a lot of money into my lighting. I did so in order to remain very mobile when I use it.
Another option is one small flash unit to replace the built in.
The built in unit is not adjustable for aim. The small hot-shoe mounted unit has to have the capability of being aimed where you want it; at least in the vertical direction.
For these photos I used a Nikon D40 with an SB-400 flash unit attached. It is reasonably priced and makes a world of difference in the finish photos.
The first was direct. In the second picture I bounced the flash off the ceiling. Of course in order to bounce the light, there has to be a ceiling to use.
The ceiling needs to be a light color. Preferably white or off white. And it has to be low enough to make a difference.
Upon close inspection of the first picture you can see how harsh the lighting is on the little car. In the second picture, however, the colors look much richer and there are no harsh shadows.
Pay particular attention to the red surface. In the first shot the shadows of the car are obvious. In the second shot they are very soft and natural looking.
The natural looking shadows give a much more 3 dimensional feel to the photo. The direct lighting makes the picture look flat. Even the interior of the bounced shot looks richer and has more depth.
Bear in mind, the only thing I did between the two shots is changed from direct to a bounced flash.
This is the flash unit on the camera. This is a very small, but effective combination.
In a little closer picture you can see the front of the light is pointing in an upward direction. It is at an angle in order to bounce at an angle.
Do not use diffusers when you bounce the light. The wall off which you bounce acts as its own diffuser.
It will take some practice to get the hang of bouncing because each time you set up to bounce the flash, your settings will vary. The angle setting is closer to 90 degrees when the subject is close, as was mine. The further away your subject, the lesser the angle.
One final way to substantially improve the harsh lighting caused by the built-in camera flash is to fasten a couple of layers of white tissue paper over the unit. While very limited and you cannot bounce the light, this will help soften the lighting on people's faces. In some cases it works very well.
Always remember, the smaller the camera the more challenging it will be to get professional results in any of the areas I talk about. Many times it can be done but it will take practice. Of course there are limits.
Set up your camera and practice. Don’t get discouraged. You will find that if you start out with a small camera and eventually invest in a DSLR you will be flying through this stuff because you are so used to being limited by the smaller camera. Have heart, keep the faith; it‘ll work out for you.
Outdoors use direct flash. Continue to use diffusers and aim your flash straight toward your subject.
Indoors bounce the flash when you can. Turn the flash to face a ceiling. If the ceiling is too high try a nearby wall, though that will give less desirable results. If you have good diffusers you can use direct flash even on people and even inside.
Of course any time the existing lighting is too low for a reasonable shutter speed you will have to use flash. Now you know how to get the most out of it.
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