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09/01/2010 09:47:45 AM · #1
So I have two speedlights of which I'm afraid. The hot shoe flash has always been an enigma to me. It's the only time that I ever put my camera on the program setting. I know I can use it as a fill flash on aperture priority, and I've attempted that a couple of times. But when all is said and done, I know nothing about how to use it effectively.

So I bought the book Hot Shoe Diaries. It's not a manual, it claims, more of a diary of what he's doing with the flashes. I started reading the book and taking notes -- creating my own "diary", of sorts. One of the first things I read made so much sense, yet I had never considered it.

So this thread is going to be my own "diary". I was thinking that perhaps others were in the same boat I was -- having an external flash, but not really knowing what to do with it. I plan to share what I'm learning, share examples of what's happening, in hopes that maybe it can help others, as well.

I'm also hoping that other people will share my diary -- making their own entries. If there are some flash experts out there, I'm hoping that you'll share your knowledge, as well. What works for you? What do you think of the things I'm learning from the book? Do you agree, disagree, think it's stupid and that I should try it a different way?

Let's give it a shot and see what happens!
09/01/2010 09:57:46 AM · #2
Diary Entry #1 -- 9/1/10

The first thing I learned was something that made so much sense -- yet I probably wouldn't have thought of it on my own. It's starting out simply, but helpful in helping me think about what the camera/flash sees and how to start thinking about things.

Example: Let's say you're taking a portrait where the background is too bright and the subject is in shadow. If you take a picture of the scene without flash, you'll have a blown background and a shadowed subject.

I want the camera to get the background correct and the flash to deal with the subject. Since the background is blown, I need to set the exposure compensation to get the background exposed correctly. So I dial the camera to -1 EV. Perhaps -1.33 EV if I want more saturation and a little more moody.

If you take the shot with flash now, you'll find that the camera's exposure compensation also affects the flash, so the subject starts coming through but is dim. So I may need to over expose the flash a bit.

The book is very clear about stating that even if you set the camera to -1.33 EV, you don't necessarily set the flash to +1.33 EV. Play around and see what works. It may be less for a very light skinned person, more for a darker hair, dark clothes subject, etc. Play around with it and figure out what's best.

I never thought of under exposing the camera and over exposing the flash.

Now to go try it out and see if it works!

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 10:23:58.
09/01/2010 10:35:55 AM · #3
Dear diary,
Joe McNally is a lighting wizard who makes it seem easy. "I had only 5 minutes to set up the shot of a lifetime, so I I just threw an SB-600 over there, cross lit it, dialed down, tossed a hairlight on and I was done. Ran on the cover of Time the following week".

#$%!!@!@$###!!
09/01/2010 10:44:20 AM · #4
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

Dear diary,
Joe McNally is a lighting wizard who makes it seem easy. "I had only 5 minutes to set up the shot of a lifetime, so I I just threw an SB-600 over there, cross lit it, dialed down, tossed a hairlight on and I was done. Ran on the cover of Time the following week".

#$%!!@!@$###!!


Wow, his workshops are inexpensive, though! $100 for a full day seems extremely reasonable!
09/01/2010 10:48:28 AM · #5
One thing he did with one of his shots and I would love to try it out is setting the white balance on the camera to tungsten to make everything a nice smurfy blue. Then I would hit my subject with my flash which is gelled with a full cut CTO (i.e. orange) to bring warmth to the subject.

The Honl gels can be used with a speed strap and attach with velcro which I love. //www.thecamerastore.com/products/camera-flash/flash-modifiers/honl-photo-gel-kit-corrections

Thus far I have used them to match the color temperature of my flash to the ambient light. e.g. I used a 1/4 cut CTO gel in a concert hall to match the warmth of the ambient light. There's a bit of trial and error involved but if I had used a full cut CTO in this situation my subject would have looked like an Oompa Loompa!
(I wish I could share that pic but I can't due to privacy concerns for the individual).
09/01/2010 10:50:25 AM · #6
Originally posted by vawendy:

Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

Dear diary,
Joe McNally is a lighting wizard who makes it seem easy. "I had only 5 minutes to set up the shot of a lifetime, so I I just threw an SB-600 over there, cross lit it, dialed down, tossed a hairlight on and I was done. Ran on the cover of Time the following week".

#$%!!@!@$###!!


Wow, his workshops are inexpensive, though! $100 for a full day seems extremely reasonable!


He's going to be here in Calgary.
//www.thecamerastore.com/products/tickets/joe-mcnally-workshop

...and I have a Golden ticket!

Man I need lay off the Willy Wonka references! =)
09/01/2010 10:57:09 AM · #7
Ok.

Test #1. Grabbed the first thing I saw, put it out on the shadowed deck. Direct sun on trees behind. (All shots posted will have no photoshop adjustments other than resize. No RAW adjustments, either.)

Shot #1: no flash. Aperture priority, no exposure corrections.
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Shot #2: flash, auto everything mode
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Shot #3: no flash. Background was too bright on both shots with & without flash, so changed exposure to -1.3EV
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/100000-104999/103142/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_906931.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/100000-104999/103142/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_906931.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Shot #4: flash, aperture priority, camera set to -1.3EV, flash set to +.66EV (I think... I can't remember which flash setting was which, and I can't seem to find it in the exif. Anyone know where to find the info?)
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/100000-104999/103142/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_906932.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/100000-104999/103142/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_906932.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Now -- I realize that the pictures are less than perfect and the front lighting is definitely not ideal. However, I'm starting out with the basics to get the idea of how things work before jumping into off camera flash and multiple off camera flashes. I'm sticking with the KISS strategy. :D


09/01/2010 11:00:54 AM · #8
Originally posted by Citadel:

One thing he did with one of his shots and I would love to try it out is setting the white balance on the camera to tungsten to make everything a nice smurfy blue. Then I would hit my subject with my flash which is gelled with a full cut CTO (i.e. orange) to bring warmth to the subject.

The Honl gels can be used with a speed strap and attach with velcro which I love. //www.thecamerastore.com/products/camera-flash/flash-modifiers/honl-photo-gel-kit-corrections

Thus far I have used them to match the color temperature of my flash to the ambient light. e.g. I used a 1/4 cut CTO gel in a concert hall to match the warmth of the ambient light. There's a bit of trial and error involved but if I had used a full cut CTO in this situation my subject would have looked like an Oompa Loompa!
(I wish I could share that pic but I can't due to privacy concerns for the individual).


I saw that mentioned in the book! It was a late day shot with water behind. Our skies aren't very blue at the horizon, and our river is definitely not very blue. I'd love to try it out!

I just came across my first gel reference in the book (probably at that example). I don't understand full cut and 1/4 cut, but I noticed that someone posted this in the speedlight thread: He bought the sample pack for $2.00 and uses them with his flash.

cinegel samples

(we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams -- ha! I can quote willy wonka, too! (who's quoting someone else))

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 11:09:36.
09/01/2010 11:16:24 AM · #9
Originally posted by vawendy:

I just came across my first gel reference in the book. I don't understand full cut and 1/4 cut, but I noticed that someone posted this in the speedlight thread: He bought the sample pack for $2.00 and uses them with his flash.

cinegel samples


Basically the difference between full, half and quarter is how orange the gel is. At least for the CTO gels. (CTO stands for Color Temperature Orange where CTB stands for Color Temperature Blue)

I found the samples to be a little too small on my flash as they didn't completely cover the flash head. True you can use more than one but its awkward and you'll have some overlap. But the price is right. (I think I paid 2 bucks too but there are some free samples out there if I recall correctly)
09/01/2010 11:39:05 AM · #10
So are flashes really daylight adjusted? In my forth sample (see below), the background definitely got more warm (though I'm surprised the flash would have affected the background much. I would have thought it was a little too far away to have much effect.

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 11:39:50.
09/01/2010 11:55:34 AM · #11
I was at a David Tejada lecture a couple weeks ago. He uses Nikon SB800's exclusively for all his work. He noted that as soon as he gets a new one, the first thing he does is affix a 1/8th CTO gel to it "permanently"--he feels they need that minimal amount of warming from the start. Of course, he tends to warm them up even further as a standard, anyway. He likes to set Tungsten white balance to force all daylight blue, then CTO his speed lights to get his model back to normal (and often goes extra warm rather than just natural wb skin tone).

I have not tried the 1/8 CTO to see how it mixes with daylight on normal settings--an experiment that goes on my to-do list :-)
09/01/2010 02:08:45 PM · #12
Originally posted by vawendy:

So are flashes really daylight adjusted? In my forth sample (see below), the background definitely got more warm (though I'm surprised the flash would have affected the background much. I would have thought it was a little too far away to have much effect.


Yeah, they are. But, depending on what you set your WB to and what your trigger mechanism is, you might get some results that would lead you to think otherwise. Your camera will only assume a Flash/daylight balance if if knows the flash is firing. Also keep in mind that if your ambient is anything but the exact same as your flash (shade, for instance) you'll get weirdo multi-toned shadows; one for the flash, one for the ambient, which has a weirdo color tone. Also never forget that flourescent lights cycle so they vary in color constantly, and thus are always somewhat of a guessing game.
Glad to see some Canon folks are appreciating how great that book is! I've pimped it to both camps, since most of the info is universal, though he obviously prefers Nikon and gives specific info on iTTL.
Lastly, to give you an example of gelling under normal circumstances...this was me overpowering the sun with HSS and gelling. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/90000-94999/93565/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_853682.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/90000-94999/93565/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_853682.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
And here's another good use of gels- the sand is actually a light grey. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/972/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_752861.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/972/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_752861.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 14:09:32.
09/01/2010 03:24:16 PM · #13
Originally posted by spiritualspatula:

Glad to see some Canon folks are appreciating how great that book is! I've pimped it to both camps, since most of the info is universal, though he obviously prefers Nikon and gives specific info on iTTL.


I do wish that someone would have added in the Canon specs for him. I have so many questions already regarding different things he says the nikon can do that I can't seem to find on the canon gear. I wouldn't have thought there was that much of a difference, so perhaps I just haven't found them.

I find the book exciting and frustrating at the same time. Some things he explains, and then sometimes he says something so off-handedly without any explanation and leaves you hanging. I'm hoping he gets back to it later on in another example.

However, I'm only a few examples into the book, and already I'm excited about flash instead of dreading it. I want to get some gels, I want to go play with it and experiment. It's been a long time since I've been in a learning mode with the camera. Most of the books I pick up, I already know the stuff or at least 85% of it. (we're talking camera, not photoshop--there's some learning opportunities!). But with the flash, I'm such a novice. It's fun being back in the student mode and having those "light bulb" moments (or is it flash bulb moments?)

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/972/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_752861.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/972/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_752861.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
What a cool example of a gel! Very intriguing, and again, not something I would have considered. So I need to think more foreground and background that subject and background when dealing with flash.

I'm very excited about all of this, and finding it very interesting. Please continue to show us examples and give us ideas (well, me, if no one else is interested...), this is exactly what I was looking for!

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 15:30:57.
09/01/2010 08:54:38 PM · #14
Regarding Canon specific info, you might find this site useful, Wendy. Speedliting.com/. It's Canon-centric, and has some great info. Although it's relatively new, it already has a good deal of info, and has been growing steadily since its creation. I'd also, of course, recommend Strobist. We also have a Strobist Thread which has gone somewhat dormant, but seems to get attention relatively quick if anybody asks.

I know what you mean about Joe's book though, and I think perhaps that I knew a bit more what he was talking about when he was vague because I had already become a regular Strobist reader and gone through lighting 101 and 102 there. The hard thing about reading Joe if you're not a Nikon shooter is that he likes using iTTL, so you literally won't get the same sort of behavior using Canon gear. Same idea of course, but different automatic systems behave, well, different. Strobist is based on manual flash control, and thus is more universal because it's all technique with the flash settings listed.

A couple more books I'd throw out there that I thought were useful in terms of the "thinking" side of photography, as well, are The Photographer's Eye and Perfect Exposure. While I wouldn't say that they have truly revolutionary info, they do a good job of putting abstract and obscure concepts into thought processes and help get you thinking about them. I've also got his new book that's strictly on BW but haven't gotten a chance to read it yet.

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 20:54:59.
09/01/2010 09:13:13 PM · #15
I need to revisit strobist. When I first got my flashes, I went there and was disappointed, since it seemed like everything I was coming up against was using umbrellas, stands, etc -- equipment that I didn't have. However, if I dig a bit further, I'm sure I must be able to find simpler lighting options.

I actually have two silver umbrellas from my mom's photography days. I have no idea if they're reflective or shoot-through, and I don't have any stands, but I have a birthday coming up, so stands may go on my list.

I keep looking at photography books, because when I first started in photography (14 years ago, now), I read everything I could get my hands on. Now a days, there doesn't seem to be many books targeted at knowledgeable photographers. I took your suggestion and flipped through the perfect exposure online at amazon.com, and looks quite interesting. It looks like there's more depth to it than most photography books. I'll have to check it out. :D

Do you use your gels over your lenses? The hot shoe diary talks about bringing down the green tones of a nighttime cityscape by using a magenta gel over the lens and a green gel over the flash. I was thinking about just getting the $2 samples, even if they don't quite fit the flash. But if you use them over lenses, they definitely wouldn't fit a number of my lenses.
09/01/2010 09:35:52 PM · #16
Just a little something fun to show ya:

So, I'm doing a Fashion photoshoot for a model's portfolio today and we decide to shoot around downtown. Anyway, in front of this bar is this old double decker bus, basically used as a sidewalk decoration.

We want to shoot on that bus. Walk inside, get permission and I set up.

Here's the set up.

Ofcourse there is light coming in from the windows, but not enough on the right side of the frame. So... I take my Vivitar 285HV, put it on a light stand and place it outside the right side window. Fixed the lighting issue and walah!

Just thought I'd share how handy cheap flashes can be.

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09/01/2010 09:40:44 PM · #17
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

Just a little something fun to show ya:

So, I'm doing a Fashion photoshoot for a model's portfolio today and we decide to shoot around downtown. Anyway, in front of this bar is this old double decker bus, basically used as a sidewalk decoration.

We want to shoot on that bus. Walk inside, get permission and I set up.

Here's the set up.

Ofcourse there is light coming in from the windows, but not enough on the right side of the frame. So... I take my Vivitar 285HV, put it on a light stand and place it outside the right side window. Fixed the lighting issue and walah!

Just thought I'd share how handy cheap flashes can be.

' . substr('//sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs424.snc4/46723_150943971592185_100000297499499_389734_2499642_n.jpg', strrpos('//sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs424.snc4/46723_150943971592185_100000297499499_389734_2499642_n.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


That's pretty cool! See, that's what I need to figure out how to do -- it doesn't look like flash. The ambient light on the right side of her face is the more dominant light, but the flash coming from her left fills nicely. However, when I've used fill flash in the past, It looks like fill flash.

Did you adjust the flash at all? Did you use a diffuser or change the exposure compensation?

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 21:41:16.
09/01/2010 09:54:27 PM · #18
Originally posted by vawendy:

I need to revisit strobist. When I first got my flashes, I went there and was disappointed, since it seemed like everything I was coming up against was using umbrellas, stands, etc -- equipment that I didn't have. However, if I dig a bit further, I'm sure I must be able to find simpler lighting options.

Do you use your gels over your lenses? The hot shoe diary talks about bringing down the green tones of a nighttime cityscape by using a magenta gel over the lens and a green gel over the flash. I was thinking about just getting the $2 samples, even if they don't quite fit the flash. But if you use them over lenses, they definitely wouldn't fit a number of my lenses.


Strobist (David Hobby) has been using some different lighting techniques as of late. He's been doing more bare flash, as well as bare flash for key along with ring light (Orbis, often) for fill. He's been more varied, as of late, in my opinion. So yeah, there should be some good stuff for you there. Umbrellas just keep things softer and more mellow. If you're fine with a bit more of an intense/edgy look, departing from umbrellas is a must.

I haven't gelled my lenses ever, but I'd chalk that more up to me not being a super big gel user than anything else. If you're interested in that route, the most versatile system I've seen is the Cokin system. Tons of options, not too expensive, and super versatile. Some find them to be a bit fiddly, but tons of users here and elsewhere will tell you how great they are. Also keep in mind that you can get your hands on the bigger Rosco gels and cut them to whatever size you want for whatever use your heart desires.
09/01/2010 10:03:06 PM · #19
Originally posted by vawendy:


That's pretty cool! See, that's what I need to figure out how to do -- it doesn't look like flash. The ambient light on the right side of her face is the more dominant light, but the flash coming from her left fills nicely. However, when I've used fill flash in the past, It looks like fill flash.

Did you adjust the flash at all? Did you use a diffuser or change the exposure compensation?


No diffuser, just a window pain of the bus. I metered (using a light meter) the flash to be about 30% flash/ambient ratio (putting my flash at 1/4 power, I think). Since, I use full manual flashes with no TTL, no Flash Exposure Compensation adjustments are required.
09/01/2010 10:05:49 PM · #20
Originally posted by spiritualspatula:

Speedliting.com/. It's Canon-centric, and has some great info.

Nice site. Thanks for the link. It's now on my bookmarks toolbar for regular visiting.
09/01/2010 10:12:36 PM · #21
I ordered a TTL cord along with a set of RF-602 triggers from Yongnou last week. (Not arrived yet) The TTL cord has two flash shoes on it, so I suppose I can mount two strobes. Can TTL cords be daisy chained? Is that perhaps the real reason for the extra hotshoe?
09/01/2010 10:16:25 PM · #22
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

Can TTL cords be daisy chained? Is that perhaps the real reason for the extra hotshoe?


Don't see why the couldn't be daisy chained. But I'm guessing the major reason for two being there is to be able to shoot multiple flashes into large modifiers (umbrellas, softboxes, etc.)
09/01/2010 10:24:27 PM · #23
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

I'm guessing the major reason for two being there is to be able to shoot multiple flashes into large modifiers (umbrellas, softboxes, etc.)

That will be a convenience. I was jury rigging two flashes behind an umbrella for a recent challenge. Need to get a second TTL flash for the wife and for strobist stuff. Right now I have a single 430ex and a bunch of cheap Vivitar 2800's with optical slaves. Not quite ready to spring for PW's yet.
09/01/2010 10:41:14 PM · #24
Originally posted by vawendy:

I need to revisit strobist. When I first got my flashes, I went there and was disappointed, since it seemed like everything I was coming up against was using umbrellas, stands, etc -- equipment that I didn't have. However, if I dig a bit further, I'm sure I must be able to find simpler lighting options.

I actually have two silver umbrellas from my mom's photography days. I have no idea if they're reflective or shoot-through, and I don't have any stands, but I have a birthday coming up, so stands may go on my list.


Read through the Lighting 101 and 102 lessons, and do the exercises. Simply reading it doesn't help too much, you really need to practice it. I've been working on it for 1.5 years and I'm no where near being where I want to be.
09/01/2010 10:54:31 PM · #25
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:


That will be a convenience. I was jury rigging two flashes behind an umbrella for a recent challenge. Need to get a second TTL flash for the wife and for strobist stuff. Right now I have a single 430ex and a bunch of cheap Vivitar 2800's with optical slaves. Not quite ready to spring for PW's yet.


Have you seen these? If the price is steep, never fear! DIY

ETA: Strobist write-up for new Triflash (not yet available here... the ones I linked have no built in slave nor are they hotshoes)

Message edited by author 2010-09-01 22:57:51.
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