MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
In this image of my nieces and nephews I had someone hold my flash about 8 feet in front and slightly to the right of me. I first set my shutter speed to 1/125 because I wanted to preserve the colors and exposure in the sky as I saw it. I then used my flash to light the kids. I set it to medium power, around 1/16 because I needed to make sure it lit the whole group from the distance it was at. Then I went up and down in my aperture in camera until I landed on f/4.5 for a good exposure on the kids. I took several test shots, then made small adjustments in aperture and ISO until it looked right.
The sun had just gone down and it was and overcast and gray. If I hadn’t used a flash, my ISO would be cranked up high (thus more noise) to get decent exposure on my subjects. I’d also have shadowed faces, and a white sky with no cloud definition. What I love about this image is the flash made the colors pop on an overcast day and I was able to light both a very dark skinned child and fair skinned kids evenly! If I had two flashes I would place the second flash behind them to create a hairlight to help separate them more from the background.
This image is an example of using flash as a subtle fill light indoors.
I set up my flash in a corner (see pullback) and bounced the light out of the corner/ceiling. It spreads beautifully and provides just a hint of fill. This is my favorite technique for indoor lifestyle shots because the light looks natural. There was a big sliding glass door at camera right that lit one side of him. He was quite a ways away from the door, so the other half of his face was shadowed. The fill light coming from the other side gave definition to his arm and face, which would otherwise be dark. It also lit the opposite side of the toys better. I set my aperture at f/4 because I needed enough power to bounce and reach to the ground, but still wanted a shallow DOF with a sliver of focus mainly on the toys.
Here’s a couple more shots using the same corner bounce technique.
Although there’s a hotspot on my daughter’s hair from the direct sunlight coming from the window, I let it slide to capture the moment. The flash was placed opposite the window, pointed up at the corner of the ceiling and bouncing back at them. I liked how the flash provided fill on their faces (since they were turned away from the window light) and defined the otherwise shadowed side of their bodies.
For this bath image I had my flash set high on a shelf in the corner, pointed to bounce at the ceiling/corner. I set my aperture number low (f/2) because I needed a lot of power to reach him and correct the yellow overhead lights that were present. Flash gives a daylight white balance and can be used to get rid of color casts and bad lighting as well! I also set my shutter speed to the maximum sync speed (1/160) because I wanted to let less of that yellowy tungsten light in and to freeze the movement of the water.
I hope this gave you a good intro to off camera flash photography and inspired you to learn more. I’ve experienced many “ah-ha moments” as I am experimenting with my settings! Although this may seem like a lot to take in, remember there’s many ways to do your settings. It’s all personal preference and a matter of trial and error until you get the look you want. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!