Part 1: Observation and basic built-in flash use.
Okay, hands up those of you who want better pictures. You bought the DSLR, a lens, memory card and bag, but somehow your pictures just don’t seem to pop the way photographs from a big expensive company do. Well, after learning the basics of how your camera works (see our article on Manual shooting) and how to use the right settings, you might like to try your hand at controlling the available light.
The photograph below was shot at home. While it is a (very) still life, similar principles can be applied to portrait photography in the home. You can use these techniques for basic shots of products, of people, or just for the sake of making your artistic vision a photographic reality. Over this series of blog entries you can learn that you don’t always need an expensive set up to get the most from your images; a basic DSLR, Tripod and off-camera flash can produce amazing effect as long as you are willing to put in a bit of forethought. The trick is controlling light (Yes, at the end of the series I will explain how the above picture was taken – you may be surprised! But for now let’s stick with the basics).
If you are shooting at home, take careful consideration of the light. What windows have the sun shining through them, and when? What colour is that light when it comes through the window? Does the light bounce off white walls and reflective surfaces? These can all create shadows and highlights that are unexpected, and is particularly important with regard to portraiture. Careful observation is the key, and is a skill which can only be developed with practice. Remember that you don’t have to light a space with only one light source- many photographers use a variety of light sources such as sunlight through a window and room lights, with flash to fill in any unwanted shadows.
Getting to Know your On-board Flash
Does your camera have a built-in flash? If it’s a DSLR the chances are it does, and it pops up whenever the camera thinks it’s too dark (ie: all the time). Odds are you have noticed that the on-camera flash can produce very harsh results – they shoot directly at the subject, often washing it out, making faces look shiny, pimply and tired, and completely losing the background to a sea of black. If your only choice is to use the pop-up flash, there are a few things you can do to change the result.
1) Adjust the output. Within most camera menus there is an option to adjust the flash output, and the default tends to be full bore. Get to know the results you can achieve by adjusting your on-board flash.
2) Diffusing. Diffusing refers to placing something semi-transparent in front of your flash in order to disperse and soften the flash light. This means you can light your subject without making them look like the creature from the black lagoon. You can purchase pop-up flash diffusers, but a quick Google search can also yield some innovative DIY ideas. In a pinch, try attaching a few tissues or even some sheer stocking to your flash front. Again, try and test is the best way to learn.
So, there are some basics to be getting on with. The next step is fun with Speedlites; keep an eye out!
View our range of Flash Guns/Speedlites here