Are you intimidated by your Flash? | On Camera Flash

Something I hear a lot, in one form or another. “I am afraid of my flash.”, “I am not confident enough using my flash.”, “I do not know what to do with my flash.”

These are all common feelings when it comes to using flash. At this point, we are talking about On Camera Flash. This can be the built in pop-up flash or a flash that you insert into the hotshoe of your camera. Because there are MANY ways this topic can go lets assume the following:

  • You are Shooting Indoors
  • You are using a Flash in the hotshoe of your camera
  • Your flash can be angled and preferably swiveled left and right as well

Scenario is that you are at a Wedding Reception and you have 1 on camera flash.

Lets start with ISO. Typically when you use on camera flash you want the flash to “help” with the ambient light (the light that already exists in the room), not overpower it. Since this is the case, lets start at a higher ISO setting, such as 800 or 1600. Using the Higher ISO will help retain more ambient light, because it is more sensitive to light.

Onto f-stop. I find myself using f3.5-5.6 during most receptions, when using on camera flash. This is a good starting point.

Shutter Speed. Depending on the look I am going for, I go anywhere from 1/10 of a second to 1/125 of a second. Typically I am right around the 1/60 mark.

Flash Setting. Lets go with TTL (Nikon) or ETTL (Canon). If you have a white bounce card in your flash, pull that up about half way. Adjust your flash head so that it is pointing straight up. Now push that down one notch (75 degree mark). This is a good starting point for the flash.

Now I know when I use my Nikon SB-800 on TTL, I usually have to dial down the flash compensation to at least -1 2/3 stops. This tells the flash to REDUCE the amount of Light it fires by 1 and 2/3 stops. (*Note I will talk about Nikon equipment more than Canon because that is what I know. Most all of this translates to Canon though*) You may have to test a few times to see if this works.

You will start to get the feel and notice that when you are closer to subjects, you will get more light than when you are further away. For receptions, I think it is important to get in there with the crowd. Have fun and get the emotions. Use a wider lense too ie. 20-35mm range.

If you are feeling brave and more confident at this point, go ahead and push the white bounce card down (if you have one) and try rotating the flash head 90 degrees to the left or right to get an alternate bounce. This will help create depth to your images because you will have a Highlight side and a Shadow Side.

Give these settings a try and let me know how they turn out. I will post a video about this soon.

Comments 4

  1. Hi David,
    It’s Missi from Ohio. I met you at Jenny & Dave’s wedding. I love the new Shoot ‘n Learn blog concept. I look forward to all the great stuff I can learn from you! Thanks for sharing. I’d love to see a post on using speedlights off-camera. I’ve been using Nikon’s built in triggering, but have had issues with it not triggering sometimes, especially outside or in really large spaces (like a warehouse.) The whole line of sight thing is kind of limiting. I’m looking into getting PocketWizards, but I really want the new MiniTT1 & FlexTT5, mainly because I’m intimidated by using the flashes in manual instead of TTL mode (which I believe I have to do with the Plus II models.) Plus I think I have to adjust flash power on the off-camera flash instead of on the master flash like I do now. Unfortunately, it now looks like the new models won’t be available for Nikon until early next year. Any thought/tips on the pros & cons of each of these triggering systems (Nikon built-in vs. Pocket Wizard Plus II vs. Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 & FlexTT5)?

  2. Post

    Hi Missi!
    I will definitely do some posts on native wireless flash systems as well as pocket wizards. Thanks for the heads up and comment. Hope you are doing great!


  3. Db – just worked on a vid today on this very same topic. Hope you can make it to the next pug or whatever we are calling it.

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