Captain Obvious and the Flash

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by warren_wilson, May 17, 2022.

  1. My flash photos are washed out.

    I am using my D800’s pop-up flash and cannot correct the over-exposure.
    • I have switched from Rear to Slow to Normal — no difference.
    • I have tried to underexpose the flash by various degrees (starting with -1.7): it only moves the histogram slightly away from the right wall at -3 EV.
    • I have tried in Program (as well as Aperture, which I normally use).
    • I have performed a factory re-set.
    • I have the flash sync speed at 1/250 (tried several others).
    • I have the flash shutter speed at 1/60 (tried several others).
    I also have the suspicion that the solution is staring me in the face and I just can’t see it!

    Suggestions much appreciated.
  2. Just a Left Field thought....

    If it's, say, a 85mm 1.4, it's pretty much always going to over expose a near object....

    IF the pop up flash is in manual mode full power.
  3. Just another thought: Have you checked the metering mode? In spot or very small center metering the use of flash use to seem chaotic.
  4. I normally set up the camera in manual mode when working with flash. Take a test shot without flash to ensure that the ambient light is slightly underexposed (if you're trying to balance the ambient with flash in the final result). Once this is accomplished, you can add the flash. If the main subject is a small part of the frame, the flash may indeed easily result in subject overexposure. Manual flash exposure mode can then the final tool that you may use if TTL won't produce the desired result.
    mike_halliwell likes this.
  5. Is it possible to show some of the shot's ?
  6. How close is the subject and what ISO are you using? Because the 'reach' of the popup flash at f/5.6 and ISO 100 is only about 2.5 metres, and anything beyond that is almost guaranteed to be under exposed.

    Also, are you using the flash-specific exposure compensation (tiny ± push button on the left of the prism housing)?

    Are the shots sharp, or are you getting a slow shutter speed? Easily checked by looking at the info provided on the camera's image review.
  7. Do you have (or know anyone who owns) a flash meter?
    At least then you could test to see if the flash power is being varied and not just firing at full power every time.
  8. As others have said, make sure meter is not on Spot. Set it to Matrix.

    Two other settings to check--camera exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation. In Nikon, they are additive. Since you are overexposing the subjects maybe camera exp cop is set to a high + amount and the negative flash exp comp you are setting of -1.7 is not enough to offset the higher + camera exp comp. And maybe you have + exp comp set for both the camera and the flash.

    After you do a Reset, use P mode, Matrix metering, flash mode to front curtain synch for the flash at 0 flash comp. See what you get, Then set - flash exp comp if -1.7 and there should be less light on the subject. In P mode the shutter speed is picked by the camera and should be between 1/60 and 1/250. The aperture is set by the camera too.

    Make sure your lens aperture switch is locked if you are using a Nikon lens with a CPU. This could be your problem too if the aperture ring is not locked. In my manual for a d800E, see info on page 383. In your manual see info "attaching a lens to the camera."
  9. Check camera setting e3. Be sure it is set to TTL and NOT Manual (see page 301 in the English manual)

    What is the ambient lighting? Is it bright or very subdued? Could the ambient lighting be overpowering your flash?
  10. Thanks for your thoughts, folks.

    I’m taking hummingbird pics with my trusty 70-200 2.8. Fully modern lens. The birds pop a lot more with a touch of flash.

    I am not sure how much the aperture matters with TTL flash — I thought the whole point of TTL is that the flash knows the aperture along with other variables. But it gives me an idea to check my manual to see if I can use the pop-up flash manually: never considered it.

    As I mentioned in the OP, I have used both exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation — going as far as -3EV on the flash. I use these controls regularly; they are not the problem.

    And after I did the reset I tried all variations of the shooting modes (P & A at any rate) — and ran through the compensation settings again.

    As to mounting Nikon glass to Nikon cameras, I’ve been at it since 1975, and it seems to me with any dSLR I will just get an error message if I don’t have the aperture ring locked and the camera will not fire.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply — I am haunted by the notion that it is something entirely simple that I am not seeing!
  11. Relatively diffuse, and I have been varying the EV on the camera to see if I can better balance flash and ambient: worth more experiment, though: this is beginning to irritate me!
  12. Do your testing/learning indoors where you can repeat the EXACT shot.
    That way your testing is not affected by an uncontrolled variable.

    As was mentioned, check the FLASH exposure compensation.
    In the early days of using my dSLR, I often forgot that EC and flash EC are two DIFFERENT control settings.

    TTL depends on the light reflected back by the subject.
    If most of the flash is going out PAST the bird, then the TTL is trying to expose for the background, not the bird.
    Selecting the appropriate metering mode (spot, CW, matrix) is important.

    If the bird is at a feeder, then the distance from the flash to the bird is fixed.
    With a fixed distance, you can go full manual, and avoid the TTL issues.
    gabriel_heyman likes this.
  13. If you're trying full manual, don't forget the fractional power settings in the menu. You get a lot of range there.
  14. Thanks, Gary:
    I think I have mentioned twice now that I have done that — in my OP and in a response.

    Thanks — I will try the spot metering to get TTL without the iTTL. Good idea in any case with such a tiny subject.

    While I have been trying to avoid using manual flash, it might be a good exercise to review the process — I see the full table in the Users Manual.
  15. If you can pop up (sorry!) a jpeg over of one of the worse over-cooked shots, we can look over the copious exit data to try and spot what's happening.
  16. In that case I suspect the issue is more with the character of a hummingbird's plumage and the fact that the popup flash is close to the lens axis.
    The iridescent plumage is highly retro-reflective; meaning any light falling on it is reflected back in the same direction - i.e. from the flash straight back into the camera lens.

    Think pointing the camera and flash at a mirror. The flash is always going to come out overexposed.

    I suspect you need to alter the quality of the light, rather than its quantity. By using an off-camera flash that's more diffused. Or possibly placing a diffuser in front of the popup flash. (Suggestion - a section of translucent plastic 'bottle' taped in a bowed shape to the popup flash, or a larger piece of translucent material placed upright atop the lens.) Anything that broadens the light source or gets it further away from the lens axis.
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
  17. Repeating Joe;s question : AT what ISO are you shooting ?
    If you use the popup flash the shutter speed on most Nikon DLSR's moves to euther 1/60 or 1/250, which both may be to slow when shooting outside in full sun at standard io 200 or 400, in that case the flash is not the culprit , but just to slow shutter at full sunligh, so you may have to lower your iso, use an ND filter and/or increase your shutter speed and set the flash to "High-speed" ..

    Hence also the question to post one of the over-exposed pic's
    BTW ; Where you shooting raw?
  18. Thanks for the richness of ideas. I appreciate the responses — gives me lots to play with.

    The ISO question is slippery because I tried several, but while I do shoot in RAW + jpeg —i have allowed irritation to cause me to delete the overexposed images immediately, so I have none to examine for ISO or to post

    But lots to follow up on here: I’ll let you know where the sneaky devil was hiding. I’ve been off tending to medical matters, so a little slow to get to the camera.
  19. Even a shot of your fruit bowl, using the pop up flash and normal hummingbird settings, should provide a usable sample for EXIF analysis!

    If it's a systematic 'error' it should be over exposed too...;)

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