Flash or no flash?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by JDMvW, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Flash does not have to be invisible. Complement the overall light. Getting the speedlight off the camera. a good start. Agree that the flash should not call attention to itself, hard to deny. Sun is the ultimate single source. Big, diffuse and directional. When you don't get sun you improvise. Direct flash used to be more common and less distasteful. Because of the shadows on the wall thing first of all. Shadows. bad. Eyelids closed, way bad. Use flash like garlic seasoning, sparingly. A shadowed courtyard for a group, not bad. Flatness of light, so so, so help it out... Add some flash, maybe a little better depends on taste. Interesting. Never has flash been easier or so apparently disliked. Funny. Modern cameras w communication capability do a super job of balancing flash and ambient and think for you. A flash bracket used to be part of the average kit, getting direction to side. Not so much anymore. . Little pop over covers to a speedligtht to diffuse and spread?. Ooh. I do not think so, tried them, minimal help.not sun sub.. (Peter Gowland did some great show- and- tells for Vivitar Old but useful. Look him up) If a wall reflector Wedding at Bishop Museum med.jpg fills the bill use the wall. It is cheap and available. Subject is as broad as photo itself. A full semester thing.
  2. A flashbulb photo from the scrapbook. A Graflex chrome flash gun with a number 5 bulb mounted on a Century Graphic, with 105 Trioptar lens. Today,heck I might be using an umbrella and a Quantum Turbo, blah blah. But for the subject I doubt it would be more appealing. I could be wrong. Strong and punchy.. Kid has grown up.Cat has gone to kitty valhalla. David-and-MaiKai-copy,diddl.jpg
    movingfinger and Supriyo like this.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    As a young teen photographer I sure appreciated his Glamour Shots!
  4. LINK
  5. "Back in the day" I worked as a ships photographer. One of our regular sessions was with VIP passengers & the ships Captain during a private cocktail party. The pics would be given to the VIP, as well as sent to the home town newspaper for printing. We had a setup on the external bridge wing where there is a large compass & a set of propeller controls, very nice "set" all built for us.

    We used to shoot with the exposure reading taken from the sky (yes I know, bear with me), then we'd use heavy fill flash to almost, but not quite match the sky exposure, then we added a warming filter (Wratten #81 EF IIRC). When we printed the pictures we'd balance the printing colors & density for the warmed flash exposed faces & let everything else just fall where it wanted.

    We received many compliments on our "beautiful, bluer than blue Caribbean sky's! Sometimes you can "use the flash" in ways you'd not immediately think of, like "Polarizing the sky".
  6. Just happened on this Leica ad. It may well be roughly contemporary with Converse's experience at the start of this post. :)
    Popular Photography 1950-07
  7. Flash

    Sort of cold and flat.
  8. Make it warm and dimensional.
  9. You have to actually USE the light, not just blast it from on camera. Otherwise, as you say its cold & flat.
    Uhooru likes this.
  10. <Sort of cold and flat.>

    Except when it is warm and contoured. Easy to demonstrate in a quick review of galleries here. And not so hard to master. Susan McMaster shows how with those dinky and dirt cheap but peppy old thyristor Vivitars in her book " Mastering Flash Photography." https://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Flash-Photography-Advanced-Techniques/dp/0817445455/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511740494&sr=1-1&keywords=Mastering+Flash+Photography.......Auto flash is fine. It works as well or better than TTL and the variants.

    Use the tools that professionals use. Bring your photos to life when nature needs a helping hand. Ever watch a commercial photo shoot. Those guys with the reflectors and the lights and light stands. Of course they have a pre conceived result in mind. Sunlight often needs a little help. it is a revelation what a hunk of fomecore can do. Or a flash shot through an umbrella or brolly can do to cut five years to a subject's age. I am prejudiced. I like control. A control freak. I could use a team of gaffers. Just kidding.. But I like to get the dyamic range in the image and not play to much in Photoshop if it looks right in the finder and the histogram. That may take more than an overall ISO boost.( I like to stay at 400 most of the time, good enough for me and a challenge I like).:)
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  11. Unfortunately, the reality is, most flash photographs you look at are just blasted from the camera.

    Fill in flash is useful.
  12. Gerry, you are absolutely right, this shot was taken using a piece of foam core for a reflector camera right reducing the contrast ratio, evidenced by the catch light. Main was a 5' octa with an egg crate camera L a couple of feet away that I didn't bother to clean up in the catch light as it was just a test of a wireless camera trigger. It definitely takes 10 years off but is helped by a just high enough camera position that eliminates a view of any double chin aided by a shadow placed there with main position. Getting the flash off the subject/camera axis creates shadows that reveal form, in no way flat, and here, shooting from the shadow side also takes off weight as the viewer's mind erases the side of the face in shadow. If the flash was on camera axis, the side of the face would be illuminated and and make it look wider. As for warmth, a bit of sepia added. When using flash I like the analogy of a circle drawn on a sheet of paper. It is flat, but if you take the side of the pencil and shade the circle, it becomes a ball, three dimensional. Flash on camera axis is that circle, the off camera shadows, the pencil shading. We paint with our lights. In addition to camera height creating a more flattering image, shooting with 200 mm at 11 feet really compressed the nose. The distance was not a problem communicating with the subject. It was like he could read my mind. Using on camera flash can produce similar results, just adjust bounce angle and produce a larger lit spot on the wall, ie a larger source and keep the subject close to the wall. Adjusting flash head angle and height can produce a similar rembrandt lighting pattern, an upside down triangle under the shadow side eye yet light in that eye or loop before the nose shadow reaches the cheek shadow. Also, on the planet where I live there are 5 suns and here one acts as a kicker/hair light from camera l rear. In the profile shot, 2 kickers, one from each side/rear might appear to be a bit hot, but rules are meant to be broken if they serve the purpose of the shot. This is an homage to one of my favorite photographers, Karsh and favorite authors, Hemingway to the Karsh shot that hangs over Hem's mantle in Key West. In it he had his trademark fisherman's knit sweater and a white beard. I have emulated the white beard with light. Light can also have meaning in itself in a shot. Like Alton Brown says about deep frying, frying isn't bad, bad frying is bad, flash isn't bad, bad flash is bad. Unfortunately flash seems to get the same bad rap as frying.

    Remote trigger test (1 of 1).jpg
  13. Bob.

    Just cannot have the feeling natural light would have more atmosphere for the want of a better word....particularly window light.

    Seems sort of a strained photograph, in your face, without depth and somewhat whitewashed.

    Hey, just my thoughts....tell me to take a hike.
  14. to be honest all th photos posted look cold/sterile and false.

    Hey, can I pass on having the hang mans noose.
  15. JDMvW, not sure why you posted that picture. I don't mean to insult you, but it's just plain ugly. Anyway, "it's not the ships, it's the men in them." Flash can be wonderful when used by a skilled photographer, and available light really isn't good enough when there's no light available.
    tholte likes this.
  16. ." Flash can be wonderful when used by a skilled photographer, and available light really isn't good enough when there's no light available" Arthur.


    Just a non flash street photo without the coldness and falseness of flash.
  17. Somewhat overly sharp...

    But notice the natural feel of the photo without the weird flash look.
  18. All Natural. No artificial ingredients. Organic. I get it now..:)
  19. Allen, do you realize that the qualities of natural light can be reproduced with strobes. Creative live did an experiment with Sue Bryce, window light photographer and Felix Kunze, strobe user. Sue shot her favorite window lighting set ups and Kunze used strobes to emulate her shots. They were indistinguishable. I can produce an identical shot using the window next to where this shot was taken. Same exposure, same direction, same highlights, same ratio, same shadow edge transition and even same white balance. Might even be able to control the background shade, but not nearly as precisely as with strobe, by opening, closing, or blocking a window behind subject. However, that natural light makes huge changes as the sun moves and totally disappears once it sets. An important advantage for a professional is being able to produce a particular light at any time, day or night. Clients can't always be shot at a particular time and that limits the amount of shooting time. The shot above is simply a test shot for a camera trigger. but I don't know what you mean by natural feel, coldness and falseness of flash. And no depth??? If you expect principles to reveal depth used in your outside photo with multiple subjects like subject overlap, decreasing size, one point perspective to be done with a head shot, that is just not possible. But the highlight and shadow reveal shape form and depth, the sharp mask of face and out of focus back of head and shooting vest, the kicker showing separation from a background all provide depth. How is flash false? I can blow out using the sun. Looks like the highlight on the woman in front is blown out or nearly so without flash. So all art must be natural? Tell that to the impressionists, surrealists painters. I'm sure the Realist school would agree though, Your comment is exactly the kind of adverse opinion about the use of artificial lighting I was referring to, almost always from those not schooled in it's use and often not understanding light. We see the same from those who don't use photoshop/lightroom. Recentiy I had someone claiming to know about photoshop that it makes images look fake. I love Stieglitz because he fought to get photography recognized as an art form, more than a mechanical aping of nature.
    tholte likes this.

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