If there’s one thing we hear constantly from photographers who are just getting started, it’s this: Flash is SCARY. How many of us started out calling ourselves “natural light photographers” because we were afraid of flash?! (Hint- we’ve got both hands up over here!) Thankfully, we’ve come leaps and bounds since then and LOVE using flash (both on-camera and off-camera) to achieve beautiful lighting that matches our bright colorful style in any situation.
TIP #1: Practice your SETTINGS
You might be feeling antsy and disappointed because weddings are being pushed back right now (thanks COVID-19), and feeling stuck because you can’t leave the house. We’re here to help! Here are three tips for how to practice flash at home, and step into a wedding day (or let’s be honest, any indoor lighting situation) with confidence.
It’s never smart to whip out your flash for the first time in front of a client, because it takes practice to know what settings you want and know which buttons to press to make it happen. By the time you’ve got your settings locked in, chances are the moment will have passed. This is NOT ideal for a wedding scenario, or for an indoor session when your clients are staring at you wondering if they hired a professional!
Whether you’re working with one flash (attached to your camera) or multiple flashes (one on-camera, and one or more off-camera), take time to sit in your living room and play with the settings. Learn how to adjust the flash power (how bright the flash is) quickly, and take photos in between to make sure you understand when it’s getting brighter. Practice switching from manual mode to ETTL (automatic) mode. If you have multiple flashes, practice linking them together using the instructions in your specific flash manual. Once you’ve got it figured out, switch which flash is attached to your camera and start again!
TIP #2: Find a SUBJECT
It can be your child, your dog, your favorite chair, or an empty coffee mug- but find a subject to photograph! Take the first photo without flash, and try to achieve a photo that is under-exposed by 1-2 stops. This will give you a great baseline to see how your flash will affect the photo! Take several photos in a row while you sit in the same place, but adjust your flash power between each one. Experiment with pointing your flash straight up to bounce off the ceiling, or raising your bounce card (the little white card that pops out of the top of your flash). Do you see the difference in how the light is hitting your subject?
TIP #3: Play with the AMBIENT LIGHT
Now that you’re starting to feel confident, it’s time to dive a little deeper into how ambient light changes the way your flash looks! Turn on ALL the lamps in that particular room and take a photo. Can you see how the light from the lamps looks more orange, while the light from your flash looks more blue? Now turn OFF all the lights, and take a photo with only the light from your flash. It’s a lot more even, right? The light from your flash has a similar color tone to natural sunlight, while other light sources like lamps or fluorescent lights cast different color tones, from orange to magenta to almost green! Different colors of light in your images are impossible to edit out, so in a real-life situation with a client, we recommend either turning off the ambient lights or increasing your flash power/decreasing your ISO to make the light from your flash the dominant light in the image.
Helpful hint: if all your images look the same regardless of your flash power, make sure your camera and your ISO are both set to full manual mode. If you’re still having trouble discerning the difference, it may be that your room is so small that even a low flash power is casting way too much light into your frame! Try lowering your ISO and shutter speed until you notice a difference.
If you try these tips at home, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
For the exact flash equipment we use, download our free Go-To Gear Guide.
If you found these tips helpful, check out these other flash resources we have available:
- Reception Lighting & Off-Camera Flash Guide
- How to Shoot Reception Details