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Understanding Light

Lesson 16 of 34

Intro to Flash Photography

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

16. Intro to Flash Photography

Lesson Info

Intro to Flash Photography

This is Intro to Flash Photography, and just to remind you, these are just the basics. We did a three-day workshop here at CreativeLive of in-depth speedlight stuff, and so I am going to do my best to give you what you need to know in the next hour-and-a-half to understand speedlights, but for all the goodness of speedlights, check that out because there's so much that we could cover that we just don't have time for. So, why do we do flash photography? Well, the thing that we were running into when we were shooting with the other lights, the constant lights, before, if you remember we had issues with the ambient light that was floating around throwing off our photos, right, and we couldn't really do much about that except for turning off the lights that were around us. That's how you control constant lights, you know, anything that you don't wanna show up, you have to turn off. And so that is usually not something that you can do all the time, and so we wanna be able to compensate for ...

that. The other thing is, with a speedlight or a studio strobe, you can actually freeze action. And what I mean by that, is with normal, ambient light, or natural light, or light that's always on, you are at the mercy of your shutter speed. So, if you have a low shutter speed, you're gonna have blur. With a speedlight or a studio strobe, you can actually have a slow shutter speed and have crystal clear photos, because the light is actually what freezes the action, not the shutter, which is sort of cool. And so, you can mix these two things, you can actually have something that's blurred in the background, and something that's still. In fact, we did that this morning, let me show you this picture of Ryan really fast that we did to sort of prove this out, it was so much fun. Here it is. So, we did this this morning. This is Ryan, our producer, and these are two sources of light. So the light that's on Ryan is coming from a speedlight, and the lights that are blurred are actually these lamps that we see right here, and so you can control ambient light and light from a flash independently, and so basically it's similar to a double exposure, actually. You have two different things you're controlling at the exact same time. Yes ma'am? Is that the same kind of effect you try to do? You know that JJ Abrams kind of video effect. Well, JJ Abrams is infamously known for his lens flare kind of stuff, and so in video it's not the same. In video, you don't have two different sources of light that you mix independently, we'll see, it's a different concept but the answer's no it's not the same. But, what you're thinking of is his lens flare, so he's shining lights into the lens, that's what he's doing. So all that Star Trekky stuff, that's what happening there, so a little bit different. Okay, so the other thing is, yeah, we can mix our ambient light and our flash for really cool effects, we can do things called rear curtain sync, and dragging the shutter, and you're gonna see, it's really sort of fun. And so, the thing to understand though, is there are two different things floating around. We have light that is just out here, either from the sun or from the room, that's called ambient light, or natural light. And that's the light that normally we can't control, we have to respond to it. And then we have light from our flash, and that light we can control, and we can do whatever we want to is. So we're gonna learn about these two things, and so I wanna show you, very quickly, Alexa's gonna come out here and we are gonna do a demo with these little lamps here, and I will show you, very quickly I'm not gonna show you how I'm doing this yet, we're gonna get to it, but I'm gonna show you that there are two different things happening right here. So, I want you to stand out just a bit. Right there. I'm gonna put this pretty close, and then we're gonna lock this, it's gonna be fun. Okay, so what I'm gonna do here, I'm gonna make sure that we're set to the last photo here, is I'm going to show you that there are two different exposures going on at the same time. So for this, I'm shooting in manual mode, and we are gonna do one thing that's really cool here. So now, yep just smile there, I am at F22. (shutter clicks) Kablammo. And what I wanna show you is not John, wow you've changed quite a bit. So notice in this shot, the lamps are all turned off. It's magic. Let me do that again. So all the lamps behind Lex. (shutter clicks) Click. I have magically turned the lamps off. Here it comes in a second. Choonk. Yeah, it's sort of like magic. So, how is that happening? Watch this. I'm now gonna turn those lamps back on very, very quickly, and here we go. Are you ready? Okay, you're like yeah, this is so fun. (shutter clicks) Okay, now I'm gonna make those lights go back on. Boom, go on lamps. Bink. I know, it's sort of wacky. What's happening is, thanks Lex, I am controlling the ambient light and the light from the flash independent of each other, and that is the beauty of speedlight and studio lighting. You can control these two things opposite of the other. So this first shot that we had, I set the camera and the flash in a way to eliminate as much of the ambient light as possible, and so it's not that these lights are turned off, it's that they're so dark, the only way that you can see them is light from the flash is actually illuminating them. And so, the light from the actual lamps is not showing up in the exposure. There's not enough light for it to work. On the second shot that we did, I did the opposite, I actually allowed that ambient light to come in, but on both of them I kept the light on Lex consistent, and so we can see these two things here, these two shots. On Lex, we have light coming from the side on both of the shots, on this one it's a little bit more light than on this one, because of the way I exposed it, but the nice thing is you can control these two things independently. The question is how do you do that. You guys look like you're like spellbound right now. You guys are like how did this happen. Okay, that's magic. So let's talk about how this works, we have two exposures, ambient light and light from our flash, and you can choose to let the ambient light show up, or you can choose to eliminate that. And so, when we were shooting before and we had that blue colorcast coming in from the ambient light, if we were shooting with a speedlight or with studio strobes, we could have actually eliminated all of that. And that's why I love using this. So, let's talk about these two exposures, and how they work. So, if we have an image like this one here, this is a shot that I took in Phoenix for some workshop somewhere, you can see that the background in this is the same in both shots, right, the same in both shots. On the foreground, this shot here has no flash. On this one, we have a fill flash that's helping us out to make sure that our model is illuminated, and it matches the background. And the reason that I did this was this was on a really bright hard light, sunny Phoenix day, and so if we put our model just out in the open sun, we'd have had these horrible shadows, and she would have melted cause it was about 100 degrees when we shot this . And so, we found a tree, we put her in the shade, which is this right here, and I exposed for the background, and then we added a flash and that balanced those two things, and so that's one of the reason that you might wanna balance ambient light with flash, because you can get these really interesting exposures. There is, I need to do this little beach doodle, and we'll see if we can explain this for ya. So I'll see if we can get that in there. Alright, this is my most excellent beach doodle. So I'm gonna draw a photo, draw a picture of Lex on the beach and see how this turns out. So, let's say we have, do-do-do, let's say we have, here is the beach. And then we've got this water that's going down here, and we have, here's Lex, she's in the Bahamas with her hair, she's smiling. Alright, there she is. And what's happening is it's at sunset. I know I don't draw very well. So, what we have here is we have this very, very bright light, ching. Like that. It's shining, very, very shiny. And what's happening is this is actually coming this way, and we have this sunset that's pretty crazy, and then we have this tripod, and I have a little flash on this. So, what was happening here, is da-da-da, that, like that, like that, we have two different areas of light in this photo. We have light from our flash, and we have ambient light, like that, okay? Two totally different exposures, and what we can do is we can adjust our camera to expose for this light, and then we can tell our flash to illuminate our subject so there's enough light on this side of our subject to match the light over here, and we're compressing the dynamic range, the stuff we talked about later. So, this is ambient light, this is light from our flash, and we're gonna mix those two things independent of each other. So, let's talk about the exposure triangles and how we do all that, but is this clear so far, how we have these two different things? Alright, so I'll put that back there. There's our beautiful picture of Lex with her hair, it's awesome, I know it's pretty accurate, isn't it? It's awesome. Alright, so ambient light, we have to react to it, right, we can't control this, we have to just sort of take what we get. We can do some modifiers with our California Sunbounce and our five-in-one reflectors, and all that kinda stuff, but we can't control it. And it has this tendency of changing, and so we have to be able to react to that in a certain way, and the way we react to that is by using the exposure triangle. And this is something that we all know and love, so we have our aperture value, we have our shutter speed, and we have our ISO. And, we can look at that and make it work. So, I wanna show you something with these pictures that we just shot to sort of help you out with this. So, in this first photo right here, notice that I shot at 200th of a second at F22, right, and so if I shot at 200th of a second at F22 with no flash, let me turn my flash off, there's no flash at all. No flash. And I'm gonna take a picture of those same lamps, okay? So I'm in manual mode, F22 at 200th of a second, so I'll take this picture of the lamps. (shutter clicks) And what we're gonna get is this. We're gonna get this picture right here. Darkness. Right. If I take this and I shoot in aperture-priority mode at two point eight, watch what happens, aperture-priority mode two point eight. Take a picture of the lamps. (shutter clicks) Click. What I get is a bunch of lamps, right? As we would expect. So, think about the exposure triangle just for ambient light, and these two pictures side by side. So, these two pictures side by side, and this one I had my shutter speed at 200, and my aperture at F22, and I eliminated all the ambient light. Forget about Lex. So, we underexposed this ambient light. On this one, I shoat at two point eight in aperture-priority mode, and the shutter slowed down, and we got all the lamps. Exactly the same way that I just did, alright? And so, the exposure triangle that we all know and love for ambient light works exactly the same when you have a studio strobe or a speedlight involved. It controls the ambient light, alright? So that magic that we saw before with these lamps going away and lamps showing up, it wasn't magic at all, all we were doing was underexposing this, or exposing it correctly, that's it. Yes? Are you in TTL-mode? Yes, TTL mode, and we're gonna talk about how all that works here in a second. The only difference is in this picture and in this picture, we had a flash firing that consistently illuminated Lex and so we had two different exposures, one from the flash that was always on, and one that was ambient that I let work and didn't let work, that make sense so far? Okay, so TTL metering, here's your bonus points, cause you got that, how does that work when we have a flash involved? So, TTL metering, we all know is through the lens metering, and it's stupid. We all know that. But, let's talk about how this works. We actually have, again, we talked about this yesterday, the light goes through the mirror, comes up here to our pentaprism and that's where our meter is right there, and then we can see through the lens, but when our flash fires, and the flash fires, this mirror is up and the light comes straight through, so there's nothing that can get to this light meter. And the flash only fires when the shutter is open, so how does that work? How does the camera see the light from the flash to figure out what to do? And this is a big difference between speedlights and studio strobes, this is one of the biggest differences. So, TTL metering with speedlights uses something called a pre-flash, or what I like to call the ninja. And so Lex, I'm gonna have you come out here just for a second, and I'm going to explain how this works. So, if you will, just stand right here and what we're gonna do is we're gonna have this camera right here, and what we're gonna do is just for this, I'm going to put a flash on my camera. Okay, and this works if the flash is on the camera, it works if the flash is off the camera, TTL metering it all does the same thing, but just for illustration purposes, I am gonna have a flash here. So, what happens is, and this all happens in slow motion, when I press the shutter halfway down, the shutter release halfway down, the camera starts metering the ambient light, okay. It's looking around for the ambient light, and saying what's the proper exposure like it normally does, so all the TTL stuff that we normally would do, that's happening. And it's trying to figure out what the exposure is for the background, what the lamps are, just the ambient light. Okay? So it figures that out, and that's how it sets the shutter speed, or the aperture value, if you're in aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode, that's how it works. If you're in manual mode, then you're manually using the light meter, but it's still metering all of the ambient light. Okay? It hasn't figured out how much flash is needed yet, that hasn't been established. When you press the shutter all the way, there's this thing that happens (snaps) at the speed of light. What happens is this flash fires, pew, a little pre-flash, and it hits the subject. Boom, and it bounces off the subject and it goes through the lens, and then it goes exactly the same path as before, and it goes to the little light meter, and it says oh, this is how much light is coming from this flash, and it needs to be either more light or less light to accurately illuminate this thing. Then, the shutter opens and the flash fires a correct amount of light, boom, to the subject, that comes through here, and then the exposure is made. So, I call it the ninja, cause it sort of comes out and you can't see it, ye-yah. And it does that thing, okay? So, that's how TTL metering works with the flash, and TTL metering with the flash has the same issues as TTL metering with ambient light. It's still expecting this flash to hit whatever it is it's illuminating, and average that to 18% gray. And so, if we had a flash on a white wall and a black wall, it would still come out gray just like it did yesterday, and so there is something called flash exposure compensation, where you can tell the flash hey, take what you think is right, and increase it by a stop or decrease it by a stop, and so you can still control that, and also with flash exposure compensation, what you can do is that's how you change the exposure on your subjects being eliminated by the flash. So, what we did earlier, so I'm gonna have you stand there again, and where's that little, there it is. There it is, okay. If you notice, and I'm gonna have you stand out just a little bit, when I put this little softbox here, notice I put it to the side, I did that on purpose because I didn't want that to be spilling on the background, so we could see that very clearly. So I did that. So, let me just show you very, very quickly, very quickly, that flash needs to turn? Oh yep, using this, using this. Let me show you really, really quickly. There it goes. Alright this is gonna be so much fun, yay. Alright, so I'm in aperture priority mode here, and I am gonna take a picture of Lex and the lights, and that was a very slow shutter, did it fire? Nothing fired. Oh, it didn't fire? What? Oh, it's in some kind of crazy mode here. There it goes. Speedlight is not on. Oh, you have to turn it on then, that's what you're saying? Yeah, thank you. Is there coffee? Anyone need some coffee? Alright, let's try this again. One more time, in aperture priority mode. Let's just edit that whole part out, can we do that, let's just edit that out. Alright, now we have Lex there, yay. So, now we see this shot of Lex, and by the way I'm glad this happened, you can clearly see this is the ambient light with a very slow shutter speed, this was at 13th of a second. With this one here, 40th of a second, but notice she is overexposed, and so what we would need to do is go in, and there's this little dial here that we can actually say hey, let's take this, there's a little up and down thing here. I can just tell it hey, take this and make it a stop less, and we can take the light on Lex and take that down to say, you know what, you got it wrong, we don't need that much light on Lex, let's take it down a little bit and make it a little bit more natural. And so, we're controlling, and notice the background didn't change, just the light on Lex changed, and so the point is we're controlling these totally opposite and independent of each other. It's really fun. Alright, thank you. Cool, cool. And notice how much easier it is to get pleasing looking photos with just one little speedlight and a glow pop, is that what we're calling that, is a glow box, I think? This is what we're giving away from Adorama, by the way, is this thing. It's pretty awesome, isn't it? It's very, very cool. Okay, so back to the PowerPoint, that's so 90s, the PowerPoint, the Keynote, alright I'm an Apple guy. So, metering with speedlights, we have the pre-flash that comes through, we talked about that, we wanna talk about, I'm going backwards sorry, this. If we have the aperture, that normally controls quantity of light when we're talking about ambient light, right? The shutter controls the duration of light, that's usually with a fast shutter we have frozen images, slow shutter we have blurred images, and then ISO controls sensitivity, that's ambient light. But, what we wanna do is we want to forget about ambient light just for a minute. Okay, so just throw it out of your mind, we're not gonna talk about that. When we have these three things, we have quantity, that's how much, we have duration, and we have ISO. What we really wanna do is we wanna focus on these two things and understand how they work with our flash. So, we're gonna get rid of the ISO, and so we have these two things, quantity and duration. So quantity is controlled with ambient light by our aperture, duration is controlled by our shutter, and what we need to talk about in greater depth is that pesky shutter, what is it doing. Because quantity, when our flash fires, it's always gonna go through the aperture lens, right, that light's always gonna go through the aperture in our lens. But with the flash something else is happening here. So, with our shutter, it actually doesn't do anything for flash exposure. The shutter doesn't impact the flash at all. And this is something that you have to get your mind around, it's like if the shutter doesn't even exist. It's not there. It's a troublemaker. So, why is that the case? So, here's how our shutter works. We're gonna show you how it works normally, and what sync speed is, and what happens when we throw a flash in the mix, and to do that I am actually going to play a little video for you. So, the video is, I think the next, there it is. [Video Instructor] It's important to understand how your camera's shutter works. Your camera's shutter has two curtains, and these curtains have names. The first curtain and the second curtain. They open and close to reveal light to the sensor, much like a curtain opens a closes in a theater to reveal what's happening on the stage. Let's take a closer look. When you press the shutter release with your finger, it tells the camera to open the shutter. The first curtain opens to reveal the light to the camera's sensor, then the second curtain follows behind to hide the light. Then, the curtains reset and wait for you to press the shutter release again. Let's watch that again. Notice in this animation that the first curtain opens completely before the second curtain begins to follow. This only happens at slower shutter speeds, usually speeds under 200th of a second. Now, watch what happens when we speed things up. When the shutter speed is faster, the second curtain can't wait for the first curtain to open all the way, if it does it won't make it across in time. Notice in this animation that the shutter is never fully open, it just reveals a slit of light as it travels across the sensor. And the slit becomes smaller as the shutter speed increases. Sync speed is the shutter speed on your camera that allows the first curtain to fully open before the second curtain begins to follow. In other words, it's the fastest shutter speed you can use with a flash. Let's take another look at your camera's shutter, this time with a flash in the mix. When your camera's shutter speed is set to sync speed or slower, a few things happen. When you push the shutter release button, the first curtain opens and as soon as the first curtain is fully open, the flash fires, then the second curtain closes. Normally, if we have our shutter speed set too high, we'd have problems. Let's take a look. When you press the shutter release, the first curtain will begin to open, but before it's fully open, the second curtain begins to close. When the first curtain is fully open, the flash fires just like it did before, but this time part of the sensor is covered by the second curtain. This will cause our photo to have a black area, and the faster your shutter speed, the more black you'll have in your photo. Okay, so that's the pesky shutter. So the shutter doesn't matter, because it's fully open when the flash fires. Okay, so the first curtain opens, woop, the flash fires, the second curtain closes. So, it's as if that shutter isn't even there, it's just a big open hole, and just the light goes through that. So, what controls the exposure of the flash, right, cause the shutter isn't involved anymore. Yeah, that does not exist, what else do we have? Oh yeah, we're only talking about light from the flash, so the shutter still impacts ambient light, we're just talking about light from the flash. So, don't forget that. So, what controls our flash exposure if our shutter isn't involved? We have a new exposure triangle to work with here, and it's sort of fun. So we have, pachew duster, our aperture, and output from the flash. So, our aperture is still gonna control light, it's gonna be smaller or larger to let in more light, or less light. And that is gonna impact ambient light, and light from the flash. The shutter doesn't do anything, cause it's always open, but the flash itself has different power settings, so the flash can have less power or more power, and so that's what controls the exposure. In fact, on a speedlight, it can only get so bright, and so there are times, like when you have a huge softbox, it doesn't have enough power and you're gonna be underexposed because there's just not enough light coming through there. So that's why studio strobes work out. So, the flash exposure triangle looks like this. We have our aperture value and our ISO, and then we have flash output instead of shutter. And that flash output does some things. So the aperture now is gonna control the quantity of light, just like it did before, depth of field, all that kind of stuff. The flash output actually controls quantity, how much light, and it controls duration. And so, our shutter used to control duration for ambient light, the flash output actually controls duration for our strobe. And so, here's how it works. That shutter opens up, pop, the strobe fires, boom, on and off, and the strobe fires at speeds of 5000th of a second, 10,000th of a second, 20,000th of a second. It's pretty fast, especially with speedlights, they're really, really fast, and generally the lower the power, the shorter the duration of light it. And so, if you have a completely dark room, and let's say the shutter opens, woop, and it's open for five minutes, and it's completely pitch black. So, the shutter's open for five minutes, but the flash turns on and off, pew, and it does that at 200th of a second. How much light did the camera actually see? It only saw 200th of a second of light, and so it's the equivalent of having a shutter speed of 200th of a second, or 1000th of a second, or 5000th of a second. And if you've noticed, your camera's shutter speed usually goes up to about 8000th of a second, and that's it. But one of these guys can shoot the duration of about 20,000th of a second. So, you can actually have a really dark room, and use a speedlight, or a really fancy studio strobe, and freeze action better than the faster shutter speed that you have on your camera. And that is why sports photographers use speedlights and strobes all the time, because they can shoot at shutter speeds that are pretty slow, but they can use a really short flash duration, and freeze that motocross guy, or the baseball player, or whatever and it's totally frozen, and because you can mix those two exposures, you can actually have a blurry ambient light exposure, and a totally frozen speedlight exposure, so you can have frozen and blurry, same picture. It's crazy, isn't it? Sort of awesome. Alright, ISO is going to control sensitivity. Still gonna control sensitivity. We're gonna forget about ISO for a second, so what controls the ambient exposure? Well, when we're talking about flash, generally what people will tell you is the aperture controls the flash exposure, and the shutter controls the ambient light exposure. That is not exactly true, because the aperture is still going to impact the ambient light, but what you can do though, is slow the shutter down to get more ambient light, and speed it up to get less ambient light, so let's do that really fast. So, Lex is gonna come back out, and we're gonna shoot in manual mode. Lex we're gonna actually have you stand a little bit farther away from those light, about like this, and I'm gonna put this really close so that we can really control how this stuff is working, I did turn my flash on this time, yay. That it works, we don't want iPhoto to come up here, quit. Okay, no problem. No problem. So, what we're gonna do here is I'm gonna shoot in manual mode, cause in manual mode what I'm doing is I'm telling the camera, I'm gonna manually expose the ambient light, but you go ahead and still do your TTL metering for the flash. So that's what's happening in that scenario. So, what I'm going to do is, I'm gonna shoot at F11, so I'm sort of restricting the ambient light, and I'm shooting at 200th of a second. And 200th of a second is the fastest I can shoot normally with this flash, because of that sync speed thing. We're gonna find out with a speedlight you can go even faster than 200, cause we all know that, you're like wait a second, I can shoot really fast. That's called something else. So, here's what we're gonna do, we're gonna take the shot of Lex and the background lamps, and what we have here is just Lex, we have no background lamps coming up here. Boom, there we have it. We've got just Lex. So, what I'm going to do is I'm only gonna take my shutter speed. So right now the shutter speed is at 200th of a second, I'm gonna take that shutter speed, and I'm gonna slow it down to 100. So I'm slowing it down to 100, perfect. (shutter clicks) Ca-click. And now what we're gonna see is the lamps are starting to peek into this shot. So, it's coming in here in a second. Boom. Now we're starting to see those lamps a little bit. I'm going to take this now, and I'm gonna show my shutter speed down to 30th of a second. So, we'll do that. (shutter clicks) Perfect. And you can hear that shutter getting slower and slower, right. And so now, with this one, we're gonna see a little bit more of those lamps. And I'm gonna keep on going, I'm gonna go down to, let's see, I'm just gonna meter this light. I'm gonna go down to a sixth of a second. A sixth of a second. (shutter clicks) Roomp. Oh, my flash did not fire. Flash did not fire, I hope my batteries aren't dead on my flash, there it goes. Yeah. So a sixth of a second, what we're getting. That's the flash didn't fire. Is now we have lots of lamps and Lex. So, by slowing my shutter down, or speeding my shutter up, I am effectively underexposing or exposing correctly the background. So that's why it's commonly said that the shutter is what's affecting ambient light. Now one of the things we can do, just to show you I said that you can have a blurry image and a still image, so we're gonna have you go back into those just a little bit, about right there. And I'm gonna leave this at, oh, let's do maybe a 15th of a second, and can you do this, there you go. Yeah, you're tall. I'm actually gonna. Well, let me go even slower than that. Okay. So, watch what happens here on this second shot here. We are actually going to have the lamps in the background, so not that one the next one coming up. So what happened was, because the shutter was so slow, I actually blurred those lamps, but Lex is not blurred because she's only illuminated by the flash, and the flash fired so quickly that she's not blurry. Pretty cool. Two totally different exposures, and you can control those independent of another. So, the other thing I want you to do is go like this really fast in front of your face. Really, really fast. So, this is a sixth of a second, maybe yep, that's good. Sixth of a second, and she moved her hand really fast. Watch what happens to her hand. Totally frozen. Right? And we are seeing a little bit of a blur around the edge, notice her hand right here, it looks like it's transparent. So it's not the blur from her hand, what's happening is when she was doing this, I feel like Michael Jackson, doing this, the flash fired and then she kept moving and some of that ambient light came through, and that's how we have a transparent hand. And so a lot of people, thank you Lex, send me notes saying what happened, I was shooting a picture of my kid in my living room or whatever, and I got a ghost. And I'm sure everybody has seen this if that have used any kind of flash with your camera, you'll get like ghost child or ghost person, and you'll have you know, a room with these people that are sort of ghosted, and what's happening is the shutter speed is really slow and as people are moving, the flash fires and freezes them, but then they keep going and more of the ambient light comes through, and so you get ghosts. So that's what's happening there, two different exposures. It's pretty cool. Okay, we're gonna keep going here. I think we just did, yeah so we just did this demo, that works. Let me show you some quick adjustments that you can make using a speedlight. Now remember, I am going over like this at the highest of high levels, because to go into how the Canon camera works, versus the Nikon, versus the Sony, they're very similar, but they behave a little bit differently, and so the speedlights 101 course will go into that. So, we're gonna have you come out just a little bit, perfect. So, let me show you how you can do some very, very quick adjustments. And these adjustments are consistent to most cameras. So I'm gonna put this in aperture priority mode, and the way aperture priority mode is going to work is it is going to try to always balance the background with the speedlight, that's how that works. But it will drop the shutter speed as low as it needs to go and sometimes, on a Canon camera, it'll go so slow that you can get that background blurred image. On Nikon cameras, most of them, there's a safety, and on aperture priority mode with the flash, it will only drop to about a 60th of a second, and so it prevents having backgrounds that are blurred. You can override that in Nikon cameras, and you can do that in manual mode on a Canon, but that's one of the big differences between the two. But what I'm gonna do here, is I am going to, very quickly, adjust the exposure on my background. Nikon people, this does not work for you, sorry. You can't do this in aperture priority mode, so don't be frustrated, it works if you do it in manual mode, so here we go. So all I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna take my first shot, take my exposure compensation down by negative three. (shutter clicks) Bam, and then I'm gonna take my exposure compensation up by three, clunk, clunk, clunk. And I wanna show you what has happened. We have three different shots. One, two, three. One, two three, there we go. What's happening on this first shot, this is exposed correctly. On this shot, I took my exposure compensation down by three stops, and so what it did is it just took the background and it underexposed that, and it left Lex exposed the exact same way. So, just by using exposure compensation on a Canon camera, you can adjust the background exposure pretty darn quickly. This one I said overexposed, and everything is overexposed, so rarely do you say exposure compensation plus for the background, because it can wreak havoc on everything in the scene. So that is a really, really quick way to change the background. Nikon people, if you wanna do this, just shoot in manual mode, and use your in through the lens metering, and shoot. So meter the background, and then all you have to do is roll the shutter slower or faster to do the exact same thing. That's all you have to do. Okay, for the opposite of that, so we're gonna take a couple shots of Lex, I'm gonna bring you out just a little bit more. What I'm going to do here is there's something called flash exposure compensation, and that is usually set either on a remote control, or it's set on the flash itself, and on different makes and models of flash, you'll have to find that. On a lot of Nikon cameras, there's a little button on the side that you push, and that's where you do flash exposure compensation. So it's different on different makes and models, and we don't have 20 minutes to go through all 20 different makes and models. Read your manual, there's a flash exposure compensation dial somewhere on your flash, or on your camera. So what we'll do is first, we're gonna take a shot of Lex and the background. Bam. And oh, I still have my exposure compensation to plus, so let me reset that. Reset that. Good. Okay, now on this shot here, so this shot coming up next, not the overexposed one that I did on purpose, on accident. This one, okay, we've got a great shot. This looks, doesn't this look like Come to Bennigan's where we have great fries. It's sort of a cool, I like this setup. The exposure on her face is just a little bright, right because what's happening, is the TTL metering is trying to compensate for all this dark behind her, and so the flash is actually throwing too much light on her face. So what's I'm doing is I'm pushing this little button, taking my flash exposure compensation, whoops, flash exposure compensation, there we go, down by a stop. And we'll take a shot. Boom, and then I'm gonna take this down by two stops. And we'll take a shot. And I'll take it down by three stops, and we'll take a shot. (laughter) Okay, so much fun. So let's take a peek at these three shots, and you can see how, whoops, I'll do all four I guess. You can see how we are changing the output of the light on her face. Lots of light, enough light, not very much light. In fact, these two last ones here look identical, because what's happening is the ambient light is bright enough that the flash really isn't making an impact to the scene. So, that's what's happening there. If this was completely dark in here, we would probably see a greater difference between those two things. Alright, what questions do we have so far? Thank you. We have lots of questions, or no questions? We have lots of questions. Let's have those questions, cause this is a really good time to dive into that. Anything from the studio audience? No, they look pretty good. They're like oh boy, oh boy. So much. I know, right. Mark, we're getting a handful of people talking about what you're using to communicate with the flashes. New York, New York wants to know if I'm using a speedlight on manual mode, triggered by a PocketWizard, does it matter what the ISO and F-stop is to set on the speedlight itself? Okay, so let's take a detour on triggering remote flashes. There are several ways that you can do this, if you wanna use TTL metering with the remote flash, one that's not connected to your camera, your options are you can use the proprietary system from Canon or Nikon. So, Canon has a radio trigger, which is what I'm using right now, and it's excellent. So, it's actually, this flash thinks it's on the camera itself, so it's behaving as if it was on the camera. And this controller mimics what I can see on the back of this flash, so it's as if this flash was on the camera, but we don't want the flash on the camera cause we get nasty light, we wanna take it off and modify it, and all that kinda stuff. So, you can use the proprietary Canon system. Nikon has its own system as well, and what it does is it uses either the popup flash or a remote commander to trigger a remote flash, and it uses light to do that. Canon's older system used an infrared light, which was notoriously bad, because as soon as you put a softbox or something on this little front sensor on the flash, that's what this guy is here is to sense communication from another flash, it can't see it. And so, it's highly unreliable. Or, if you put it around a corner or behind a wall, you can't trigger this flash because it can't see the signal, that's why radio is a much better way to do that. And so line of sight is basically what Canon and Nikon have used for years, so it actually had some kind of light that would tell this light what to do, and it was pretty good but it would break down in bright sunlight, wouldn't work behind walls, et cetera, and so about 2009 I believe, PocketWizard came out with the PocketWizard Mini and Flex, and they allow Nikon and Canon cameras to use radios to control remote flashes using TTL and a bunch of advanced functionality and stuff, and so those were the first radio triggers. They're pretty expensive, but they're excellent. We have some here, actually. And then Canon came out with their own system about two years ago for radio, and so I'm using the Canon system, but those are the options. You can use PocketWizards, you can use Canon or Nikon proprietary stuff, and then there's another PocketWizard system that, and maybe John you can grab just a couple of Plus 3s there, there's a box. There's another PocketWizard system which is used mainly in studio lighting, and all it does is there's a radio signal that goes from the camera to the flash, and it just tells the flash to fire. That's it. And so what you'll have to do is you have to go into the flash and put it in manual mode, and thank you, it looks like this. So this little guy here, you would actually have a little plug, plugs into the side of the speedlight, usually you dangle it off the side here, something like that, there's another one of these on the camera, and all it does is say hey, flash. And so, what you have to do, is you lose the ability to use the through the lens metering for your flash, you have to adjust everything manually, and use a light meter to figure out how bright that light should be, and they essentially become studio strobes is what happens. And so the question is do you need to adjust the ISO and aperture, is that right? That was the original question? Okay, so you don't really have to know that, and I'm guessing this person is a Nikon shooter, cause a Nikon flash is the SB900s and SB910s you can use these things, you can basically tell the flash hey, I'm 15 feet away, I'm shooting at ISO 200, and my aperture is F56, and the flash will know how much power to output to get a proper exposure. It's sort of old school, but you don't need to do that when you have PocketWizards because you can just use a light meter and put it in full manual mode and adjust that. So, that's how that works. We're gonna think about it in terms of a studio strobe, which we're gonna do after lunch, that's how that would work. Okay, what's the next question? Next question is from Christine Rose Photography who would like to know if you have your strobes on the lowest setting, and want to get a bokeh, but you cannot open your aperture enough without the picture being overexposed, what is the best way to get this look. Okay, say that one more time. So, we have too much light coming in, is that right? Yeah, what if you have your strobes on the lowest setting, and you wanna get bokeh. Oh, the bokeh. Okay, we're not having this conversation. We're not having this bokay bokeh conversation. I'm like bokay, I'm bokay are you bokay. (laughter) Let's go with that, we're gonna get this all started in the chatrooms. Okay, what if you have your strobes on the lowest setting, and want to get out of focus backgrounds, but you cannot open your aperture enough without the picture being overexposed. What is the best way to get this look? A neutral density filter is what you should use. And, we're gonna do that if it doesn't rain, even if it does rain. So a neutral density filter, what you can do is it's sunglasses for your camera. And so, if you're shooting to get great bokeh, at one point too (laughter), and there's some wide-open aperture, and there's too much light streaming in, yeah. You just put sunglasses, and it knocks down that light, and so it'll fix the exposure. And the filter I use is called a neutral density, variable neutral density filter, and so you can actually roll this to get it, you can actually look through the lens and see the light meter moving, and it works great. And so, that's what you should use is a neutral density filter to get bokeh. (laughter) I'm gonna get beat up after this, I feel it. (laughter) Alright, what's next. We're good. We're good. Okay, so let's talk about a couple things that we have in common, potato, potahto, bokeh, bokay, there we go. Alright, things we have in common, good. With ambient light, this shutter controls the duration of light. With a flash, the flash output controls the duration of light. With ambient light, aperture controls the quantity, it still controls the quantity in flash. With ambient light, ISO controls the sensitivity, and it also controls the sensitivity in a flash. And so, let's say the opposite is true, that you're trying to shoot with a large softbox or something, and you don't have enough light. So, it's not the neutral density problem, it's we just don't have enough light to illuminate the subject, because the flash can't throw out enough light. Well, you can do a couple things to help that. You can just increase your ISO, and that is going to make the camera more sensitive to the light from the flash, and the light from the ambient exposure. And so what you would do, is let's say your flash output's at 100%, and you're underexposed by a stop. You could increase your ISO from, let's say ISO 100 to 200, and now your flash is gonna be just fine. And then, you would take your shutter and you would increase it by a stop to compensate for the difference in that. Or you could compensate by changing your shutter by a stop, but if you do that, guess what, now your flash has to have more output, because the aperture is also controlling the flash. That make sense? So you're like oh, I'll just increase my ISO and then I'm just fine, what you'll find is now the flash is fine, but now the ambient light is overexposed and if you don't have enough room to go on your shutter, then you've got another problem. So you might have to keep doing those adjustments. So it's good to know what happens when you adjust each of these things.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.