Question: I'm not always getting good flash exposures with my Nikon D5100 and SB-800 Speedlight. Sometimes the photos are too bright and in other cases they are underexposed. Any suggestions?
Answer from Peter B.: This is a common question from my students who own other brands of cameras. You’re using very sophisticated, high-tech equipment with “intelligent” Matrix metering and i-TTL flash metering, so you should be getting excellent flash exposures in many situations. Of course, that assumes that all camera and flash features are at the appropriate settings. For example, make sure that the SB-800 Speedlight is set for i-TTL mode and that you have not inadvertently set some Flash Exposure Compensation. Also, check to ensure that the metering pattern on the camera is set to Matrix for the greatest reliability (not Center Weighted or Spot).
Whether indoors or out, a flash unit can be an essential accessory. With the right settings, you should get beautiful flash exposures. (ISO 200; Matrix metering; i-TTL flash; -2/3 Flash Exposure Compensation). (c) 2010 Peter K. Burian
Hint: With subjects that are extremely close to the camera -- or very far from your position -- be sure to check the flash range data on the LCD panel on the back of the flash unit. As you change the ISO level on the camera, the data will also change, indicating the effective flash range at the different ISO.
Using bounce flash or a diffuser -- whether the built-in wide flash adapter panel or an add-on light modifier accessory -- will reduce the effective flash range. And if you use the FP High Speed Sync mode, the flash range will be very short. In such situations -- or with a distant subject in low light -- set a higher ISO level (to make the sensor more sensitive to light) or move closer to the subject. When the subject is unusually close to the camera however, set the lowest ISO level and also flip the built-in diffuser down over the flash head.
Full-size flash units with an LCD data panel are particularly useful and convenient. The display provides feedback as to current settings as well as the effective flash range at any ISO level that you set. Courtesy of Nikon
One of the benefits of digital photography is that you can snap a test photo and check the results instantly to see if you need to make any adjustments. The “correct” exposure, especially for fill-flash photos, is often a matter of personal judgment. If you don't like the results you’re getting at default settings, start experimenting with Flash Exposure Compensation. For a more gentle effect outdoors, try setting a -2/3 level on the flash unit (not on the camera). With very light toned or highly reflective subjects however, you may need to set a +1 (or similar) Flash Exposure Compensation level to prevent underexposure.
Lesson/assignments (consisting of text and instructional photos) are sent out each Wednesday via email. But although there's a certain structure involved, our courses are also very flexible. All course activity takes place in a website classroom called Campus Square, so that you can ask questions, make comments, upload photos, take part in discussions with your classmates, read instructor critiques of assignment photos, etc. ... any time, at your leisure. In fact, the class is accessible 24/7, and you needn't be online at any particular times.
So, if you leave for a business trip, go on holiday, or, for whatever reason, simply can't get online for a period of time, you can easily catch up on what you missed after you return. And, if you wish, we'll send you a lesson in advance, so that you can read and even work on the assignment while you're away! Plus, instructors always accept late submissions.
If you routinely stand in one place and zoom, says BetterPhoto instructor Rob Sheppard, "pause and think about what other possibilities you have. Ask yourself what would this look like up close with a wide-angle or backed up with a telephoto. You will find that pros use this all the time."
Read more about "zooming with your feet" in Rob's excellent article ...
It's surprisingly easy to get dramatic photos of silhouettes. In his recent photo blog, BetterPhoto instructor Jim Zuckerman offers expert tips and techniques -- including an awesome photo! -- on how to do it:
Don't assume that you must travel to exotic locales to make exciting photographs. Possibilities for dynamic images exist anywhere. The idea, then, is to look for visual value wherever you happen to be.
Check out these recent photography articles by two top BetterPhoto online instructors: