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General photography questions and answers: Discuss School me in using the onboard flash, please...As I mentioned, I took the new 20D down to a gig last night to try to get some shots ...
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Old 03-10-2005, 11:38   #1 (permalink)
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School me in using the onboard flash, please

As I mentioned, I took the new 20D down to a gig last night to try to get some shots of a friend's band. It didn't turn out quite how I'd hoped. In fact, I'm pretty disappointed with myself.

Before I go into detail, take a look at this picture of Killa Kela (beatboxer), taken by my friend Jeff (EOS 350D, onboard flash):
http://jeffmetal.com/photo/6.jpg

That pic inspired me and made me want to try my hand at gig stuff. Obviously I didn't expect to come away from last night with anything as good as that but I also wasn't expecting it to be as hard as I found it. I mainly tried to do long exposure stuff to pick up the colours of the stage lights. Typically around half a second shutter speed at about f/10 - f/13.

The vast majority of my shots (95%) fell into one of the following two categories:

Category one - People look bluey white and background is almost totally black.

Category two - Photo is just a mess of lights with little detail and people are blurred.

I'd really like to do stuff with the flash set at a lower power, so it emits less light. How do I do it on the 20D? I had a quick read about flash exposure compensation but does that actually alter the amount of light the flash puts out or does it just play with the exposure settings?

All help greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Edit

Just a quick note to pre-empt (should that be hyphenated?) anyone wanting to advise me to get a flashgun.

A) I really can't afford it. Just bought the 20D and a monstorusly expensive pair of trainers in the same month. Plus the Sigma 10mm-20mm is likely to be my next photographic purchase, but that's still months away.

B) If Jeff can get pics like that using onboard then I'd rather learn to use it properly before I invest in any flash kit.

Last edited by fingerz; 03-10-2005 at 11:48.
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Old 03-10-2005, 11:54   #2 (permalink)
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......and I'll quite happily tag along too, if you don't mind.

regards
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Old 03-10-2005, 14:12   #3 (permalink)
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Cat one - Coudl they just be the White Balance?

Cat two - slow shutter speed, with what I would suspect is first curtain flash.
IE the flash fires at the start of the exposure.

To get the effect of blurriness, but one thing (the person) sharp, you need to change one of your custom functions (forget the number) to change the flash to Second Curtain flash, so the flash fires just before the end of the exposure.

FEC, I have also been using on the 350D. When I've used the onboard flash I've found it to be just too powerful at default, so normally lower the FEC by one or two stops (- 2/3) and its much better, so think that it actually changes the amount of light emitted, but I honestly don't know for certain.

Back to that shot of your friends though, it looks like it's not just a slow exposure and 2nd curtain flash he's used, it looks like he's zoomed out during the exposure, with the flash firing just before the end of the zoom and end of the exposure.
 
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Old 03-10-2005, 14:19   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcel
Back to that shot of your friends though, it looks like it's not just a slow exposure and 2nd curtain flash he's used, it looks like he's zoomed out during the exposure, with the flash firing just before the end of the zoom and end of the exposure.
Yeah he's definitely zoomed. I had a go at doing it myself but it looked crap. On my ones the second image of the person was too strong, so it looked like there were two people in the frame, as opposed to just one person with a slight outline from the zooming.

I'll have a look into the second curtain flash thing but I'm reasonably sure that Jeff doesn't use it. However that's no reason for me not to give it a go so I'll read the custom functions bit in the manual.

I should've played about with FEC at the gig but I only read about it when I got home after looking disappointedly over my shots. I'll give it a bash.

And as for category one, the colour may well be due to WB but it's the lack of background (and stage lighting colours) that annoyed me more.
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Old 03-10-2005, 15:02   #5 (permalink)
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second curtain flash i would have said too - especially for a longer exposure, flashes at the end of the shot and i think at the beginning too
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Old 03-10-2005, 17:51   #6 (permalink)
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What Mode was the camera set on Jamey?
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Old 03-10-2005, 17:57   #7 (permalink)
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Manual. I tried to do it all myself.

Only 'mistake' I made (meaning non-deliberate thing) was that I had it on ISO 400 and I meant to do it on 100. Only realised after the gig had finished.
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Old 03-10-2005, 18:26   #8 (permalink)
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Manual should be OK Jamey, but you have to make the right settings.

The good news is that the little built in flash is quite useful up to about 25 feet or so, and seeing as it's also ETTL 2, the lens transmits distance information to the camera and the flash, so you should get pretty accurate exposures. I find it pretty good in the main.

The main thing to get a handle on is how the flash works in any (or most) of the fully auto (Non Creative) modes. It's simply set up to fire when there's insufficient light to hand hold the camera, determined by the onboard meter, in which case the flash will pop up automatically before you take the shot. The flash in this mode will be the main source of illumination so in your gig situation the flash will light the lead singer and the flash will be killed instantly as the light bounces back to the camera and the processor deems the shot to be a good 'un. This will result in the singer being picked out against a black background (the flash never reached the background) which may or may not be the effect you were after?

If you want the background lit too, it's not possible for the flash to accomplish this because by the time the background was light by the flash the singer would be blown out. Flash can only properly illuminate subjects at around the same plane.

What you need is Fill Flash - the flash wont be the main source of illumination. Using Manual Mode, take a meter reading for the ambient room light falling on the stage, let's say it's 1/15 at f4. Now manually pop up the flash. The difference is that as you're using a manual mode, the flash will now work as a fill with the settings you've chosen.... in other words it wont automatically set a flash sync speed of 1/60 or above,

Hang on mate ... din dins.
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Old 03-10-2005, 18:31   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CT
Hang on mate ... din dins.
No prob. Thanks for the help so far. I'l try to use the fill-in method you describe. I know that even on long exposures the flash should keep the foreground looking sharp, if used correctly, but what are the limits of how far you should push it before it all goes blurry again?
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Old 03-10-2005, 19:03   #10 (permalink)
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Well if I wanted to photograph my missus with flash against a beautiful sunset, and the exposure was in the region of 20 seconds for the ambient light, fill flash would be fine as long as she kept still throughout the exposure. The actual flash duration is phenomenally short - much shorter than the fastest shutter speed you can set, probably around 1/50,000th of a second, probably less, so she'd be perfectly lit by the flash.

The thing to do in your stage situation is take that ambient reading first. Probably any blurry movement in the background during the ambient exposure (depending how long it is) will only enhance the effect you're after, while the lead singer will be frozen by the flash even if there are slight secondary images of him from movement during the ambient exposure. Experiment to find the shutter speed which works best for you. Don't forget that if you set too small an aperture that little flash has to struggle to output the illumination to match it, so keep your apertures reasonably large.

It's nothing at all to do with 2nd Curtain Sync lads, that's to do with things passing across your field of view like the clappers when you can get secondary images in front of that F1 car rather than behind it, which looks very odd.

The blue cast sounds like colour balance Jamey unless you've messed with the default colour temp setting in the menus. Just make sure in that stage scenario that you have the WB set for sunlight or auto. (if you're using flash)

Hope that helps mate. Happy new camera!
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Old 03-10-2005, 19:16   #11 (permalink)
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If you look at your mate's pic Jamey you can clearly see the secondary image from the ambient room/stage light. He's taken the shot then zoomed out as the flash has fired to give the smaller properly lit image. Nothing you can't do mate.

I just remembered the 20D has a Night Portrait Mode, which is just slow flash sync by another name. Might be worth trying?
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Old 03-10-2005, 19:38   #12 (permalink)
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This has been an interesting read.

I do not have a flashgun for my 20D. Every picture I have taken to date with the built in flash has been unsatisfactory - both in the early days with auto modes and since with aperture priority mode.

Are you saying it is possible to get something usable with the built in flash? I had just given up on it and assumed getting a proper flashgun and going through a learning curve would sort me out.

Even if the onboard can do the job I will still get a flashgun sometime but in the meantime....
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Old 03-10-2005, 21:08   #13 (permalink)
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Cheers for that CT.

So, I'm in manual mode. I meter for a scene, let's say it wants 8 seconds with the aperture fully open. Should I then just shoot it like that with the flash as normal? Surely if it meters for a scene and then you add flash on top you'd get overexposure? Should I knock some time off the exposure to compensate for the flash?

Also, sorry to keep asking, but does FEC actually lower the light output of the flash or just change the exposure (shutter/aperture/EV) values?
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Old 03-10-2005, 21:22   #14 (permalink)
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Robert, the on board flash is the nuts if you use it properly. Probably the best mode to us is Shutter Priority (TV) for fill flash. Try it now in the room where you are. Take a shot without flash by ambient light. The required shutter speed will probably be quite slow, you may have to use a tripod or support the camera on something. The shot should be OK except the WB may be out. Now take exactly the same shot with the same settings but this time pop up the flash. You should get a nice mixture of flash and ambient light as the flash will output just enough light to compliment the room lighting and give your shot a bit of punch without being as overpowering as full on flash.

Assuming you're not living in a baronial hall the flash should be OK. Without checking the manual it's usable range is somewhere around 25 -30 feet which is ample for most indoor situations. You'd struggle from the back of the NEC Hall trying to pick Stevie Wonder out on stage with it though.
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Old 03-10-2005, 21:47   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fingerz
Cheers for that CT.

So, I'm in manual mode. I meter for a scene, let's say it wants 8 seconds with the aperture fully open. Should I then just shoot it like that with the flash as normal? Surely if it meters for a scene and then you add flash on top you'd get overexposure? Should I knock some time off the exposure to compensate for the flash?
No - the whole idea of fill flash is that it just picks out and fills the shadow areas, which is why wedding photographers use flash in strong sunlight.
Quote:
Also, sorry to keep asking, but does FEC actually lower the light output of the flash or just change the exposure (shutter/aperture/EV) values?
Jamey have a read through your manual Chapter 6, Page 91 (Flash) and page 96 in particular - Flash Exposure Compensation. It shows you how to set exposure compensation on that page. It's set in exactly the same way that you compensate for ambient exposure, so it appears to me that you'll compensate for both the flash and ambient light by the same amounts. One advantage of a separate flashgun is that you can dial in compensation on the flashgun independent of the camera, so it looks like you're snookered unless anyone knows different.

Having said that, I'd be surprised if you find this little unit overpowering, but in the event that you do, then set some compensation as shown - try reducing it in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments, till you're happy with the result. If it results in slight under-exposure for the background at gigs, I'd think it's no bad thing?
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Old 03-10-2005, 21:49   #16 (permalink)
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Fill flash is all I've ever used it for sucessfully. It is when I have attempted to use it as the primary light source it has failed miserably. It just does not seem to have enough output. I have some examples from a wedding reception where even the main subjects are under lit.



I have more where the subject is less reflective.

If it is just a matter of settings I may persevere - thought it was just a small flash that was not up to the job
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Old 03-10-2005, 21:59   #17 (permalink)
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Hmm.. that's way under-exposed! In that situation Robert (a darkened dance floor), you may as well just put the camera on fully auto and let the flash be the main source of illumination which it will do without any interference from you.

Hang on mate, I feel a test shot coming on! :lol:
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Old 03-10-2005, 22:21   #18 (permalink)
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Robert, I just took this shot in a completely dark room on Full Auto with the 17-85 set at 17mm. I don't think it's a bad result from that little flash at all, in fact it's a pretty severe test. The missus in now convinced I'm barking mad.



It's about 20 feet to the far corner from where I was standing.
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Old 03-10-2005, 22:36   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CT
The missus in now convinced I'm barking mad.
Should have seen the look I got from mine when I set up on wet grass to take pictures of the image in a water drop on a leaf overhanging our garden pond :lol:

***********

Have to agree it did not do too bad. Don't think I've used full auto since the day I got the camera. The other thing that was a pain is the focus assist system - by the time you take the shot peoples expessions have changed wondering what the lightshow is.
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Old 03-10-2005, 22:42   #20 (permalink)
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Yeah. For low light stuff where the focus assist beam is needed I just switch to manual focus and trust my judgement. It's easier.
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