10 camera techniques to master in 2014: learn basic TTL flash techniques
In this next section we’ll introduce you to several basic TTL flash techniques that can transform your images.
Many people are deterred from using flash either by its perceived complexity or the harsh, unflattering light that it can produce. But with TTL (through the lens) exposure control and instant review to check your results, using flash doesn’t have to be difficult.
The key to getting the most from your flash is understanding the relationship between the ambient exposure and the flash exposure. Just like taking a shot without flash, to improve your results using flash you’ll need to set the exposure correctly for the lighting conditions. Then you need to get to grips with adjusting the exposure of the flash.
Similar to using Automatic exposure mode on normal shots, the Automatic TTL flash exposure can give great results.
But there are times when you need to adjust the exposure to suit the subject, and the effect that you want to achieve. When using TTL flash you have control over two parts of the exposure – the ambient light and the flash.
The basic technique is to use the main Exposure Compensation control to adjust the ambient exposure, and then use the flash exposure compensation to control the light from the flash.
Unfortunately, the exact effect of these two controls varies a little for different manufacturers’ flash systems.
On Canon EOS cameras the two compensation adjustments are completely separate, so when you adjust the main Exposure Compensation it doesn’t have any effect on the flash.
The Nikon system works in a slightly different way to the Canon system, as the main Exposure Compensation affects both the ambient exposure and the flash, while the flash exposure compensation affects only the flash.
You will need to experiment a little with the exact settings to get the right effect, because with the Nikon system when you adjust the main Exposure Compensation setting to, say, -1, this will also reduce the flash exposure.
To return the flash exposure to ‘normal’ you have to set the flash exposure compensation to +1.
Tone down the flash exposure
This technique will reduce the amount of flash for a more subtle effect. Leave the Exposure Compensation on the camera set to 0, then set the flash exposure compensation to -1 to reduce the light from the flash.
This will make it less obvious that you have used flash in your final images.
Adding drama with flash
To make the subject stand out more, set the camera’s Exposure Compensation to -1 to under-expose the background of your shot. Now set the flash exposure compensation to +1 (for Nikon) or leave it at zero (for Canon) to make the subject really stand out from the background.
Adding drama with flash
TTL radio triggers allow you to be more creative with lighting by positioning a flashgun off-camera. However, a TTL flash cord, such as those from Lastolite, retains all the automatic features of your flash at a fraction of the cost.
Camera Techniques for 2014: 01 Take control of focus
Camera Techniques for 2014: 02 Get white balance accurate every time
Camera Techniques for 2014: 03 How to focus on moving subjects
Camera Techniques for 2014: 04 How to use exposure compensation
Camera Techniques for 2014: 05 Ways to cope with high-contrast lighting
Camera Techniques for 2014: 06 How to position your subject in the frame
Camera Techniques for 2014: 07 Learn basic TTL flash techniques
Camera Techniques for 2014: 08 Sharpen photos like a pro
Camera Techniques for 2014: 09 How to control the saturation of colours
Camera techniques for 2014: 10 Add depth by using different apertures
Flash photography made easy: master everything from pop-up flash to using multiple flashguns
Flash photography basics: every common question answered
Off-camera flash: how to stop fearing your flashgun and take control of lighting
What is flash sync: what your flash modes do and how to use them (free cheat sheet)