manual flash

This is a discussion on manual flash within the Photography Tips forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; ok i've been wanting to get away from using ttl flash and learn more on manual. I understand the basics, but have a hard time ...


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Thread: manual flash

  1. #1
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    manual flash

    ok i've been wanting to get away from using ttl flash and learn more on manual.

    I understand the basics, but have a hard time understanding one thing. When you get everything dialed in and the exposure is right on. Dont you have to adjust aperture or flash out put everytime you move closer or farther away from the subject?

    Seems like a whole lot of adjusting all the time. It seems practicle in a studio but what about when shooting a wedding or other sorts of gatherings when your constantly moving around?
    Last edited by TCampbell; 05-16-2012 at 11:11 PM. Reason: removed manual html formatting codes & fixed formating / removed duplicate post


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    Quote Originally Posted by AphPhoto View Post
    When you get everything dialed in and the exposure is right on. Dont you have to adjust aperture or flash out put everytime you move closer or farther away from the subject?
    Just aperture (f-stop). Set a working ISO. Set the the shutter speed to the flash-sync speed (In older cameras this was often 1/60th. In modern cameras it's usually 1/200th or 1/250th, but if there are remote flashes involved then there's a fractional delay so usually dialing the speed down slightly will help.)

    Quote Originally Posted by AphPhoto View Post
    Seems like a whole lot of adjusting all the time. It seems practicle in a studio but what about when shooting a wedding or other sorts of gatherings when your constantly moving around?
    It was easy. The reason it's easy is because manual flash is "consistent".

    When I did weddings, we used two flashes.... a main flash on the camera (except it was on a flash-bracket mounted high enough so as to avoid any possibility of "red-eye" -- remember on film you can't just digitally remove that.) and the side-light usually about 30-45 off to the side and high. An assistant (me, when I apprenticed as a young kid) holds that and it's on a monopod extended as a mast so it could quickly be positioned anywhere we wanted it.

    The Inverse-square law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says that as the distance from a light source increases by the square root of 2, the amount of light at that new distance will be exactly half. That means if I have the lights set provide the perfect amount of light at 10', I'll get exactly half as much light at 10' x square root of 2 (1.4) or 14'. If we then go to 14' x 1.4 (again... that's the simplified value for the square root of 2) we get 20' where the light is half as much again (or 1/4 of the original light at 10'.)

    Sound complicated? It gets even easier.

    We were shooting with a prime lens. We knew, for example, that with our prime lens (basically a "normal" lens... although this was a medium format camera so a "normal" lens is really an 80mm. This would be like using a 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera or full-frame DSLR and also like using a 30mm lens on an APS-C DSLR) gave enough light at the flash sync speed that if we were taking a "half shot" (we can frame in the subject from the waist up) then we needed to stop down the aperture to f/16 in order to get a good exposure. If we backed away a bit to get a 3/4 length shot then we needed to open the aperture 1 full stop to f/11. If we backed away to get a full-length shot then we needed to open the aperture 1 more stop to f/8. If we were taking a group shot then we'd open the aperture to f/5.6... or more if it was a really big group and we needed to go back a little farther.

    So basically, we knew the standard distance that a person would need to stand in order to "frame in" a shot for a given scenario, and we knew the aperture that always went with that particular distance. So if I were to decide I was about to take a full-length shot of you at your wedding, I'd just set the camera to f/8, frame you in at "full-length", focus, and press the shutter button. Remember these are film cameras so we can't peek at the exposure info to see how we did. Fortunately, we nailed the shot... every time. The system is VERY reliable. Probably more reliable than E-TTL or iTTL.

    It gets even easier still... since it was a manually focused camera with a focus ring, we had a focus collar on the ring with a knob that made focusing very fast. We added markers to that ring which indicated the f-stop to use for flash photographer for all the common distances. So... if in doubt, we'd just focus, and peek at the focus collar to see which f-stop was indicated (but the truth is after you've done this enough, you pretty much never need to peek anymore. In fact, I used to just pre-focus the camera and pre-set the f-stop before walking up to shoot.)

    It's actually more complicated with a zoom lens since the framing is no longer related to the subject distance because the zoom makes the framing of every shot variable. Also the focus collars are clutched on most high end lenses so you can't just pre-mark the focus ring with the f-stops. You can still memorize the standard working distances.

    You work all this out well in advance of any professional shoot. But it's actually easier than you'd think.
    Tim Campbell


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