Monday, November 1, 2010

Piggybacking Somebody Else's Flash

Most weddings take place in dimly lit venues which may turn out to be too dark for the camera/lens that you have at hand. Yes, the ISO capabilities of modern cameras is improving day by day, but the best way to counter darkness is to throw light on the subject. Use a flash. Of course, you may not own a flash unit, or the wedding party may have requested that you don't use it.

This is a little trick I came up with for those times that you want to capture the bride and groom. There is one guy who will be using a flash, and that is the official wedding photographer. The trick is to take a few shots when he's shooting...you're essentially using him as if he's a remote flash for your camera. It's pretty hit and miss, but the results can be quite dramatic if you hit it right.
  • Anticipate when the official photographer is shooting
  • Set your camera to burst mode.
  • If you are shooting in a semi-automatic mode like aperture or shutter priority, you should dial down your exposure compensation. How much? It's almost impossible to say, too many variables. Your camera will be trying to generation an exposure off of it's own readings, but it doesn't know that the there will be an external burst of light in the form of the pro's flash unit.
  • Choose a shutter speed of 1/60th or slower. Don't worry about motion blur. Flash exposure is almost instantaneous, but you've got to leave your shutter open long enough to capture this light. In other words, use a shutter speed that is lower than your maximum flash sync speed.
  • Burst-shoot a few frames when you think you've got the timing nailed.
This is a very imprecise method of shooting. You'll need to use burst because you're basically gambling that your shutter is open at the same time that the flash goes off.  You'll probably have to correct the exposure in post processing afterword. Benefits:
  • This works in situations where you are too far for your built-in fill flash to work.
  • Because flash exposure is almost instantaneous, you'll get much less subject motion blur than if you had tried to hand-hold the camera at a sub optimal shutter speed
  • You'll get better noise than taking the camera past it's ISO comfort zone.
  • You'll get better picture detail than either with boosted ISO or with a fast lens held wide open. Both will degrade the amount of detail that your camera can resolve.

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