In photography, lighting is so important that the word itself literally means light drawing/painting. Whenever we see an object, we determine its dimension based on the shadow it casts. If an object is casting a shadow, it gives us the impression that it is 3-dimensional.
In order to make our 2-dimensional photos look more lifelike, we need to create shadows. Whenever you have a light source, and something is blocking it, that "something" will end up creating a shadow on the other side. Now let's think about this, what happens when the source of light is at the same perspective as you? Where would the shadow be? The answer is the opposite side of the light source, behind the subject, resulting in a flat 2-dimensional photo/subject.
The benefit of using off camera flash is to change the direction of the source of light compared to the camera's point-of-view, which would create shadows for your camera's point-of-view.
What do I do with it?
Now that we understand the reason for taking the flash off the camera and moving it to a different location than directly from our camera's POF, we need to know what to do with it. When I see people struggling with flash, it's because they tend to confuse themselves and become overwhelmed with all the technical stuff; power settings, zoom settings, etc. . Forget about all those for now, and let's just focus on the location of the light and how to direct it to achieve different results.
The direction of your light source will give the photo its "identity" or mood. For example, if I position my flash below the subjects focus point; I would end up giving my subject a ghost face. If I position the light from above, I get the effect of a mid-day sun look, which will cast hard, dark shadows under my subject's face. If I move it to the side of the subject, I can achieve the look of early morning or late afternoon lighting. This is a general lighting concept that applies to both ambient light (pre-existing light not supplied by photographer) and artificial lighting we introduce to the scene.
Step by step
Whenever I step onto a scene, the first thing I do is assess the light; is there enough ambient light, what is the quality of the light, is the direction of the light going to give my photo the identity that I want? From there, I add one light at a time to achieve my desired results. This will simplify the process, help eliminate confusion and you will not end up using more lighting than necessary. Don't use light where it isn't needed!
Setting up the flash
Now let's get into the settings. When using off camera lighting you must break down the photo into two exposures. The first is to get the proper exposure for the surrounding/background of your image by adjusting your camera’s settings. The second is to get the correct exposure on your subject itself which is achieved by using your flash/off camera lighting.
Scenario and example:
Let’s say there's not enough light in the room and you want to give your subject some extra light. You’ve determined that you only want to have some fill light coming from the right side of your camera (location of light!).
Settings - Shutter Speed 1/60th | Aperture F/2.8 | ISO 400
Settings - Shutter Speed 1/40th | Aperture F/2.8 | ISO 25600
Settings - Shutter Speed 1/60th | Aperture F/2.8 | ISO 400 | Flash Power 1/8th (1/8th of max power)
This article is brought you by Jay Kan Photography
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Special thanks to Stefanie Johnston @ fb.com/SLJohnstonPhotos. Stefanie helped made the language a lot easier to understand and provided lots of valuable feedbacks. Thank you Stefanie!!!