Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Flash How-To (Pic of the Week)

(If you’re reading, “Falcon,” then click here for Part Eight)

I’ve heard it said that how-to’s are good subject matter for blogs. Welcome to my first.

Ben Eats Macaroni in Direct Flash

Ben Eats Macaroni Under Bounce Flash

Here we have two pictures of our boy, Benjamin. The difference between them? It’s not different cameras, different lenses, or different settings. It isn’t some in-camera red-eye correction feature.

It’s all about the angles.

In the first shot, I used the built-in, pop-up flash mounted directly above the lens. We get the dreaded red-eye and washed-out skin tones, as well as the appearance of two different shades of hair color. Notice, too, the harsh black shadow that forms a line directly underneath his chin and cheek, and his arm. Although not optimal, built-in flash has saved me more than once when I just didn’t want to lug around my external flash.

In the comfort of my own home, however, I can photo geek all I want. That’s where the second shot comes in. I put on my external flash for that one. The light still comes from the center of the camera, but I angle the flash straight up at the ceiling, and attach a white card on the back to bounce some soft light directly into Ben’s face.

The light bouncing from the ceiling gives it a skylight effect, for a more realistic representation of his hair. The light bounced into his face keeps the light bounced from overhead from making huge shadow-bags under his eyes, as well as making his eye color pop out. The height of the flash prevents the red-eye. Also improved are the shadows under his face and his arm.

Admittedly, the top picture is a bit over-exposed, and direct flash can look a little better than that example. However, it’s still obvious that there’s an advantage to using external flash when you can. There’s a softer overall impression of the photo.

Ghetto Camera Setup

Above is the setup I used to produce the second photo. You’d be surprised how many photojournalists shoot with an index card attached via rubber band. That is a better option, by the way, than the page-a-day calendar sheet I used. It looks ugly, but it gets the job done. Kind of like my car (except that it’s just barely getting the job done right now).

You don’t have to buy a digital SLR camera to get a flash hotshoe mount. Many of the point-and-shoot digitals allow similar attachment of a light source.

Then, here’s the actual Pic of the Week, a shot of Ben while saying “cheese” of his own volition. Or maybe the macaroni and cheese influenced him.


For more photo tips, see “Depth of Field How-to,” the next in my sporadic how-to series.

7 Responses to Flash How-To (Pic of the Week)

  1. *LOL* He’s such a cute kid no matter how you shoot him!

    Have a great weekend bud…

  2. He is probably the third cutest boy-child I’m currently aware of.

    And now I want a digital SLR camera.

  3. Dave – It’s funny, because no matter how many times we said, “We don’t care what he looks like, we’ll just be glad if he’s healthy,” I do like the fact that he’s photogenic.

    Simon – Third is a high honor coming from a man with two male offspring of his own. Sorry, but I’d have to start your boys out at third, too, because my nephew is a super-cutey. Although, if we’re judging on laugh alone, then your first born wins over any kid I’ve ever heard. If he laughs at his own jokes through life, then people will laugh right along with him. They just won’t be able to resist, no matter how bad the joke.

  4. Amazing difference, and a great “how to” post. I always figured there was a reason that your photographs come out so well. I guess knowing what you’re doing really does help!

    Man…that kid is cute. I thought his hair might turn brown, but the red is hanging in there.

  5. I have so much to learn…

    And if you want to see a cute kid, go here:

  6. I’m perusing back through some of your old photo tips, Mark. Thanks for this one. I am constantly wasting time in Photoshop fixing the red eye in my pictures. Now I know I just need to go spend more money on gadgets to avoid the issue ;)

    I’ve been having some problems with my new D40. For th efirst time, I have to have my hand up on the lens to manage the zoom an dI forget about the flash and end up with a horrible hand shadow. I need to train myself to hold the camera lens on the bottom, but these are issues the point and clicks don’t have, so I have to “unlearn what I have learned.”

  7. MG – Yes, that is a hard habit to break. I once held my lenses with an overhand grip, too. You have to be very underhanded. I’m sure you can handle that.


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