Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes The On Camera Flash Works

Everyone says your little popup flash on your camera is about the most useless piece of gear.  In general, when used at full tilt with it firing at the start of the exposure, “they” are typically right.  There are ways to improve the results of that ridiculous point source, on axis blast of light.  Today’s image is an example of what “could be” the result of a couple of simple adjustments done in camera and some new finishing techniques available in Adobe Photoshop CS5.  The pup with the intent look on his face was sitting in the front seat of a car in Litchfield Connecticut last Saturday.  The window was open and the day was a beautiful, warm (not hot) fall afternoon.  He had his head just above the sill of the window and appeared to be looked for his master.  We had been walking around town with a couple of friends, shooting general interest shots and waiting for the sun to go down and the moon to rise.  As it happened, the two conditions were just about in sync with each other.  Sunset was a couple of minutes before 6:00 PM and moonrise was about 6:03 PM.  We spotted this little guy being as patient as could be as we were killing some time.  To get an idea what the camera settings were and what the “new” finishing technique is, hit the “read more”.
Blasting away with the on camera flash is a recipe for disaster. “Normal” conditions would be TTL metering and front curtain sync. The settings for this shot were Slow Rear Curtain and a one stop reduction in the flash power. This, coupled with a -.3 general EV (Exposure Value), gave a very subtle pop of light. Rear Curtain sync fires the flash at the end of the exposure rather than at the beginning. This allows the ambient light to do the general illumination of the area and the flash freezes the subject. Reducing the flashes power level by one stop insures a very light touch of light rather than a blast of light. On a Nikon D300 the adjustment is made with a button just below the flash popup button and turning the settings wheel. This is a flash specific adjustment. It also works with shoe mounted speedlites. Adjusting the camera’s EV is a global adjustment. Therefore it affects both the camera’s setting and the speedlite’s setting. Very small pops of fill light can be produced using all the controls available on camera.

Dave Cross just did a class on Kelby Training about painting using a beta plugin available from called Pixel Bender. As it comes it has several options included in its galley. It also had a community being built up around it for people to add to the gallery selections adding many different effects. Dave’s class and today’s image use the Oil Painting selection. The first pass produced enough interest to keep on exploring what could be done.

The dog was sitting in such a manner as to show the passenger seat back, the gap between the seats and a portion of the driver’s seat. In the B&W conversion, that resulted in a grey, black, grey pattern that distracted from the image. The window and door showed just below his chin. The fix was to turn the entire background black and create today’s dramatic portrait of a small dog. What should have been a reference shot or just a fun capture has become a study. Let me know what you think. Thanks


Unknown said...

I love the texture captured in the dog's hair. Nice job with flash! Thanks for being willing to help me assess my photos. I'm working on the assignment. Levonne's Pretty Pics

Kathy Marciante Photography said...

Very interesting to know!! Great shot!