Thursday, May 24, 2007
Flash On Location
Flash photography has come a long way from the days when Weegee stalked the streets of New York with a Graphlex Speed Graphic and a pocket full of flash bulbs. Today's electronic flashes are small and powerful, filled with advanced features that help produce well-exposed photographs, all without leaving the smell of burning magnesium in the air.
For working photographers, however, the idea that these small units can deliver the light and control they need to complete an assignment is sometimes received with a tinge of doubt. Yes, these flash systems deliver great results when the flash is mounted on the camera, whether they're used as a primary light or fill. But what happens when a shoot requires multiple flashes? Doesn't that call for a strobe system, complete with power pack, multiple heads and cables?
For an increasing number of photographers working on location, the answer is no. Today's portable strobes are more than just the light source of last resort. Instead, they're a sophisticated and creative lighting tool. Whether you're using a flash as fill for a celebrity portrait with a sunrise as the backdrop or multiple units to light a large industrial space, your creative potential isn't limited by the flashes' compact size.
Advanced TTL Metering
The reason for this increased reliability begins with the TTL (through-the-lens) flash metering systems that exist in the current line of digital SLRs. The basic principle of TTL flash metering is simple. The flash fires and the light reflected off the subject is read by the camera, which squelches the flash when sufficient light is recorded on the sensor.
The latest generation of flash systems does much more than that, however. Today's cameras and flashes also consider flash-to-subject distance, white balance and the reflectivity of the subject to help deliver consistent results, even under the most challenging shooting conditions, including a bride against a white wall. The ability for these flash systems to deliver good results even when the strobes are diffused or bounced has helped to convince shooters that portable flashes can be used for occasions other than when there's little light available in a room.
The improvements in flash technology have been especially beneficial when flash is combined with daylight. Fill-flash under daylight conditions is as simple as turning on an auxiliary flash. The camera's multi-pattern metering achieves an accurate exposure for the ambient light, while the flash delivers just enough illumination to fill in the shadows. And with flash compensation as easy as a touch of a button, each photographer can customize the look of fill light to suit his or her personal taste.