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How to take a low light (firelight, candle light, or lamp) shot and augment with flash while keeping ambience?


rpavich 2 4
31 Oct 2012 11:04AM
I have a problem. I've been trying to take a low light portrait; like a subject just light by birthday candles or a fire light or similar. I know that I have to augment with flash but it's not working out and here is my issue.

I'm using a 430EX II and when I put my soft box up, (8 feet 1/4 power) my meter registers 100% of light from flash and I blow out the scene. When i dial back the flash to it's lowest power 1/128, it's still at 80% and above at 8 feet.

So I move the flash back and it's still way to hot for the scene.

So I keep moving back but what happens is I have a complete drop from 70% or 80% to 0%! Nothing in between....I just lose it completely. You can tell there is still light contributing to the scene, but the meter says 0%.

The ONLY way that I've gotten this to work is by putting the flash on the other side of my room, gelling it tungsten and bouncing it so it just fills the room a bit...then I can attain a 20% or 30% fill....but that's the only way it's been working.

Can someone explain what's happening and offer better suggestions to get what I want?

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JackAllTog e2
5 4.0k 58 United Kingdom
31 Oct 2012 11:24AM
Can i ask what setting's you have on your camera? ISO, aperture, Shutter speed - Say ISO 400, F4, 1/60th. and confirm that you are manually (not TTL) triggering your flash.
arhb e2
7 2.5k 68 United Kingdom
31 Oct 2012 11:44AM
Try setting aperture to F16-22, as this will hopefully remove any unwanted ambient light.
Also might be worth experimenting without the softbox, as this is creating a larger light source.
rpavich 2 4
31 Oct 2012 11:58AM
Jackalltog:
Sorry to have left out the camera setting details...

I'm using about ISO 4000, f/5.6 and 1/50th or so...it's pretty dim.



Arhb:
Why do I not want the larger light source? I don't understand.


PS: I just asked a photog friend and he said that what's happening is that the inverse square rule is making my "increments" when I move back very very small...as I get back to 20 feet on the flash, the increments to get from 70% contribution of flash to 30% get VERY narrow...not in feet...but now inches...so a VERY small movement of the light results in a large percentage drop.

Then when I told him that I was bouncing the bare flash off of the back wall and it was working...he said "of course it works that way...you now have an 8 foot wide soft box filling your space..."

So i think I know what's going on and how to deal with it....thanks everyone.
31 Oct 2012 12:21PM
Get the softbox as close as possible to the subject as the closer it is the bigger the light source and softer the light.

Now take a meter reading of the candle light and note it down.

Then adjust the softbox light so it is 1-2 stops under the light reading from the candle. Adjust to suit.

You will maybe have to put a nd filter on the flash to get it low enough.
JackAllTog e2
5 4.0k 58 United Kingdom
31 Oct 2012 12:28PM
If you don't need to capture movement, drop that ISO down closer to ISO 200 for quality, slow the shutter down and mount the camera on a tripod for stability, and as Arhb say's use a small aperture to reduce the effect of the flashgun light output - maybe even forget a wide softbox and use a narrow snoot to just highlight one area of the scene with white flash (or gelled to match the flame light).
Though many/any of the above will work.
arhb e2
7 2.5k 68 United Kingdom
31 Oct 2012 1:14PM
Well, if you use a gridded spot light(for example), the light is directed more precisely onto your subject, thereby minimising light spillage,
which is as I'm understanding it, is your problem?
rpavich 2 4
31 Oct 2012 1:31PM

Quote:Well, if you use a gridded spot light(for example), the light is directed more precisely onto your subject, thereby minimising light spillage,
which is as I'm understanding it, is your problem?



No. My problem is that my flash either does one of two things;

1.) Complete blow out even on lowest power.

2.) 0% contribution to the lighting ratio.


I'm just trying to elevate the shadows a bit and keep my camera from having to use a hideously slow shutter speed in super low light. For some reason....pointing the flash at my subject isn't working at all but bouncing it from an opposite wall does.

I've been looking at strobist stuff all morning and it appears that there are two ways to get there;

1.) Bounce to bring the ambient up as I have been

2.) "Help" the candle or fire light out a bit using a gelled strobe so that you have more net light, but it appears that all the light is coming from the source; i.e. candle, or fire or lamp.

thanks again for the suggestions; I can't wait to get home and fiddle with this some more.
Coleslaw e2
9 13.4k 28 Wales
31 Oct 2012 1:41PM
Don't forget, ISO and aperture setting will affect flash exposure.
So, I won't be surprised that 1.) Complete blow out even on lowest power. is because of your very high ISO setting.
I could be wrong though as I am not an experienced strobist
User_Removed 5 4.6k 1 Scotland
31 Oct 2012 2:32PM

Quote:I have a problem. I've been trying to take a low light portrait; like a subject just light by birthday candles or a fire light or similar. I know that I have to augment with flash .....


Back to your basic question.

Why do you think that you have to augment with flash? Seems to me that using flash would negate the whole concept of a low light photograph.

If you do need a wee bit more light, then maybe try using one of Lidl's 2.99 LED "movie lamps" but make sure it is shining from the same direction as the candle or fire light and that you use some sort of gel (or cellophane) to hold back some of the light and match the colour temperature as far as possible to the existing illumination.
rpavich 2 4
31 Oct 2012 2:34PM

Quote:I have a problem. I've been trying to take a low light portrait; like a subject just light by birthday candles or a fire light or similar. I know that I have to augment with flash .....

Back to your basic question.

Why do you think that you have to augment with flash? Seems to me that using flash would negate the whole concept of a low light photograph.

If you do need a wee bit more light, then maybe try using one of Lidl's 2.99 LED "movie lamps" but make sure it is shining from the same direction as the candle or fire light and that you use some sort of gel (or cellophane) to hold back some of the light and match the colour temperature as far as possible to the existing illumination.



Because the light level is SO low that even at ISO 3200 the shutter speed is glacial....slowwwwwww.....and I want to open up the shadows just slightly.

You are right...one approach that strobists use (as I noticed just today) is to add light to the ambient light source so that it augments it and raises the light level but makes it appear that the ambient light source is doing it.
Nick_w e2
7 4.1k 99 England
31 Oct 2012 2:42PM

Quote:Because the light level is SO low that even at ISO 3200 the shutter speed is glacial....slowwwwwww.....and I want to open up the shadows just slightly.


That's why you're blowing the details. Remember the speed of the flash duration dominates - so so long as your below the syncspeec,there's no reason not to beat say 200 or 400. The shutter speed has no part to play (for the more experienced I know you can balance with rear curtain). To alter the exposure change the aperture ( larger to let more light in smaller to decrease).
rpavich 2 4
31 Oct 2012 2:49PM

Quote:Because the light level is SO low that even at ISO 3200 the shutter speed is glacial....slowwwwwww.....and I want to open up the shadows just slightly.

That's why you're blowing the details. Remember the speed of the flash duration dominates - so so long as your below the syncspeec,there's no reason not to beat say 200 or 400. The shutter speed has no part to play (for the more experienced I know you can balance with rear curtain). To alter the exposure change the aperture ( larger to let more light in smaller to decrease).



but my issue is that using a lower ISO means that NO background light is introduced into the scene...none....and I want a mix of say 80% ambient and 20% flash.
Nick_w e2
7 4.1k 99 England
31 Oct 2012 5:10PM

Quote:but my issue is that using a lower ISO means that NO background light is introduced into the scene...none....and I want a mix of say 80% ambient and 20% flash.


For this you need a far greater understanding on how flash works. You then control the background light by the shutter speed as per normal. Then you fill in with flash. In the scenario you set, I'm not sure you have enough ambient background light. There's nothing wrong with setting say 1/2 second shutter speed ( or even longer), at lower ISO, as there's so little light, you shouldn't see movement in the subject, and as the flash duration is a few thousandths of a second it will freeze the subject. In such situations set the flash on rear curtain.

You should take the flash off camera, and probably modify. The problem you are seeing is light intensity obeys the inverse square law, so a flash at 2m away has 1/4 the power at 1 meter, at 4m it has 1/16th power, 6meters 1/36th etc that's why your meter reads zero.

The best book to get on the subject is Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally, it's Nikon centric but the principals apply whatever system you use.
lawbert 7 1.8k 15 England
31 Oct 2012 5:28PM
Some Excellent Advise Given Throughout this Post

Would be nice to see a few green posts though (mark as helpfull)

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