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What camera setting are you using, are you shooting in manual or some automated mode ?
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Just did a quick mental arithmetic set the ISO to 200 shutter speed to 0.6 second, flash at 1/4 power at say a meter.
If background is ok then fine, if dark increase ISO to 400, or shutter speed to 1second.
If flash is too intense, don't move it dial it down a bit to say 1/8th. Don't rely on the screen, but check the histogram.
I think it would have helped if you had mentioned the ambient/flash light ratio you were striving for in your initial post,
as I was under the impression you wanted low key, when you stated 'low light portrait'.
And his camera`s settings
Quote: What camera setting are you using, are you shooting in manual or some automated mode ?
I still have no idea of what camera settings you are using, if using any form of auto setting and ttl switch it off and set the camera and flash to manual mode.
Expose for the ambient lighting, and adjust the flash accordingly to balance with the ambient lighting, might need a very small setting 1/32 or 1/64 power or something similar.
I agree totally with Nick and Paul on this one - if you want 80% ambient then get that right first, with as slow a shutter speed as you need to achieve that and keep the flash power low. Obviously exact settings will depend on your environment but if it helps, these worked in an admittedly quick and fairly unrefined test a few minutes ago:
7 candles on the table. Subject about birthday cake blowing distance away from the candles. Room dark otherwise.
Camera ISO400, f/4, 1/8s, tungsten balance.
580EX Flash gelled orange on camera, 1/32 power ceiling bounced or 1/128 direct (Paul's guess above is pretty much spot on there).
Camera to subject distance approx 2m.
With those settings I got a correct exposure (maybe half a stop under) for the foreground and a background which was a couple of stops under exposed, i.e. not completely losing the look of a dark room.
P.S. It might be worth adding that your ISO 4000, f/5.6 and 1/50th is pretty much identical to my ISO400, f/4, 1/8s in terms of the ambient light exposure. But as Nick mentioned, the shutter speed's irrelevant to the flash, so the flash part of the exposure in my little test scenario is going to be a couple of stops or so darker than yours for any given flash power. Just in case it helps.
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