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Need help figuring out was is wrong with my technique or gear - flash photos

2 Feb 2013 1:15AM
I photographed a 40th birthday party at a local brewery. Something is amiss with my technique or flash system . See the attached sample image.
Many of the images came out with this dark and poor focus. The flash did fire but it looks like it had minimal effect.

Gear - Canon 7D, Canon 580EX - ETTL, ISO 1000, 24-105 lens,F4 , 1/60, external battery pack CPE.

I shot CR and thankfully with LR and PS I could salvage the shoot but something was wrong - with me or the gear.

The next day at home I used the camera and flash and tried to duplicate the problem every which way but everything worked fine.

Any help would be appreciated.

John C


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sausage Plus
13 513 United Kingdom
2 Feb 2013 9:04AM
Perhaps the camera exposed on the photo frame which is in the centre?

rambler Plus
9 969 17 England
2 Feb 2013 9:22AM
Exactly, two bright white objects in the centre of the shot and the flash has barely fired judging by the reflected highlights. You are some distance from the group and would have needed full power, but then the photo frame would have given you problems.
Flash Exposure Lock would probably have solved the problem.
Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
2 Feb 2013 10:03AM
For my mind the colour balance is all wrong as there seems to be lots of fluorescent and tungsten lighting in the image and whilst you may have used flash it hasn't really done it any favours. I've tweaked around adjusting the colour balance in Photoshop and think I have made a bit of an improvement, making sure the whites are white and blacks are black, also did a quick tweak on the mid-tones and came up with the image below......Is it any better, well I think so, but only you can decide that I think?


Ade_Osman 15 4.5k 36 England
2 Feb 2013 10:29AM
Just noticed something else, which wouldn't have made any difference to the colour balance, however, I note you shot it at ISO1000. As you were using flash you could have shot it at ISO100-400 with the same shutter speed, this would have enabled you to sharpen the image a bit more without it succumbing to graininess so much. If you have LR & PS the image would have been much easily rescued if you'd done this.......Something to bear in mind for the future I guess.

puertouk 6 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
2 Feb 2013 10:49AM
Why not invest in a light meter ( Sekonic ) that will get this type of image right every time. Also, you should invest in a color checker passport, as this will help you with getting your white balance right, in-camera and then the colour balance in Photoshop.
2 Feb 2013 11:12AM
I second the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport . Not cheap at around 70 and you do need to replace it every two years to maintain colour accuracy, but well worth the investment. Not just for white balance, you can also make a dng camera profile per each different lighting condition.
redsnappa 15 2.0k United Kingdom
2 Feb 2013 7:11PM
Ade has got it right it's the high iso that has ruined this picture.
PhotoHamGuy does not need extra kit to get this shot correct as he owns more than enough kit to get this sort of image right first time.

It appears as if PhotoHamGuy has used the wrong type of picture scene modes maybe the sports mode (as the image was shot at1000 iso ), even the green square full automatic mode would have produced a far better result than is posted above.

Unfortunately buying the best of photo gear is just the start, you still need to understand basic photographic theory to get be best out of it.
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
2 Feb 2013 11:04PM
Pretty scathing there, redsnappa. It may be that he knows " basic photographic theory " well but could be one of the first times to use flash. Everyone meets a new problem at some point.
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
2 Feb 2013 11:28PM

Quote:Why not invest in a light meter (Sekonic) that will get this type of image right every time

How would that be so, you will still need to know how to get the best out of the meter, it would be better to know how to get the best out of the camera in this instance.

Subjects like white balance, diffusers ( sure looks like one could have helped here) and dialling in exposer compensation.

It will probally be best to shoot in Raw, then if white balance is out you can make corrections.

Get a basic plug on diffuser (can`t remember what they call them)

And read up on using exposure compensation, it can be very handy at times, just googled and found this, hope it helps.

arhb Plus
10 3.4k 68 United Kingdom
3 Feb 2013 10:34AM
I would use and aperture of F11 to achieve more detail in the subjects, which would also create a brighter flash.
ISO as mentioned between 100 and 400 max.
ollimar71 8 2 1 United Kingdom
3 Feb 2013 11:20AM
Some interesting comments here. I am fairly new to the theory of using flash while shooting events, but there are a few facts that I have picked up from a great book - On-camera Flash by Neil van Niekerk.
1. Your choice of ISO was not incorrect, as higher ISO would give you better exposure for both flash and ambient.
2. The wider aperture is good for a greater flash range, although it does decrease depth of field and would compromise the sharpness of you image. Aperture of F11, as was suggested above, would have made your shot even darker, but maybe f6 would have beena touch better for a group shot.
3. Your choice of speed was pefect for balancing flash and ambient light. The problem with slower shutter speed is that it will reduce your flash range, so you will have to boost your flash by a different means like higher ISO or an even wider aperture. Alternatively you may have benefitted from dialling flash exposure compensation of +0.7 or maybe a touch higher.

I think the suggestion that your flash metering was fooled by the photo frame is the correct answer, so flash exposure compensation may have saved the day.
Hope this helps. Maria
Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
3 Feb 2013 4:45PM

Quote:I think the suggestion that your flash metering was fooled by the photo frame is the correct answer, so flash exposure compensation may have saved the day

With a scene like this it will be very critical with what you meter on, the woman holding the white frame is dressed in black. So say you metered on the white frame and took at test shot and found the metering under exposed and you dialled in some compensation, make sure your still metering off the white frame in your next shot and not accidentally off the woman dressed in black, if this happened you could end up with a grossly over exposed picture.
Also in such situation you can do everything in manual mode till you get the right result. Everyone is there waiting for you to take few shots. Take exposure reading for the ambient (to figure out the shutter speed, also there was a suggestion for exposure of f/11 which is ridiculous, F4-f/5.5 will do just fine in such environment) and then set up you camera to manual also the flash to manual and then get few shots, adjust your settings of the camera and the flash, check them out, after all we shoot digital, and if you got at least two top quality pictures with everyone yes open you are done Wink

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