Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Five ways to improve your flash photography
When teaching photo workshops, I see lots of good wildlife images that can be made better by adding a simple catchlight in the animal's eyes. Imagine that great bison image from Yellowstone; if you don't have catchlights in those eyes, the image won't pop. Lack of catchlights happens on overcast days or if the subject isn't angled properly to the sun.
Eyes have a moist surface that reflects light from a long distance away. This works well for TTL flash. Even though the animal may be a long way off, simply popping your flash adds a catchlight in the animal's eyes even though the flash doesn't illuminate the animal's body. If your subject is really far away, try adding a flash extender for further reach. This technique applies equally to portraiture.
Once I had an assignment to do a portrait of an environmentalist in Juneau, Alaska. Juneau is located in a rain forest, so I knew my chances of shooting in the rain were good. Sure enough, the day of the shoot it was raining, with low clouds and fog. I tried some images without flash, and they looked terrible. Since it was raining too hard to shoot with studio strobes, I put on my TTL flash and tried balanced fill-flash.
The images looked great! The flash brought the subject's skin tone to a natural, healthy color, and the background colors popped. Adding flash on overcast days helps to bring out color and natural skin tones. You also can enhance color using a colored gel with your flash. I often use orange-colored gels on my flash during overcast days to warm up the scene.
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