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Thread: On-Camera Flash

  1. #1
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    On-Camera Flash

    So I was hanging out swilling my AM Cuppa one day and decided to set up this little deal.

    If I had to (or could) remember, I have probably seen something like this on the web somewhere, but I just wanted to do it myself, see what I came up with, make some observations, and go from there.

    The first thing that is typically mentioned about on-camera flash is not to use it. I would say that myself. But let’s face it, in the “real world” you can’t always shoot under ideal or controlled conditions. Bad/mixed/harsh lighting, bad backgrounds, the whole ball of wax!

    At my particular stage I see photography as, at its base, a “problem”. As photographers I believe it is up to us to “solve” the “problem”! The more we shoot, the more we understand the nature of the “problem” and can use better “solutions” to solve it. On-site, in-camera and in post are all “solutions” we have to solve the basic “problem”. This is what we hope will separate what we do from Uncle Bob firing the same shot with his pocket popper set on “Auto”!

    If I want/need to use a flash, I can’t always put it on a stand, stuff it in a modifier, and get it off-camera! I don’t really even like to hand hold a flash because the lens/body I am using is oft-times too heavy to hold easily with one hand. And if you are shooting “run and gun”, then forget off-camera. On-camera flash is one alternative and under the right conditions I believe it’s not the Evil Light everyone claims.

    So I just wanted mostly wanted to yutz around a little with bounced on camera flash to get some directional on-camera light going on.

    I wanted to use a real model. I couldn’t find one and this is the only one I could afford to hire! Please meet Miss Wanda Wigstan!

    I fired a reference shot with a gray card for WB. I got different WB’s because I picked up some of the color from the bounce surfaces. I was mostly interested in the direction of the light rather than worrying about color balance. I probably should have used a ¼ or ½ CTO on the flash but was too lazy. I bounced off the walls, a large white foam board (to simulate a wall, I had an open walkway where I wanted to bounce on one side, and the ceiling.

    All shot with ETTL @ f/2.8, 1/125, 200mm, ISO200, and a FEC of +1-2/3 with the exception of the flash gun shot. The flash was zoomed all the way down to 105mm. This was for maximum efficiency. Shot from approx. 10 ft. away with the background approx. 15 ft behind Miss Wanda. All processed with only some capture & output sharpening, a gentle S-Curve, and white balance using a reference card. Some exposure/highlight adjustment when needed. I cropped them as close to the same as I could to be able to scroll them through Lytebox for comparison.

    I flagged my hot shoe flash with a piece of square foam wrapped around three sides of the flash and held in place with a rubber band. This was to keep any direct light from hitting Miss Wanda. If she could see my flash tube, the she would be receiving direct light. Being the quiet type, she wouldn’t say whether she saw it or not!

    On-Camera Flash

    A couple of problems with Miss Wanda- She has catch lights painted in her eyes so I couldn’t gauge the catch lights. This is a biggie for me so I’ll probably repeat the exercise with a real subject. A lack of hair, not really much for eye sockets. But, she helped me see what I was looking for, which was where the shadows fell and how harsh they would be. At least she doesn't whine much!

    Short Side Lighting-
    The side of the face away from the camera is lit. Bounced off of the wall camera right. I tried to get the bounce point slightly behind Miss Wanda.

    On-Camera Flash

    Broad Side-
    The side of the face nearest the camera is lit. Bounced off a wall camera left.
    On-Camera Flash

    Top@ 45*-
    45* toward Miss Wanda bounced off the ceiling. Theoretically there should be shadows in the eye sockets (if she had any) but there is a pretty harsh shadow under the neck.

    On-Camera Flash

    Top Straight Up-
    The shadow under the neck is getting softer.

    On-Camera Flash

    Top Angled behind @ 45*-
    Nicer than full on, but starting to look a little flat to me.

    On-Camera Flash

    Behind @ Level-
    Still nice but a little flat. I’m surprised she didn’t pick up my shadow.

    On-Camera Flash

    Full Straight on-
    I just nuked Miss Wanda. No bounce. Hard shadow on the BG (15’ away) among other things.

    On-Camera Flash

    Theoretically, once a bounced flash hits the bounce surface, the bounced light becomes a large light source. Therefore a softer light source.

    I would be a fan of Short side lighting! Slimming and complementary, especially for women. Simply bounce the light toward the direction the subject is turned.

    Broad side maybe useful for males.

    Top (angled back/behind would be good for older subjects maybe helping to mitigate some wrinkles, etc. Maybe as a “glamour” type of lighting, and for groups.

    Just a couple of comments from my end. I have more but I’ll just let anyone draw their own conclusions or make their own comments if they so desire.

    Mostly, this was just fun exercise when I had nothing better to do!
    Last edited by Loose Canon; 31st March 2013 at 11:24 PM.

  2. #2

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    I've never seen a wraparound device like yours using black material. Instead, it has always been white material, which is what I use. The white material reflects a little of the light directly toward the face, thus eliminating the shadows created by the light being bounced off the ceiling.

    What is the purpose of using black material?

    I notice that the white balance is reasonable only on your last photo.

  3. #3
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Hi Mike!

    I guess I wasn’t exactly clear and I apologize, sir. I flagged the light to prevent any direct light or light directly reflected from the flash on the victim. The material was not used for reflecting light from the flash toward the victim, but instead to prevent just that. For this exercise I wanted all light to be directed at the subject from the bounce point and none at all reaching the subject directly from the flash at the camera.

    I am not out to eliminate shadows necessarily. On the contrary, I want them if they are complimentary.

    I always use black to flag, white to reflect.

  4. #4
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    It looks like you have basically created for yourself a bounce card, but black. As Mike says, they are usually white. For a really excellent one, check out the Demb Flip-Its, which are available in three sizes now, if I recall. They are hinged, so it is easy to change the direction and amount of the direct light. You can buy them directly from Demb (google it) or from B&H. I use the standard-size one often. Works great, and it is cheap.

  5. #5

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by DanK View Post
    and it is cheap.
    I would be surprised if Terry spent over $2 for his device. Less than one-tenth the cost of a Demb Flip-It, though lacking the flexibility of a hinge.

  6. #6
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Hi Dan!

    Again I must apologize for not being clear!

    This is not a bounce card. It is a flag. With a flash bounce card I would put the card on the backside of the flash to reflect some light toward the subject. Instead, the black flag is attached such that it is on the front side (the side facing the subject) of the flash to prevent any light reaching the subject from the flash directly.

    I wanted all of the light to reach the victim from the bounce point on the walls and ceiling only.

    And I'd say closer to $0.25, Mike!

  7. #7

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Instead, the black flag is attached such that it is on the front side (the side facing the subject) of the flash
    Ahhhhhhhhhh. Thanks for clarifying that. I should have noticed that detail but didn't.

    Considering that you used a grey card in all of the shots, why is the white balance so orange in all but the last photo?
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 31st March 2013 at 11:55 PM.

  8. #8
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    That is because I shot the gray card in direct flash, Mike.

    As I mentioned in the OP I picked up some color from the walls, which are not stark white. A good example of how light color will effect WB. I did not shoot a gray reference from the bounced walls, nor did I shoot a gray card in all the shots. I guess I should have but as I also mentioned, I was not interested in correct white balance necessarily!!

  9. #9

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    As I mentioned in the OP I picked up some color from the walls, which are not stark white.
    I confess: I didn't read your entire post. It was kinda long.

  10. #10
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    And I must confess, Mike!

    I do get a little breezy sometimes!

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Nice study Terry. I have to admit, I've taken a lot from this, not only refreshing my memory on several of the 'classic' lighting poses, but seeing how they work in practice.

    However, the neatest thing I learned - something that never even occurred to me to do - flagging an on board flash. Something so simple. Great idea. I'm going to try that now.

    Well, not now - I don't have an awake model, or a Wanda Wigstan! Thanks for sharing your work!

  12. #12
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Thank you Andrew!

    It was a fun thing to do while swigging some AM Java! It would be great to see what you come up with if you would care to put it up! By posting mine, I just thought it might encourage a discussion on this. I probably don't have the best graphic examples, but I understand the concept! I see a good bit of images of folks posted here that use on-camera flash. Just thought it'd be fun to see if we could get some ideas going that would use it creatively!

    And since I really didn't care about this aspect (negligence on my part) and just to show it can be done, here is a WB corrected version of the Short Side lighting example!

    I really didn't want to mess with correcting the WB for all of these shots. It would be a good time to say that since I had differing bounce points with differing colored bounce surfaces, I would have (if I cared enough to make it right at the time) had to custom balance each shot individually. It would not been so effective to batch correct that shoot. I could have for a starting point, but would have had to individually tweak each one to get it "right"!

    I shot Wanda against some "kind of white" blinds (15' away) in the BG. So I simply took the .dng back into ACR and tapped one ot the lighter blind panels to get this WB.

    And left it at that!

    I apologize for the "plastic" look with Wanda's skin texture! I'll try to get that more realistic next time! I must have "over-processed"!

    On-Camera Flash
    Last edited by Loose Canon; 1st April 2013 at 01:31 AM.

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    On-Camera Flash

    Mike,
    Google "Black Foamie Thing". It will probably take you to Neil van Niekerks website who has an instructional blog on the black foam square mentioned in the original post

  14. #14

    Re: On-Camera Flash

    I think you overdid the PP slightly. Your model's skin looks rather plastic. I also think you went overboard with the "stray hair removal".

    Thanks for posting, and interesting set up. One of the guys at my camera club has the same high tech gadget attached to his flash when he shoots at club nights. As Mike mentions Neil van Niekerks is also a big proponent. Sometimes the simple things can make a great difference.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Thanks for the info. While I use flags on occasion. I had not considered having one right on the flash. I'll have to try it. I expect that it will be fairly diffuse when used on the flash, rather than closer to the subject.

    Just thinking about it; this technique could be applied to a gobo as well. Just wrap the black paper over the flash head and make a few cut outs in it. Something else to try in my spare time...

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Thanks, Mike. Perhaps this is the blog that you mentioned.

    Fortunately, the thingie that I made has one side that is white and the other side that is black. I actually have a room in my home that every once in a while would be ideal for using the black side. So, thanks to Terry and everyone for this thread!

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by dan marchant View Post
    I think you overdid the PP slightly. Your model's skin looks rather plastic. I also think you went overboard with the "stray hair removal".
    None of that bothers me but the angle makes poor Miss Wanda seem as if she is missing her right shoulder.

  18. #18
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Terry, a very interesting exercise. I too never considered flagging an on-camera hotshoe flash but, will consider that in the future.

    The problem with your model and with mine is the painted in catchlights. I really wish that the eyes were glass or a shiny plastic which would react more like human eyes. I am wondering how the flagging of the flash would impact the catchlights in real eyes?

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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post

    I apologize for the "plastic" look with Wanda's skin texture! I'll try to get that more realistic next time! I must have "over-processed"!
    I just assumed you'd processed it with Portrait Professional

  20. #20
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: On-Camera Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    The problem with your model and with mine is the painted in catchlights. I really wish that the eyes were glass or a shiny plastic which would react more like human eyes. I am wondering how the flagging of the flash would impact the catchlights in real eyes?
    Agreed Richard!

    I mentioned this in the OP, and this is a biggie for me, I'll have to repeat the exercise with some real eyeballs (meaning a real live model).

    But shouldn't there be some nice catches? If there is good directional light, and bounced at the model, I would predict that on the short side there would be catch lights to the right of the iris. Broad to the opposite left. Seems like it would be consistent with the direction of the light. Top would be the same prediction, and behind I would think would be nice too. I also wonder if it would be in a nice position in the eye.

    Since I could only afford Wanda this time out, I couldn't say. I'm just speculating. Now Richard, I know none of us are beyond adding/eliminating catches in post when it suits? As long as everything else is looking nice and it agrees with the light angle?

    As I mentioned, I just can’t say with any certainty this time out.

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