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Lighting Tutorial Series: Part II – On Camera Flash Photography

Level: Intermediate to advanced photographers.


This is the second post in a lighting tutorial series on using on camera flash or speed lights. For the first part, click HERE.

Remember our quick tip from yesterday:

“Your aperture controls the exposure on the person when using flash and your shutter speed controls the exposure of the background.”


Today we’ll be looking at a different application of using a speed light. I can’t stress how important it is for you to actually practice what you’re reading about here. Remember you can always ask questions, either here, on my fb group page or through a private message or email. No question is too small or silly.

OK, off we go.

Scenario 2:

It’s a gorgeous day, the sun is out and a group of you have gathered for your annual reunion at the beach. The water is an intense blue, the clouds are raging mix of whites and blues and it has to be captured so you can all remember this day. Since you’ve got that fancy camera you’ve been entrusted with photography for the day. You should be very excited at this. It’s why you paid so much for that camera, isn’t it?

The only problem is the sun is too bright and if your subjects are facing the sun you get pictures where all their eyes are closed. Easy, you turn them around and now the sun is behind you. You’re shooting on auto so the people come out totally black while the clouds are perfect. On a few shots the people come out good but the background and the beautiful waves and clouds are totally white.

Frustrating until you remember you need to tell the camera just what you want. You know how to do that because you’ve gone through the “know your body” tutorial on the blog. So you switch to manual and start shooting. But it’s still not working for you.


Well the simple answer is that the human body is amazing and our eyes and brain work together to constantly adjust and balance various light levels automatically. Unfortunately, most cameras can’t do that without some help.



I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why you would need flash in an already bright situation.

It’s simple really. If you photograph your model with them facing the sun then you have a lot of light. Too much in fact that they can’t keep their eyes open.

But if you turn them away from the sun, and set your shutter speed for the background, you’ll likely have to go very high which becomes a problem when working with external flash since most cameras have a 1/250 sync speed. In simple English, you usually can’t use a flash with speeds higher than 1/250. So for this you’ll have to drop your ISO as low as possible, and close down your aperture (higher numbers) and this should darken the background. Then you can turn on your flash, increase it to a level where the person is properly exposed and viola.

There can be times when there is just too much light to shoot below 1/250 even at the lowest aperture you have (which would be the highest number).

In these instances, more advanced procedures are required. I’ll address this at a later time.

Well this wraps up my Lighting series on using on-camera flash or speed lights.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to address this.
If you found this helpful, please let me know.
If you found this too difficult to follow, please let me know as well.
And if you know anyone with a camera that could do with more knowledge please share this with him or her.
The weather here in London has been good this week. So while you’re out enjoying the sunshine, be sure to try out any new techniques you’ve learnt.

See you next week. Happy shooting.

Here’s an image from several years ago when I was starting out using one speed light. Camera set on manual mode to ISO 125, F8, 1/50.
I wanted to get the lovely sky while keeping her the center of focus in the image so the exposure of the background is one stop below the exposure on her.

Beauty at sunset

Image is of my friend Dawn who I haven't seen in years.


This is post 2 in a Lighting Tutorial series on using speed lights. For the previous post, see below.

Post 1  |  Post 2

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