Off-camera flash for hardly any cash - part 3 of 1 2 3

by Richard P Walton Published 01/11/2012


OK, I've taken a shot in shutter priority (bottom left). At ISO 200 160th it has chosen 2.8 (crazy I know but it was a dull day, that's the UK for you) What do I think, well rather than trying to think in f-stops and shutter speeds, let's just simplify things and think of photos being dark and bright. Is the shot below too bright or too dark?

I think it's too bright, the first test shot usually is. Let's make it darker then; we need to keep the same shutter speed and ISO but want to change the aperture to make things darker. Switch it over to manual (M) set your shutter speed and ISO, and then make the aperture smaller than it was on the original shot.

It was f2.8, so if I want to make it darker I need to go to f4, take a shot on f4 and see what you think; it's a little darker but I think we can mood it up a bit more. Let's take a shot at f5.6, that's more like it, but let's mood it up a little more, let's shoot a shot at f8; that's better, that's how I want my background to look. So to keep my background looking like that I have 160th, ISO 200 and f8.

So now I need to bring in my flash to light our portrait. All I need to do is simply keep these settings in camera and then make sure my flash hits our subject at f8. I set up my ISO and shutter speed on the flash meter, place my flash where I want it, making sure the direction of light is at a pleasing angle to give the best results on the model's face and then fire the flash to see what f-stop it gives me. Let's say for example the first fire was on full power and gave me a reading of f16; this is too bright, I need to stop the flashes' power down until it gives me f8. As soon as it does, you're ready to rock and roll. Why do I want my flash to hit the subject at f8? It's because we know that's what our background looks good at remember, so by keeping these figures ISO 200 160th f8 we know the background will stay the same as in the test shot we chose; all the flash will do is light our subject nicely.

To the right are the examples of the shots at different apertures with and without flash, no Photoshop used, literally dragged off the camera. Personally I prefer shooting the more moody looks so I chose f8, however, for this training purpose I have taken shots at f4 and 5.6 with the flash, just so you can see the results. I have only used one bare flash for this demonstration but you can use the same method for multi-flash set-ups with or without modifiers.


Shutter priority ISO 200 160th f2.8

It may take a little getting used to and like anything, practice makes perfect, but this my friends is a foolproof method that will work in any situation you're in. By using the equipment manually you will not only have consistent results but you'll be able to choose what you think looks best and not what the expensive bit of plastic in your hand thinks looks best.

I will be presenting a Location Seminar and Superclass at this year's Convention, where I will be demonstrating this method in a variety of different situations both inside and outdoors. Come along, free your mind from the technicalities of photography. It took me 10 years to figure this out; don't waste time, learn it in a day.

Here are some more examples that have been achieved using this method and this set-up.

For more examples of my work and training please check out

Thank you so much for reading, I hope this has been of help to you and I hope you have fun at the Convention.

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1st Published 01/11/2012
last update 06/11/2019 11:07:24

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