Canon EOS 60D, Let’s Get Creative

THE “SWIRLY FLASH”

It’s no secret that I don’t like to use the built-in flash. The light is harsh and flat, and when you photograph people in a dark setting, such as indoors or at night, it’s too easy to get a background that is dark and underexposed.

So when I’m in a situation in which I have no choice but to use the flash on my camera, I like to change some of the settings to give my snapshots a different look. I drag the shutter, setting it much slower than normal, usually between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second, and spin the camera on axis with the subject while the shutter is open. This keeps the person mostly frozen and well lit while creating an interesting blur of lights in the background (Figure 10.6).

By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in flash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.
FIGURE 10.6 By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in flash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.

I like to call this technique my “party trick” because when I’m in a room full of people, I’ll use this method to take a quick portrait, and often it’s something that they haven’t seen done before. This technique is not limited to DSLR cameras, and I frequently show people how to set up their point-and-shoot cameras to do it. I find that it adds a unique look to an otherwise boring snapshot. One quick tip: This type of image usually works best when there are a lot of lights behind your subject, such as the lights from a Christmas tree.

CREATING THE “SWIRLY FLASH” EFFECT

  1. Set your camera to Tv mode and start with a shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second.
  2. Press the built-in flash button on the front of your camera.
  3. Point the camera and center your subject in the frame. Start with the camera slightly tilted, and then press the Shutter button to take a photo and spin the camera so that the subject stays centered in the image.
  4. If your flash is too bright, press the Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top of the camera and use the Quick Control dial to move the exposure value (EV) to the left. Take another photo and preview your results.
  5. If the background is too dark or too bright, you’ll want to adjust your ISO setting. The higher the ISO number is, the more ambient light you’ll bring into the background.
  6. If you have too much or too little blur in the background, adjust the shutter speed (a slower shutter speed for more blur, and a faster shutter speed for less blur).
  7. Keep adjusting the settings until you find that “sweet spot.” It will be different for each environment, and there’s no single right way to do it. Just have fun with it!

 

LIGHT PAINTING

Another fun technique that’s worth trying is light painting (Figure 10.7). For this, you’ll need a dark environment (nighttime is best), your camera on a tripod, and some semi-powerful flashlights or another light source. Shine your flashlight on your subject to light it, and in effect you’ll “paint” the light that will show up on your image. But you don’t have to paint the light on something for it to show up—if it’s dark enough you can stand in front of the camera and move the light source to make shapes or spell something out. A fun item to use for this effect is a sparkler (a type of handheld firework that emits sparkles). Just set your camera up on a tripod outdoors at night and have someone run around the frame holding a sparkler, and you’ll create shapes and streaks that can look really cool. You could also use small flashlights or LED lights. In Figure 10.8, I used a small LED flashlight with a green gel over it to add a different color to the writing.

For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED flashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the flashlight to add color to the image.
FIGURE 10.7 For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED flashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the flashlight to add color to the image.
I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED flashlight. The original photo was backward, so I flipped the image horizontally using editing software.
FIGURE 10.8 I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED flashlight. The original photo was backward, so I flipped the image horizontally using editing software.

SETTING UP YOUR CAMERA FOR LIGHT PAINTING

  1. Place your camera on a tripod in a dark environment, preferably nighttime or a darkened room.
  2. If your environment is extremely dark, set your camera to the Bulb shooting mode with a large aperture. If you have some ambient light in your scene, set your camera to Av mode and use an aperture that is large enough to capture the light from your light painting but small enough to give you a fairly slow shutter speed—several seconds is usually a good place to start.
  3. Using a cable release or one of the self-timer drive modes, press the Shutter button. If you are using Bulb mode, you’ll need a cable release in order to hold the shutter open for the duration of your light painting.
  4. With the shutter open, use a flashlight, a sparkler, or any other type of powerful light source to create your image. The creative possibilities are endless!

 

Canon 7D, Let’s Get Creative

To fi nish off this chapter, I’m going to give you a few more shooting tips, mostly fun ways you can play around with light to get some really neat results. Photography wouldn’t have as much appeal to me if it weren’t for all the exciting ways to use light, along with the different settings on my camera. These are just a few of the hundreds of ways you can experiment with your camera.

THE “SWIRLY FLASH”

It’s no secret that I don’t like to use the built-in fl ash. The light is harsh and fl at, and when you photograph people in a dark setting, such as indoors or at night, it’s too easy to get a background that is dark and underexposed.

So when I’m in a situation in which I have no choice but to use the fl ash on my camera, I like to change some of the settings to give my snapshots a different look. I drag the shutter, setting it much slower than normal, usually between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second, and spin the camera on axis with the subject while the shutter is open. This keeps the person mostly frozen and well-lit while creating an interesting blur of lights in the background (Figure 10.2).

By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in fl ash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.
FIGURE 10.2 By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in fl ash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.

I like to call this technique my “party trick” because when I’m in a room full of people, I’ll use this method to take a quick portrait, and often it’s something that they haven’t seen done before. This technique is not limited to DSLR cameras, and I frequently show people how to set up their point-and-shoot cameras to do it. I fi nd that it adds a unique look to an otherwise boring snapshot. One quick tip: This type of image usually works best when there are a lot of lights behind your subject, such as the lights from a Christmas tree.

CREATING THE “SWIRLY FLASH” EFFECT

  1. Set your camera to Tv mode and start with a shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second.
  2. Press the built-in fl ash button on the front of your camera.
  3. Point the camera and center your subject in the frame. Start with the camera slightly tilted, and then press the Shutter button to take a photo and spin the camera so that the subject stays centered in the image.
  4. If your fl ash is too bright, press the Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top of the camera and use the Quick Control dial to move the exposure value (EV) to the left. Take another photo and preview your results.
  5. If the background is too dark or too bright, you’ll want to adjust your ISO setting. The higher the ISO number is, the more ambient light you’ll bring into the background.
  6. If you have too much or too little blur in the background, adjust the shutter speed (a slower shutter speed for more blur, and a faster shutter speed for less blur).
  7. Keep adjusting the settings until you fi nd that “sweet spot.” It will be different for each environment, and there’s no single right way to do it. Just have fun with it!

LIGHT PAINTING

Another fun technique that’s worth trying is light painting (Figure 10.3). For this, you’ll need a dark environment (nighttime is best), your camera on a tripod, and some semi-powerful fl ashlights or other light source. Shine your fl ashlight on your subject to light it, and in effect you’ll “paint” the light that will show up on your image.

But you don’t have to paint the light on something for it to show up—if it’s dark enough you can stand in front of the camera and move the light source to make shapes or spell something out. A fun item to use for this effect is a sparkler (a type of handheld fi rework that emits sparkles)—just set your camera up on a tripod outdoors at night and have someone run around the frame holding a sparkler, and you’ll create shapes and streaks that can look really cool. You could also use small fl ashlights or LED lights. In Figure 10.4 I used a small LED fl ashlight with a green gel over it to add a different color to the writing.

For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED fl ashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the fl ashlight to add color to the image.
FIGURE 10.3 For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED fl ashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the fl ashlight to add color to the image.
I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED fl ashlight. The original photo was backwards, so I fl ipped the image horizontally using editing software.
FIGURE 10.4 I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED fl ashlight. The original photo was backwards, so I fl ipped the image horizontally using editing software.

SETTING UP YOUR CAMERA FOR LIGHT PAINTING

  1. Place your camera on a tripod in a dark environment, preferably nighttime or a darkened room.
  2. If your environment is extremely dark, set your camera to the Bulb shooting mode with a large aperture. If you have some ambient light in your scene, set your camera to Av mode and use an aperture that is large enough to capture the light from your light painting but small enough to give you a fairly slow shutter speed—several seconds is usually a good place to start.
  3. Using a cable release or one of the self-timer drive modes, press the Shutter button. If you are using Bulb mode, you’ll need a cable release in order to hold the shutter open for the duration of your light painting.
  4. With the shutter open, use a fl ashlight, a sparkler, or any other type of powerful light source to create your image. The creative possibilities are endless!

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR)

how to use HDR for landscape photography. But HDR doesn’t need to be limited to landscapes. In fact, you can photograph almost anything that is not moving and achieve some great effects. Figure 10.5 is the interior of a library photographed just before noon. The light shining through the windows added contrast to the scene, but by creating an HDR image, I was able to retain a lot of detail in both the highlight and shadow areas of the image.

This is an HDR image of the interior of a building. Notice that you can still see details in the shaded and sun-fi lled areas of the scene.
FIGURE 10.5 This is an HDR image of the interior of a building. Notice that you can still see details in the shaded and sun-fi lled areas of the scene.

 

Canon PowerShot G12, Compensating for the Flash Exposure

Just as with exposure compensation, flash compensation allows you to change the flash output in increments of 1/3 of a stop. You will probably use this most often to tone down the effects of your flash, especially when you are using the flash as a subtle fill light (Figures 8.6 and 8.7).

The Flash Exposure Compensation feature does not reset itself when the camera is turned off, so whatever compensation you have set will remain in effect until you change it. Your only clue to knowing that the flash output is changed will be the presence of the Flash Exposure Compensation symbol on the LCD, so make sure you check it. (It disappears when the compensation is set to zero.)

The built-in flash can be too aggressive when lighting a subject.
Figure 8.6 The built-in flash can be too aggressive when lighting a subject.
This image was taken with the same exposure settings. The difference is in the –1 stop of compensation set for the flash.
Figure 8.7 This image was taken with the same exposure settings. The difference is in the –1 stop of compensation set for the flash.

Using the Flash Exposure Compensation feature

Flash Exposure Compensation feature
Flash Exposure Compensation feature
  1. Press the Flash button.
  2. Rotate the Front dial to adjust the flash compensation in 1/3-stop increments (left to subtract and right to add) from –2 to +2.
  3. Take the photo.
  4. Review your image to see if more or less flash compensation is required, and repeat these steps as necessary.

Flash Sync

The basic idea behind the term flash synchronization (flash sync for short) is that when you take a photograph using the flash, the camera needs to ensure that the shutter is fully open at the time that the flash goes off. This is not an issue if you are using a long shutter speed such as 1/15 of a second but does become more critical for fast shutter speeds. To ensure that the flash and shutter are synchronized so that the flash is going off while the shutter is open, the G12 implements a top sync speed of 1/2000 of a second. That’s quite an improvement over most DSLRs that use a physical shutter and sync only at 1/200 of a second. If you did use a faster shutter speed, the shutter would actually start closing before the flash fired, which would cause a black area to appear in the frame where the light from the flash was blocked.

Canon PowerShot G12, Using the Built-In Flash

There will be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The flash on the G12 is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night…or just filling in the shadows.

The controls for the built-in flash are accessible in two ways. I’ll cover the how first, and then shortly move on to the why.

Acc ess ing the Flash Control, the Fast and Easy Way

  1. Press the Flash button.
  2. Use the Control dial to select a flash setting. Depending on the current shooting mode, in addition to On and Off, you may see an icon for Auto or Slow Synchro.
  3. Press the Function/Set button to apply the setting.

Acc ess ing More Flash Controls

  1. Press the Flash button, and then press the Menu button to access the Built-in Flash Settings screen.
    This menu is also accessible by first pressing the Menu button and then choosing Flash Control.
  2. Use the Control dial to select a flash setting.
  3. Press the Menu button to return to the shooting mode.

Auto vs. Manual Power Output

In most cases, the On setting is the same as saying the flash is set to Auto: The camera determines how much power to give the flash to control its brightness. However, as with so many features, you’re not locked into the automatic option. If you’re shooting in Manual (M) mode, you can choose three intensities for the flash. That option is also available when shooting in other modes.

Setting Auto or Manual Flash Mode

Built In Flash
Built In Flash
  1. Press the Flash button, or navigate to the Built-in Flash Settings screen using the menus as described earlier.
  2. Highlight the Flash Mode option. (Note that it doesn’t appear in the largely automatic Program mode.)
  3. Press the Left or Right button to switch between Auto and Manual.
  4. When Manual is enabled, the Flash Exp. Comp (exposure compensation) menu item becomes the Flash Output item; highlight it and use the Left or Right button to choose between Minimum, Medium, and Maximum.
  5. Press Menu to return to the shooting mode.

You can easily change the Flash Output setting later without navigating all the menus by pressing the Flash button and using the Front dial. Or, press the Function/Set button, highlight the Flash Output icon (fourth from the top), and use the Left or Right button to adjust the level.

Shutter speeds

The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/2000 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash using the Automatic modes, the camera typically uses a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use the Night Snapshot mode, which fires the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light has time to record in the image.

The real key to using the flash to get great pictures is to control the shutter speed. The goal is to balance the light from the flash with the existing light so that everything in the picture has an even illumination. Let’s take a look at the shutter speeds for the Creative modes.

Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second, unless you’re shooting into a bright environment (or the meter is evaluating a bright area) that would normally require an aperture higher than f/8.

Shutter Priority (Tv): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/2000 of a second all the way down to 15 seconds. (Actually, you can set the shutter speed to the camera’s maximum 1/4000 setting, but the shot uses a maximum speed of 1/2000.) The aperture adjusts accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its smallest aperture.

Aperture Priority (Av): The whole point of this setting is to allow you to use the aperture of your choice while still getting good flash exposures. With the flash turned on, the shutter speed adjusts from 1/2000 all the way down to 15 seconds, depending on the available light. As the aperture gets smaller, the shutter speeds get longer.

Manual (M): Manual mode works the same as Tv mode, with a range of 1/2000 down to 15 seconds. The difference, of course, is that you must manually set the f-stop.

Generally speaking, I like to have my Mode dial set to the Shutter Priority (Tv) mode when shooting pictures with flash. This enables me to balance the existing light with the flash, which sometimes requires longer shutter speeds.

FE Lock

If you have special metering needs, such as a background that is very light or dark, you might consider using the Flash Exposure (FE) Lock to meter off your subject and then recompose your image.

Using the FE Lock feature

  1. Point the camera at the area you want to base the flash exposure on. This is normally your subject.
  2. Press the * AE/FE Lock button (near the top right on the back of the camera) to obtain the exposure setting. The flash fires a small burst to evaluate the exposure, and you will see the AE/FE Lock symbol (*) along with the recommended exposure settings.
  3. Recompose the scene as you like, and press the shutter button to take the shot.

The FE Lock cancels after each exposure, so you have to repeat these steps each time you need to lock the flash exposure. (If you’re shooting several shots in that situation, make a note of the settings and switch to the Manual shooting mode.)

Using this metering mode might also require that you tweak the flash output by using the Flash Exposure Compensation feature. This is because the camera will be metering the entire scene to set the exposure, so you might want to add or subtract flash power to balance out the scene.

Canon EOS 60D, Compensating for the Flash Exposure

Sometimes your flash will be too bright or too dark for your subject. While the E-TTL system is highly advanced and will get the flash’s output close to where it should be, it doesn’t always know what you want the image to look like.

Like exposure compensation, flash compensation allows you to dial in a change in the flash output in increments of 1/3 of a stop. You will probably use this most often to tone down the effects of your flash, especially when you are using the flash as a subtle fill light.

USING THE FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION FEATURE TO CHANGE THE FLASH OUTPUT

USING THE FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION FEATURE TO CHANGE THE FLASH OUTPUT

  1. Press the Q button on the back of the camera to bring up the Quick Control screen.
  2. Use the Multi-Controller to select the Flash Exposure Comp. options box (A).
  3. Using the Quick Control dial, scroll right (to increase) or left (to decrease) the flash output. You can also press the Set button to bring you to a dedicated screen and increase or decrease the flash output from there (B).
  4. The Flash Exposure Compensation feature does not reset itself when the camera is turned off, so whatever compensation you have set will remain in effect until you change it. Your only clue to knowing that the flash output is changed will be the presence of the Flash Exposure Compensation symbol in the viewfinder. It will disappear when there is zero compensation set.

Canon 7D, Compensating for the Flash Exposure

Sometimes your fl ash will be too bright or too dark for your subject. While the E-TTL system is highly advanced and will get the fl ash’s output close to where it should be, it doesn’t always know what you want the image to look like.

CHANGING SETTINGS USING THE QUICK CONTROL DIAL

CHANGING SETTINGS USING THE QUICK CONTROL DIAL

You can change the Flash Exposure Compensation, along with several other settings, by using the Quick Control button on the back of your camera. Just press the Q and use the Multi-Controller to scroll to the setting you want to change, in this case the Flash Exposure Compensation (A). You can adjust your settings directly from the main screen using either the Quick Control dial or the Main dial, or you can press Set to see a detailed view of each item and adjust your settings from there (B).

CHANGING SETTINGS USING THE QUICK CONTROL DIAL

Like exposure compensation, fl ash compensation allows you to dial in a change in the fl ash output in increments of 1/3 of a stop. You will probably use this most often to tone down the effects of your fl ash, especially when you are using the fl ash as a subtle fi ll light.

USING THE FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION FEATURE TO CHANGE THE FLASH OUTPUT

  1. Press the ISO/Flash Exposure Compensation button to get to the compensation setup mode.
  2. Look at the top LCD Panel (or in the viewfi nder) and spin the Quick Control dial to change the output of the fl ash. Turning clockwise towards the plus-sign side of the scale adds exposure (more fl ash power), and turning counterclockwise toward the minus sign reduces exposure (less fl ash power). Note that turning the Main dial will result in a change of ISO, so be sure to use the Quick Control dial.
  3. Press the Shutter button halfway to return to shooting mode, and then take the picture.
  4. Review your image to see if more or less fl ash compensation is required, and repeat these steps as necessary.
  5. The Flash Exposure Compensation feature does not reset itself when the camera is turned off, so whatever compensation you have set will remain in effect until you change it. Your only clue to knowing that the fl ash output is changed will be the presence of the Flash Exposure Compensation symbol in the viewfi nder. It will disappear when there is zero compensation set.

 

Canon 7D, Using the Built-in Flash

There are going to be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in fl ash to get the shot. The pop-up fl ash on the 7D is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system, it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night… or just fi lling in the shadows.

The built-in fl ash will automatically pop up in the Full Auto and Creative Auto modes if the camera senses that there isn’t suffi cient light for your scene. In all other modes (P, Av, Tv, and so on) you’ll need to push the Flash button, located on the front of your camera, to activate it.

SHUTTER SPEEDS

The standard fl ash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. If you set the shutter speed faster than 1/250 of a second, it will be too fast to catch all the light produced from the fl ash. In fact, you’ll fi nd that your camera won’t let you go beyond 1/250 of a second when the pop-up fl ash is activated.

The key to great fl ash photography is controlling the shutter speed. The longer your shutter is open, the more ambient light you can let into your image. If you are photographing a person during a sunset and drop your shutter speed low enough to capture the light behind them, you can add beautiful colors to the background. Using different shutter speeds with a fl ash makes it possible to create some fun and creative shots as well. Let’s take a look at how each of the camera modes affects the shutter speed when using your fl ash.

  • Program (P): The shutter speed is automatically set between 1/60 and 1/250 of a second. The only adjustment you can make in this mode is to your exposure compensation by using the Quick Control dial to change the f-stop.
  • Shutter Priority (Tv): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/250 of a second all the way down to 30 seconds. The lens aperture will adjust accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its largest aperture.
  • Aperture Priority (Av): This mode has three custom settings for adjusting the shutter speed when using the fl ash, depending on your needs. The default setting is Auto, which will set your shutter speed and is the recommended setting to start off with.

METERING MODES

The built-in fl ash uses a technology called E-TTL II (Evaluative Through The Lens) metering to determine the appropriate amount of fl ash power to output for a good exposure. When you press the Shutter button halfway, the camera quickly adjusts focus while gathering information from the entire scene to measure the amount of ambient light. As you press the Shutter button down completely, a pre-fl ash occurs to meter the light off the subject from the fl ash, and a determination is made as to how much power is needed to balance the subject with the ambient light. This applies to the P, Tv, and Av camera modes.

The default setting for the fl ash meter mode is Evaluative. You can set the meter to Average mode, but that should probably be avoided. Your best results will come from the E-TTL mode.

However, if you have special metering needs, such as a background that is very light or dark, you might consider using the Flash Exposure (FE) Lock to meter off your subject and then recompose your image in the viewfi nder.

USING THE FE LOCK FEATURE

  1. Press the Flash button on the front of your camera to turn on the built-in fl ash. Then point the camera at the area that you want to base the fl ash exposure on (this is normally your subject).
  2. Press the Multi-function button (M-Fn), located next to the Shutter button. You will see “FEL” (Flash Exposure Lock) appear on the bottom of the viewfi nder momentarily, and the fl ash will fi re a pre-fl ash to measure exposure. The AE/FE lock symbol (an asterisk) will also appear in the viewfi nder.
  3. Recompose the scene as you like, focus, and press the Shutter button completely.

The FE Lock will cancel after each exposure, so you have to repeat these steps each time you need to lock the fl ash exposure.

Using the Average metering mode might also require that you tweak the fl ash output by using Flash Exposure Compensation. This is because the camera will be metering the entire scene to set the exposure, so you might have to add or subtract fl ash power to balance out the scene.