Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

submit your photo


Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have a Canon 5D Mark II and normally shoot with natural light (I try to stay away from flash). However, I am taking on more situations where I need to use my hotshoe flash (Canon Speedlite 580 EX II).

I have not been able to figure out how to easily get the flash to get the right exposure without having to use the Automatic/ETTL mode. I normally shoot in AV mode, and would like to get the flash to sync with it. What would you recommend I try? Canon's flash manual isn't very clear.

share|improve this question
    
Maybe I'm being dense, but I'm unclear on what you mean by flash sync in this context. Any hotshoe flash should fire in sync with the shutter in any non-automatic mode. That's what the hotshoe contacts do. –  mattdm Apr 1 '11 at 18:31
    
Maybe I am doing something wrong, but if i have the Speedlight on the camera, and take the photo in AV mode, the end result is not properly exposed. If I switch the camera to Automatic mode, it is fine. I'm not sure what I'mdoing wrong...and where to get started to fix it... –  user4560 Apr 1 '11 at 21:04
2  
Canon flash is a bit convoluted. Exactly how the flash behaves varies by camera mode. Unless I misremember, in AV mode the flash will automatically, always, try to behave as a fill flash; the photo will be pretty correcly exposed per the light-meter without flash and then the flash will try to fill out the foreground onlyh. If this means a three-second shutter speed then so be it. I prefer to use M mode when flashing, then the flash will be the main light and I have explicit control of the natural-light exposure. –  Staale S Apr 2 '11 at 1:09
2  
Oh, and "right exposure" with a Canon flash means ETTL. By definition, pretty much. I can't rememeber if the 580 series have their own independent light-sensor on the front, as Nikon has had for a couple of decades now, but if so they are the first Canon ones to have it. –  Staale S Apr 2 '11 at 1:13
    
@Staale S: You might want to turn those comments into an answer, as it seems to be enough useful information to be an answer rather than a couple comments. –  jrista Apr 2 '11 at 3:21
show 2 more comments

5 Answers 5

Canon flash is a bit convoluted. Exactly how the flash behaves varies by camera mode, in some modes the flash will try to act as main light, in other modes it will try to act as fill flash.

Unless I misremember, in AV mode the flash will automatically, always, try to behave as a fill flash; the photo will be pretty correcly exposed per the light-meter without flash and then the flash will try to fill out the foreground only. If this means a three-second shutter speed then so be it.

I prefer to use M mode when flashing, in this mode the flash will be the main light and I have explicit control of the natural-light exposure.

Oh, and "right exposure" with a Canon flash means ETTL. By definition, pretty much. I can't rememeber if the 580 series have their own independent light-sensor on the front, as Nikons have had for a couple of decades now, but if so they are the first Canon ones to have it. Lacking this, a flash has no way of measuring the light emitted without resorting to TTL.

share|improve this answer
1  
Another issue is that Av wants to vary shutter speed by its nature, but sync speed is limited to 1/250 of a second. Av will often pick a higher shutter but be forced to 1/250, causing over-exposure in the image. Turning on highspeed-sync can help, but then the flash loses range because its firing bursts or pulses instead of a solid pop. It gets to be a pain either way, so I prefer manual too. –  Greg Apr 3 '11 at 5:19
    
I don't think this behaviour is specific to Canon. My Pentax K-5 behaves exactly the same in Av mode where the scene is metered as if a flash is not present and flash is only used to provide fill. –  CadentOrange May 4 '11 at 6:19
1  
Wow, thanks. I was just about to ask the same question, having had pretty much the exact same experience. I'm always used to shooting in AV mode, got a flash for some headshots for my church and they pretty much were awful, underexposed (bouncing off the white ceiling). Switching to P worked. Good to know that M works. Thanks!!!!! –  Paul Cezanne Apr 14 '12 at 11:52
add comment

With manual flash, you have two separate exposures you'll have to set and balance - background exposure and subject exposure (illuminated by flash). Both are affected by aperture and ISO, while only background exposure is affected by shutter speed and only subject exposure is affected by flash power setting.

First, you'll set your aperture, ISO and shutter speed so that depth of field and background exposure is like you want them to be. For getting more accent on your subject, you might want to underexpose background by a stop or two. With digital, it's easy to confirm the exposure by taking a test shot (flash powered off) and studying the histogram. For most efficient flash power usage, your shutter speed would be equal to your camera's sync speed (for a 5D mark II, 1/200 s according to specs, but that often causes a dark band with flash, 1/160 would be safer). Using high-speed sync is rarely a good idea.

Next, you'll adjust flash exposure by setting your flash power to a guessed approximate value (don't worry, you'll get a feel for setting the initial power after you've done this a few times) and pop another test shot. Adjust flash power to get the exposure you like and voilà!

With multiple flashes, you'll adjust power for each flash one after another.

As you can see, operating a flash in manual mode is a bit time-consuming, not very well suited for "capturing the moment" or moving around a lot. That's what you have TTL for. Manual flash is for when you sculpt out an image the way you want it to be. Therefore, Av mode may feel awkward with manual flash (you don't have control over shutter speed to control background exposure) and M mode might be better suited.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Don't forget that you can also set the parameters for using flash in Av mode on Canon 5D Mk II cameras, with respect to shutter speed. In the 'Custom Function' Menu, > 'Exposure' (C.Fn I), > 'Flash Sync, In Av Mode. You have 3 options: 1. Auto 2. 1/60 to 1/200 3. 1/200 fixed

I think that Auto is the default setting, the only problem with this is your shutter speed can drop and cause motion blur. If you set the option to 1/200 fixed, then you will lose any ambient light in your exposure if shooting indoors. I use option 2. 1/60 to 1/200 and normally get fairly decent results when I'm shooting on the hoof. Hope this helps.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Essentially, you'll need to adjust aperture, ISO, and flash power until you get proper exposure. If your image is too bright, tighten your aperture, decrease ISO, or decrease flash power until it's properly exposed. If it's too dark, do the opposite.

If you like to do math in your head, you can use the guide number of the flash as an aide for proper exposure.

Keep in mind that your flash shines more light on objects that are near to it, so if your flash(camera)-subject distance is varying, you'll have to quickly adjust the flash power to compensate. In quickly-changing situations, you'll probably want to use TTL.

Adjusting shutter speed affects only the ambient light, up to your flash sync speed (usually 1/200th or thereabouts.)

Strobist's Lighting 101 and Lighting 102 series are fantastic intros to manual flash operation. I've only scratched the surface here.

share|improve this answer
add comment

dont agree - 1/200 shutter speed and -2 or -3 EV on Speedlight (compensation - TTL) and you dont loose the ambient light if you have got propoer exposure - fill flash

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.