Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I just took photos of a two year old birthday party indoors at a Chucky Cheese. Just bought the Puffer for my flash, as the photography studio said it would be good for the birthday party. I tried taking photos in both portrait and action scene modes since kids are moving so fast, but when I did the action mode they came out a little yellowish and not sharp.

I need to know what settings I should be using instead. A, S, P, or M mode, and what ISO and f-stop.

I own a I own a Nikon D3000 and I'm using a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens.

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4 Answers 4

A pop-up flash has barely enough power to work indoors of a residential space; in larger rooms, professional photographers have practical reasons why they carry separate large flashguns. The Puffer, whilst making the light slightly less harsh and therefore more pleasing, does it so at the expense of chewing the power even further down.

So, your gear is quite stressed to get those pictures. To get the best odds, I'd probably jack ISO as high as you're ready to accept resulting noise (this is something you'll have to test out beforehand yourself, shooting same scene at different ISOs and comparing the results to see what's the noise level of each ISO - "getting to know" your camera). To get the best efficiency from flash, I'd set the exposure mode to M, and shutter speed to max sync speed of the camera (1/200s for the D3000) or slower (for non-action photos). I'd start off with aperture at around f/4, adjusting the F-number lower when the pictures seem to be underexposed or higher if there seems to be plenty of light and I'm having trouble getting focus nailed. There's almost never enough light indoors to worry about overexposure :)

The reason you're getting yellowish tones is that the light coming from your flash has different tone (matched with sunlight) than the "warm" lighting used indoors, and your camera assumes flash being the "correct" tone. You could tell the camera to use white balance matching the indoors lighting ("incandescent"), but then areas lit by flash would seem bluish. The real solution here would be to adjust the light of flash to match the ambient lighting by inserting an appropriately colored transparency in front of it (this is called "gelling"). CTO (or CTS) gels are the basic accessories for indoors flash photography.

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^^^^^ What Imre said. On-camera flash is just the worst invention ever. I genuinely can't remember the last time I used it.... And just to add another point, with kids running round, you'll need to set your AF mode appropriately. Use the AF-C mode with 3D tracking (apologies, I am a Canon user - I think those are the right terms with Nikon?), to track the kids. Single focus mode (Dont know what Nikon call it but in Canon terms it's One Shot) won't cut it and in the split second between achieving focus and taking the shot, the focus could change. –  Mike Mar 27 '13 at 8:41

Most Chuck E. Cheese locations that I've been in have generic white ceiling tiles. If that is the case at the location in your town, I would try bouncing the flash off of the ceiling with an external flash rather than using a Puffer. Although the cost is a bit more, the results will be that much better. You can get a Yongnuo YN-468 II i-TTL that is compatible with Nikon's i-TTL system for about $100. That's a lot cheaper than an SB-700 at around $325. The SB-700 is about 50% more powerful than the YN-468. The SB-400 for around $120 has about the same power as the YN-468 II but none of the manual options. All three allow you to tilt the head up to bounce on the ceiling, but the SB-400 does not allow the head to rotate like the other two which limits the SB-400's use of bounce to landscape mode when mounted on the camera.

With an i-TTL compatible flash, you won't have to reset the power level every time the subject distance changes. The camera will compute the necessary flash power and adjust it for each shot. I would recommend shooting in A mode and start at around f/4 at ISO 400. If that gives shutter speeds too slow for the children's movements, change to S mode and set the shutter speed at your camera's sync speed of 1/200 sec. If the flash still doesn't give you enough power, either adjust the ISO up until it does or move closer to your subjects.

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Aren't they pretty high ceilings, though? I try to avoid those places so I don't remember. –  mattdm Mar 27 '13 at 14:18
    
I looked at some pictures I shot in ours back in 2009. I think that's the last time I've been in one! It looks like 10-12 ft. ceilings at that location. But it is an inside the mall location, not a freestanding one built to the current Chuck E. Cheese model. –  Michael Clark Mar 27 '13 at 14:52
    
They are fairly high, but light travels fast. With a high ceiling, you have a longer throw, so you'll need to keep the power up. –  Pat Farrell Mar 27 '13 at 19:49
    
It's not the speed I'm worried about (um, obviously). If the ceilings are high, there's often not enough power available, especially from a lower-budget flash. –  mattdm Mar 29 '13 at 12:38
    
10-12 ft ceilings are not what I would consider high. When properly aimed, a flash with GN 21m @ ISO 100 or more should do fine, especially if you bump the ISO up to about 800. The shots I took in my aforementioned visit 4 years ago were with a Rebel XTi and 430EX II. Using ISO 800, at 1/80 sec and f/2.8 I was shooting without flash. At 1/125 sec the flash was running very low power. Sure, the 430EX II has a GN of 43m, but it wasn't using anything near full power in those shots. –  Michael Clark Mar 29 '13 at 13:33

Light power follows inverse square low. Inverse square low says: inverse-square law is any physical law stating that a specified physical intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity. Inverse square low can be represented by following equation:

POWER=1/(distance)^2

Let's try to explain to you what is happening here, and how this reflex to your situation. If you have light source, and if you stand one meter from it, power of light at that point is P. If you move, one meter away, power of light will be P/4 (not P/2). If you move tree meters from your source, light will be 9 times lower than the case when you were standing at one meter away from light source. Following picture is demonstrating same:

enter image description here

Your built in camera flash has its own power, which is sometimes quite enough to get good picture indoors. But, you put puffer on it, so you decreased light source power. If your subjects were too far from you, the power of light was too small, so you had to decrease your shutter speed, to get right picture. Because you decreased your shutter speed, you had blurred persons on your picture.

So my suggestion is, move up little closer to your subjects if you use puffer, and keep your shutter speed at 1/200 or 1/120 of the second. This way, your subjects are going to be frozen, and you will get sharp image.

If this don't help, you should think about buying external flash.

Cheers :)

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The best use of a pop-up flash is to not use it. Even if you can get the settings right, and are close enough for their limited power to provide sufficient light, the light is unflattering. Using the pop-up flash makes all photos look like mugshots from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

To take nice photos, i.e. better than snapshots, you really need a better flash. For tons of good information about flashes, and taking better photos, read the Strobist 101 series. http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

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