Welcome back again to photo tip Tuesday. After looking at the best camera to use last week, we thought we would give you a simple piece of advice. Unless you know what you are doing, or you have no other option, it is probably best to turn your flash off.
Flash is a very hard thing to master. Many people spend years trying to master and never do. It is one of the most common reasons for a photo not turning out right. Simply turn it off. There is nothing better than natural light for most situations and again, most cameras will work in much lower light than you think.
For this tutorial we purposefully picked a typical English autumnal day complete with perfectly grey sky and rain.
For our demonstration today I will be using my long time friend and model, the wonderful model Ted Bear. The reason I use Ted is because unless you have very understanding and patient family members to photograph when you are practising, you will be best practising on someone like Ted. The key thing you need from your model is for them to stay in the same place for a set period of time, while you figure things out.
I cannot stress this next point enough, but in an effort to, I will put it in bold shouty capital letters:
THERE IS NOTHING THAT WILL SUBSTITUTE FOR CONSISTENT PRACTICE!
Like anything else, the thing is not to learn something and then move on to the next thing. It is to learn it and then practice it until it becomes second nature to you. You will find your own tweaks and preferences as time goes by, but the principles are always the same.
Today I am using my trusty iPhone's inbuilt camera. This technique is something that doesn't require a specialist camera, it will work with a smartphone camera and a DSLR
So let's get started. On most smart phones the flash on the camera will be set to auto by default. So let's start there.
PHOTO ONE: FLASH ON.
In the first setup we will simply turn on the flash and shoot ted against a wall.
As you can see, it is OK. It is in focus and looks fine, but really is nothing more than a snapshot. Flash like this also tends to highlight any imperfections in the skin of your subject, so will really show any wrinkles or acne, etc.
To use natural lighting, we need to turn the auto flash off. This varies between phones & cameras, so if you are unsure, look at the manual.
PHOTO TWO: SHOOTING INTO A WINDOW.
I have turned the flash off on my camera and it is time for attempt two. For this shot we moved Ted to near a window, placed Ted in front it and got this.
As you can see, this is even worse than the first shot. The reason being that your camera is trying to expose the whole image, both subject and background but that is not possible. Lighting like this will tend to fool the camera and, as in this case, expose the image for the background and leave your subject in the dark.
PHOTO THREE: FROM THE WINDOW.
Attempt 3. For this attempt, we moved to position ourselves so we were shooting from the window.
This is beginning to look much better. The light is soft and it really is flattering for most subjects. The problem with this image is that the background is distracting. You always need to try and get a background that does not distract from you subject. Whilst Ted looks great, we need to look for a clean background. Unfortunately the window in our lounge does not have a wall near enough, so we have to move to another window for the next shot.
PHOTO FOUR: 90 DEGREES TO THE LIGHT.
As I could not get a clean background in the lounge, we moved into the kitchen for the next shot. The light is to the left of Ted in the photo below and it feels like now we are starting to get somewhere.
The kitchen window is smaller, but still allows in plenty of light. By allowing a plain background of the kitchen cabinet, it makes for a much nicer portrait. Not only does Ted have a nice clean background, natural light and shadow areas make the image appear more three dimensional. This is much better shot that where we started, but sometimes you want to go for more even lighting on the subject, so who do we do that?
PHOTO FIVE: EVEN NATURAL LIGHT.
This final photo shows a more even natural light on Ted. This is a very flattering light and achieved by taking the photos in our conservatory.
The weather being overcast softens the light even more and leads to a very flattering portrait for all skin types.
This obviously isn't possible for everyone. If you don't have access to a conservatory with even natural light, you can get the same effect with a window and a bit of ingenuity, but we will save that for next time.
So lets recap and look at what we have managed to do by simply using natural light. Using a window and moving to find a clear background, we have moved from a simple snapshot to a beautiful flattering portrait.
Finally, remember, this works for all types of photos, from portraits of family members, through to putting things on eBay.
We hope you enjoyed this weeks photo tip Tuesday. As always, please feel free to like and comment on this post.
Next week, we take this further and introduce one of the cheapest, but best things you can buy, a reflector. We will also show you a DIY version that you can make with things you will have lying around the house. So get ready for some glue and scissors action!
Remember if you have any ideas for techniques you want to learn or questions, please leave a comment below or send us a message via our Facebook page.