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4.5 Rating
Flash Photography on Location

Ami Vitale on using a single Speedlight for illumination

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4.8 Rating
Repeating Flash Lighting Technique

Joe McNally uses the technique of repeating flash to capture the grace of balletic…

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Six Steps to Lighting Magic with Joe McNally

Follow lighting expert Joe McNally's instructions for easy flash photography…

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Photography Lighting Tutorial Part 1 - Control of Color

Go on location with Joe McNally for a video tutorial on lighting…

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4.6 Rating
Speedlight Tutorial: Artificial Sunlight Technique

David Tejada uses Speedlights to add a late afternoon look to a scene

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Using Speedlights on Sunny Days

Ron Magill shares a tip for using flash in bright sun

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Photography Lighting Tutorial Part 2 - Control of Color

Go on location with Joe McNally for a video tutorial on lighting…

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4.3 Rating
Flash Points: The Control of Light

Color temperature, rear sync, slow sync: Three key elements in flash photography.

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3.0 Rating
Creative Lighting

For those who want to learn about creative lighting

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4.7 Rating
Speedlight Tutorial: Bounce Technique

David Tejada uses Speedlights wirelessly for pleasing portrait illumination

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4.1 Rating
Taking Better Photographs of the American West

When you get a chance to visit the open prairies, and photograph ranchers…

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Speedlight Tutorial: Day to Night Technique

David Tejada uses Speedlights to create the illusion of a night scene

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3.9 Rating
Landscape and Travel Photography

Ideal for those who want to take their travel & landscape photography to the next level

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Benefits of Using Fast Lenses in Low Light

A tip from Nikon Ambassador Lucas Gilman

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A Basic Look at the Basics of Exposure

The relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO is the basis of every…

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Motion Detection

Motion Detection helps you take sharper pictures

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4.2 Rating
When to Use Graduated Neutral Density Filters

How to use a graduated neutral density filter to decrease extreme light to…

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Canyon Country Shooting

Tips for taking great photos of the Southwestern United States

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4.6 Rating
Using the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode

When to use the D810 and D750's highlight-weighted metering

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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power
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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power

Creating a starburst in your photographs

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ISO Control

For digital photography, ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera's sensor. The ISO setting is one of…

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4.9 Rating
Tips from a Model Turned Professional Photographer

See how photographer Nancy Brown turned a 20-year modeling career in…

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5.0 Rating
Bill Coleman: A Long Term Photo Project

Whether shooting the Amish of Pennsylvania or the landscapes of Maine or Italy,…

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4.6 Rating
Cliff Mautner: King of Hearts

Cliff Mautner's unique style has made him a successful and in-demand wedding photographer.

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Flash Photography on Location

Using one Speedlight to create great images

Great photography is all about finding unique moments and beautiful light. The reality is that 99% of the time, natural light can be harsh and unflattering. This is where the artistry comes in. Photographers are really like painters, and we need to be able to mold light in simple ways. I like to think of these light “problems” as advantages. Some photographers use studios—banks of soft boxes and expensive lighting equipment to create solutions. I’m a travel photographer and have to work in remote places so I often take just a few simple tools. Usually I’m working with just one camera body, one lens and one flash.

In this article, I’m going to teach you simple methods to create beautiful images anywhere, anytime and without a huge truckload of gear. Remember not to let these technical issues overwhelm you, so that you forget to shoot with your heart. Great technology should never get in the way of great art. It should enhance it and that is what Nikon gear does for me.


Spot Metering

The very first thing is to change the way you see light. Rather than looking at harsh light as a problem, I look at the strong light as an opportunity. If I get into a situation where the light seems too bright and the dynamic range too high, I will spot meter for just the highlights and let everything else in the image go into a dramatic dark black. It’s a huge advantage that the cameras don’t see everything our eyes see, because it allows me to make more complex, dramatic images by simply exposing for the highlights. I like to find dark spaces where strong light streams in. Rather than metering for everything in a high contrast scene, I find one highlight and spot meter for it, and let the rest of the image go into deep black [shadows]. If I had exposed for the highlights and shadows in the whole scene, the highlights would have been blown out and there would be no deep blacks or drama in the image.


Off-Camera Flash

Another simple technique I often use is off camera flash. I rarely leave my flash on the camera because I find it destroys the mood and blasts away context by overpowering existing lighting. So often, just a kiss of light from the side tells the story better. This works well for portraits and I usually do this with just one off-camera SB-910 Speedlight. I used to use a flash cord to trigger the off camera flash, but these days, I either use the SU-800 commander unit or radio controlled triggers.

Sunset portraits are a great way to learn this technique. Since your subject will always be back lit, a little off camera fill flash will make a huge difference between an underexposed portrait or a stunning, “National Geographic”-looking portrait. You must first meter for the ambient light. In this case, (Image of african man) there is a brighter sky area, and then the less bright trees in the background. You have to decide what your background is, and then decide how you want to expose for it. I like to create drama by under exposing the sky. Metering was simply done by framing the bright sky areas and getting my settings in manual exposure mode. I purposely under-exposed this image, taking the exposure 2/3 of a stop down from the zero of my camera’s built-in meter. This gives it a rich color pop in the background.

The next question is: how do I meter for the flash? I recommend relying on the incredible technology that is available to us. The beauty of using TTL flash is that the camera and flash will figure out how much light to add to the final exposure. You can preview your camera’s LCD to see whether you like the exposure, and then dial the power of your Speedlight up or down. I cannot overemphasize how easy TTL flash is to use. It allows us to stop agonizing over correct exposures and instead, focus on connecting with what’s in front of us. Seize the moment and experiment using one Speedlight to help set your work apart. The right flash plus some experimentation are guaranteed to elevate your storytelling to art.

Ami Vitale is a Nikon Ambassador.

Check out her Ambassador page.

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