Flash for indoor portraits...help please!

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by estrellita, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. estrellita

    estrellita Member

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    Here's what I have in mind: Indoor portraits of my grandmother who's not really mobile. I'd like to use flash on my Kiev 60 for fill lighting but prefer to have the flash not really "noticeable." I'm used to outdoor portraits with natural light but that's an impossibility with my subject.

    Using a Vivitar flash...thinking ceiling bounce will be the best. Have a very foggy idea of calculating shutter speed based on distance of flash to ceiling plus ceiling to subject...for a test roll, I shot at f16 and all was underexposed....I know I messed up. If I use my in-camera light meter and meter the scene and expose for that even though I'm using the flash...what *might* happen? I have not a clue where to start from here to try to get something workable.

    Any tips, suggestions (books, etc.) most welcome.

    Thanks!
     
  2. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    First, rather than ceiling bounce, I'd suggest bouncing the flash off a large piece of white foam core placed to the side of the subject. That way, it will look more like window light, and thus more natural.

    There are a variety of ways to approach the problem of determining exposure. But, the most feasible approach depends on the specific features of the flash you're using, and what sort of metering you can do. My suggestion would be to consider the "tools" you have available, think about how they operate, and then devise an approach that will produce what you want. If you have a hand-held meter, for example, you'll likely have an easier time than if you try to use the in-camera meter. A hand-held meter that has flash capability would be even better. To illustrate, let's walk through a couple of examples.

    First, you might simply use available light (no flash) and your in-camera meter. The in-camera meter would likely give you an exposure that averages the light values it sees through the lens. Depending on how much light you have coming in from a side window, for example, and what is in the scene, you may end up with an exposure time that is too slow, however. You can ask your grandmother to stay "really still" during the long-ish exposure, but you may still see some subject movement as a result. Everyone, especially older people, tend to "weave" a bit when they think their sitting still - unless they are well-braced. But, using the in-camera meter reading as your basic exposure, just bracket a couple of stops in both directions, and you'll likely have a couple of good shots.

    Another alternative would be to use the flash. Instead of thinking of it as fill, I'd suggest thinking of it as the "main", and the window light as fill. Again, I'd suggest bouncing it off a large piece of white foam core placed to the side. If you don't have a flash meter, measure the distance fron the flash to the foam core, and add the distance from the foam core to your subject, and then use the guide number of the flash unit to calculate your f-stop. (Divide the guide number by the distance to get the f-stop.) The f-stop will determine the exposure from the flash, and your shutter speed will control how much the ambient light contributes to the total exposure (longer exposure = more ambient light contribution). The objective is to get the balance you want between the two. Obviously, it will be best if you can put the flash on a separate stand, and your camera on a tripod. But, if you have a long enough sync cord, you can hand-hold the flash if need be, and operate the on-tripod camera with a shutter cable. Again, I'd bracket widely to get a variety of exposure combinations from which to choose the ideal negative.

    A third alternative (assuming your flash unit has a swivle head, an automatic exposure sensor, and exposure compensation features) would be to use the in-flash compensation adjustment to control the flash contribution. Here, you'd set the exposure based on your in-camera metering of the ambient light, set the flash on auto with the sensor pointing at the subject, aim the flash head at the reflector panel, and adjust the in-flash compensation to some "minus" value, bracketing with values like -1, -1.5, -2, etc. to get different ambient/flash ratios.
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Your 60 is limited to 1/30 for flash sync. Or is it 1/60? I think 1/30. That means you can't use a shutter speed faster then that. So shutter speed is calculated already.
     
  4. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    If you have a Vivitar 283 or 285, you can bounce from the ceiling or, with the sensor cord (SL-3? SC-3? I forget the catalog #) you can put the sensor on the camera and place/aim the strobe wherever you like while preserving automated operation.

    If you want mostly room light with a little flash fill:

    Meter for your desired shutter speed (let's say 1/30). Let's say that the result is f/5.6.

    For simple fill of two stops down, set the flash "auto" setting to whichever color will give you f/2.8. Shoot!

    Bright areas will be about 1/4 stop brighter than without the flash, but shadowed areas will be filled-in nicely (assuming you're shooting neg film).

    Of course if the room light is negligible then ignore it and just use the flash normally (with cord or bounce against a light wall or other reflector, to scatter and diffuse the effect).
     
  5. estrellita

    estrellita Member

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    Thank you for the help

    Wow, thank you for the help! I have a lot to think about and try...

    I just noticed an error in my original post...I should have said f-stop instead of shutter speed. Nick's right...the flash syncs at 1/30th on my Kiev 60.

    Thanks again!
     
  6. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    As an alternative you might think about using tungsten film and tungsten lighting. In this way you can see your results as you place your light(s). Cheap lights can be bought, even the ones at a hardware type of store will work, or you can use what's available with larger bulbs. A simple diffusor can be used, think something from a fabric store, or you can use a peice of foam core if the light is strong enough for a bounce. Another wonderful sitting is the sitter looking out the window with light on the broadface and stronger shadows on the side. In this way you won't necessairly need flash, but could back it up your light for some fill. Overall, it would benefit you to to have a handheld meter, even if a cheap one. It's so easy to meter properly for portraits with them. I never learned more about lighting then when using one.
     
  7. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Are you using the flash in auto or manual made? If it was in auto it could have underexposed if the flash was set to the incorrect range.
    To shoot a manual exposure test roll, set everything up & shoot a series of exposures changing only the aperture from one end to the other & have your subject contain a card with the aperture marked on it.
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    If you haven't used this camera successfully in the past with flash you might want to check and make it's syncing with the flash. Open the back with no film and fire the flash at a white wall. You should see the flash by looking at the open back.