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  1. #1

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    Getting the background correctly exposed as well as subject using flash

    Hi,

    I understand that I can figure this out using trial and error, however I wanted to know what your thoughts are since I'm new film photography.

    I have a Nikon EM, and an SB E flash, it doesn't TTL flash (it's an automatic flash but not TTL - I don't quite understand how it works since I use a different setup most of the time and I haven't spent enough time with EM). The camera syncs with the flash at 1/90th of a second.

    Hypothetically, it's a sunny day and a landscape you want in focus calls for an f16 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/400 (using a 400 ISO film) and most likely this is what the camera will choose for you anyways (Nikon EM works on Aperture priority only), you set your aperture on 16 (to get the background in focus), however your child is under the shade of a tree and you mount your flash to get his face well lit. Knowing that the camera will choose 1/90 for you, won't that overexpose your background (too much ambient light)? If you change your ISO to (say) 1600, won't that underexpose your subject (child)?

    What do you think?

    Thanks!

    Saif.

    PS: I understand that I have a lot of limitations here, I'm just wondering if it can be done with this setup.
    “Photography is a love affair with life.” Burk Uzzle.

  2. #2

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    Overexposing the background is 2 stops is nothing for current negative films.

    Also, your child is your subject matter, not some random clutter in the background.
    Exposure should always be biased to your subject.

    Do you have a lightmeter that does flash?
    Place it on your child's face and point it to the camera, and fire the flash.
    Look what the meter says and transfer those settings to the camera.
    You'll always get excellent results that way.

  3. #3

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    giannisg2004 is right, but this isn't just a film photography dilemma. Balancing ambient light and flash is tricky with film and digital. Newer TTL flash systems make it easier to achieve a balance but you really need to understand the underlying principles at work. A good resource althought very digitally biased is strobist.com, everything there can be applied to film photography. You can use a dslr along side your EM to speed up the learning curve, also as previously mentioned a flash meter is a valuable tool for this. I use a Sekonic L-558 if I have no DSLR with me. One last thing, a higher sync speed is going to help immensely... if you are doing this type of photography a lot or if your are not completely attached to the EM.. consider a FE2 or similar (with a 1/250 sync speed).

  4. #4
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    I'll second what's already been said, and add that a ND filter can be quite useful in situations like this.

    Bottom line for me is that if you want to take a quick snap in challenging lighting, then the modern TTL stuff (particularly, IMHO, the stuff from Nikon) is simply magic. Works a dream.

    If you want to create a more composed and deliberate photograph, that's easily done too, but it takes more time and care. The essence of the problem is always that the ambient scene has higher EV than the subject. If you can't knock that down with a high shutter speed (you say you are locked in to 1/90s, but the same problem exists with any focal plane shutter camera), then a ND filter is a good option....if you have enough flash power to overcome it on the subject.
    I shoot digital when I have to (most of those shots end up here) and film (occasionally one of those shots ends up here) when I want to.

  5. #5
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Black and white negative film can help you out of this dilemma if you take a moment to consider...

    Your camera chooses 1/90 second for sync speed. So assume for a moment that your EI is about that, say 80.

    If you set your EI at 80 and just take the shot at f/16.

    Choose the fill ratio with the assumption that the film speed is 80.

    Everything will be equally overexposed.

    You can make up for that when you print.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by giannisg2004 View Post
    Overexposing the background is 2 stops is nothing for current negative films.

    Also, your child is your subject matter, not some random clutter in the background.
    Exposure should always be biased to your subject.

    Do you have a lightmeter that does flash?
    Place it on your child's face and point it to the camera, and fire the flash.
    Look what the meter says and transfer those settings to the camera.
    You'll always get excellent results that way.
    I appreciate your input, however I'm not trying to get "some random clutter" in the background. I don't have a light meter that does flash, and I don't think it will help because I'm gonna lose the background. I'm sure it's very useful in other forms of photography
    “Photography is a love affair with life.” Burk Uzzle.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by giannisg2004 View Post
    Overexposing the background is 2 stops is nothing for current negative films.
    You see, I keep hearing this everywhere. I'm far from being an expert in film photography, but my experience (only a few rolls) is that the skies will get overblown with 2 stops or sometimes less of overexposure. I'm not saying that everybody is wrong, I'm just stating what my experience have been so far.
    “Photography is a love affair with life.” Burk Uzzle.

  8. #8
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alabdali View Post
    You see, I keep hearing this everywhere. I'm far from being an expert in film photography, but my experience (only a few rolls) is that the skies will get overblown with 2 stops or sometimes less of overexposure. I'm not saying that everybody is wrong, I'm just stating what my experience have been so far.
    If the subject you are shooting is in shade and you open up 2 stops to make that look right, then yes the skies will be 2 stops overexposed in relation to the rest of the picture and they will get blown out.

    But if you are looking at a normal shot already and take it 2 stops overexposed, everything is overexposed proportionally and the skies are no worse - in relationship to the rest of the picture.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris G View Post
    giannisg2004 is right, but this isn't just a film photography dilemma. Balancing ambient light and flash is tricky with film and digital. Newer TTL flash systems make it easier to achieve a balance but you really need to understand the underlying principles at work. A good resource althought very digitally biased is strobist.com, everything there can be applied to film photography. You can use a dslr along side your EM to speed up the learning curve, also as previously mentioned a flash meter is a valuable tool for this. I use a Sekonic L-558 if I have no DSLR with me. One last thing, a higher sync speed is going to help immensely... if you are doing this type of photography a lot or if your are not completely attached to the EM.. consider a FE2 or similar (with a 1/250 sync speed).
    After using film for a month, I feel the same about how a digital camera would speed up my learning curve, except that I don't have one anymore - and I'm afraid it would take the joy away from shooting film in many ways.
    I'm thinking of buying a light meter, however I don't know the difference between the one you mentioned (less than $10 on keh.com) and the ones that cost $100+. I need to do some reasearch on that.
    The FE2 is sitting in my wishlist, I drool over the FM3a and I feel that the FE2 is a cheaper alternative.
    “Photography is a love affair with life.” Burk Uzzle.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by omaha View Post
    I'll second what's already been said, and add that a ND filter can be quite useful in situations like this.

    Bottom line for me is that if you want to take a quick snap in challenging lighting, then the modern TTL stuff (particularly, IMHO, the stuff from Nikon) is simply magic. Works a dream.

    If you want to create a more composed and deliberate photograph, that's easily done too, but it takes more time and care. The essence of the problem is always that the ambient scene has higher EV than the subject. If you can't knock that down with a high shutter speed (you say you are locked in to 1/90s, but the same problem exists with any focal plane shutter camera), then a ND filter is a good option....if you have enough flash power to overcome it on the subject.
    Thanks Omaha, I love the idea about the ND filters! I just remembered that I have a 1,2 and a 4 stop ND filter that would really help with this. However, I'll have to carry my bulkier but more powerful yongnuo YN 560 III to compensate for using the ND filter.

    Regarding using TTL, I have a Nikon F3HP (heavier than the EM) and an SB 16a flash that TTLs (the flash can be used as a weapon because it's gigantic!) and these are my main reasons why I'm carrying the lighter EM setup while hiking. I should try it though.
    “Photography is a love affair with life.” Burk Uzzle.

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