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  1. #1
    Max Power's Avatar
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    What Shutter Speed to Use?

    Hello all,

    I have just started to dip my toe into MF and I recently acquired a Mamiya C220. It is spectacular!

    Yesterday I went out and bought a hotshoe/pc synch for it so I can start to play around with the flash. I read the section on 'Flash Photography' in the Kodak Professional Photoguide, and I understand everything written about GNs and BCPS and how to calculate f-stops with distance etc etc. There is one thing, however, which confuses me: what shutter speed do I use as a baseline?

    I know that leaf-shutters x-synch at all speeds with electronic flash, and thanks to all of you, I understand why. But still, there must be some starting point! Even the Kodak Pro Guide's Flash Exposure Dial talks about shutter speed compensation factors to use depending on the ambient conditions...Great! But where do I start? Should I use 1/60 as with a focal-plane SLR?

    Can someone help me with this?

    Cheers,
    Kent
    Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!

  2. #2

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    The shutter speed that one uses will be dependent on how you want flash to balance with existing light. In other words by shooting at a higher shutter speed you could make an otherwise lit background go completely black or by shooting at a slower speed the other effect could be obtained.

    So shoot at whatever speed you want to give the effect that you want.

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Run a test roll and see for yourself. Set up a portrait or still life subject with whatever you consider a "normal" amount of ambient light (room lights on? modeling lights on?). Shoot a series of frames on each shutter speed from fastest to slowest. Print a contact sheet, and note when you start to notice the ambient light having an effect, and if it's a portrait subject, when you might notice ghosting from the ambient light.

    Depending on how powerful your strobes are and how much ambient light you have, you might not notice any effect from ambient light until you get to about 1/15 sec. or even longer. I've used open flash technique with powerful strobes and dim light, where my human-sync speed (how long it takes to uncover the lens, fire the strobes, and cover the lens by hand) can be around 1/2 to 1 sec.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  4. #4

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    Well you can use whatever you want that gives the right exposure you want. Find out just how long your flash will flash at full power. My Metz is 1/300 at full power. If I use 1/400 the shutter speed is shorter then the flash duration. Not good.

    1) For fill flash outdoors meter the scene and use that F/stop and shutter speed. Just set the flash head at one or two f/stops wider.

    2) Indoors if you want no ambient light then use a faster speed.

    3) If you want more ambient then use a slower one. Or if you want the flash to light the foreground and the ambeinet the background then meter the background shutter speed.


    If you basically just want to use the flash indoors then set it at something slower/equal to your max flash duration.

    Hopefully I didn't make too many mistakes.

  5. #5
    rbarker's Avatar
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    As others have said, "it depends".

    The basic concept behind balancing the flash with the ambient light by juggling the f-stop and shutter speed is fairly straightforward once one grasps the idea that shutter speed has little or no effect on the flash contribution to the total exposure. From there, it's really a matter of style, personal preference, and the nature of the ambient light, I think.

    Personally, I think it's best to make fill flash as subtle as possible, so it's not obvious that a flash was used. In some ambient-lighting situations, the "right" balance might be a half-stop down on the flash compared to the ambient level, but in others, as much as two stops down. Absent TTL-flash circuitry in the camera, as with your Mamiya C-220, the balance has to be figured manually, of course. Personal experimentation is really the only way to arrive at what pleases you most, I think.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
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  6. #6
    jd callow's Avatar
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    Two items to consider that are not completely covered are:
    Sharpness due to shutter speed and lighting control.

    Follow David's advice and test w/ a fair amount of ambient light and test at different speeds with corresponding aperture adjustments and you will notice your DOF will change. As the exposure gets longer the flash will be less prominent -- this may or may not be a good thing, but it is an important thing to consider.

    Use this technique on people and you will loose sharpness from their inadvertent movement as the exposures get longer.

    Even if you are using a tripod, a passing car, shuffling your feet (or if you live in house like mine) passing train or strong breeze can cause camera shake.

    If you set your lights up and test in total darkness the spread of light with the modeling lights and shoot the subject with only the strobes you can have more complete control of the lighting.

    On the flip side you can use the strobes as fills for ambient light and shoot as the conditions warrant.

    I'm not sure that knowing the 'best' shutter speed is as important as knowing how to achieving the desired effects within the known usable extremes ( between 1/300 for a strobe like Nick's and somewhere around 1/8 -1/30 when shooting people at an aperture that will give you the best DOF).

    FWIW I know a fashion and product photographer that swears that the faster the shutter speed the sharper the image. He uses MF equipment with in shutter lenses (max speed would be ~1/500 or maybe 1/1000 -- no good for the Nick's Metz). I am not sure what he knows to justify his argument, but there you have it - my 2c and an unknown somebody.

    *

  7. #7
    Max Power's Avatar
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    I want to thank you all for your responses; they have all helped in my understanding of how I ought to be approaching the subject.

    Obviously, the best thing for me to do is start experimenting with a flash in order to get a feel for how and when to use it.

    Thanks,
    Kent
    Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!

  8. #8
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    Kent

    a method that provides very neat results is to drag shutter and pop flash ,to freeze subject but still get great shawdow detail and blur.
    try setting the apeture for a certain distance to flash balance. say at 10 ft your f8.
    Measure the background and it may be F8 at 1/4 second.

    Set your apeture at f8 and then set your shutter for 1/4 second.
    When your subject moves into the 10 ft sweet spot , fire off your camera.

    The flash will take care of the subject that is in the 10 ft range and your shutter will compansate for the ambient lighting .
    this technique is good with a tripod.
    have fun

  9. #9
    Max Power's Avatar
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    So here's what I did...

    I set up a 'still life' in a corner with a large piece of cardboard, an off-white chair and a pillow with bold stripes of varying colours. I put in a small floor lamp with a 60watt bulb. My objective was to simulate 'normal' interior lighting conditions under which one usually uses flash. I also placed in the frame a variety of tones and textures to help in identifying the best shutter speed for each aperture. I then used the dial in the Kodak Pro Guide and determined that at 11ft I ought to use f8.

    I did a series of flash exposures at f11, f8 and f5.6 for each of 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250.

    If I understand the advice that you all gave me this is an appropriate approach to the question. I will develop the roll this evening to see the results.

    Can anyone offer any further opinons or points?

    Thanks,
    Kent
    Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!

  10. #10
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    So if I'm understanding correctly, you did one series of four exposures at f:11, four at f:8, and four at 5.6. My suspicion is that you will discover that all four exposures at f:11 will be essentially identical, as will all four at f:8, and all four at 5.6. Ambient light at this strength will make no significant contribution to the exposure at 1/30 sec. with this amount of flash power.

    If the flash exposure for your flash unit is f:8 at the chosen distance and film speed (based on the guide number, I assume), then I would do a series all at f:8 from the fastest speed to the slowest speed on your shutter. Look at the contact sheet, and note at what shutter speed you can detect a difference in the exposure based on the contribution of the ambient light.

    In average room lighting, an ambient exposure with no flash at EI 400 should be around 1/30 sec. at f:2.0, so if you're shooting at EI 100, that would be 1/8 sec. at f:2.0 or 2 sec. at f:8 (plus reciprocity, if you're using a traditional film). Under these conditions, you will probably not notice any significant contribution from ambient light until you're at around 1/2 sec.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

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