Photo Lesson Overview on CGIPix.com

CGIPix is an observation that Nikon, Canon and the rest no longer make cameras,
they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Here is a basic overview of what it takes to create good, better or best pictures, you decide how much effort you want to put into your pictures.

The basics of photography, all on one page:

Flash Lighting

Getting good results with a flash can be tricky. The first step is to get the flash off of the camera using a sync cord and a bracket system. This reduces red-eye, and creates more pleasing shadows. The second step is to use a diffuser to soften the lighting. Flash lighting is extremely harsh. Very few people look their best when you shine a flashlight in their face, and using a single flash gives the same lighting as a flashlight in the face. By using a diffuser, the flash lighting is dispersed, creating softer shadows. You can diffuse the flash by bouncing it off of a ceiling, or attaching a diffuser.



For this image, 3 flashes were used, placed on light stands around the tree. The flash was balanced by adjusting the aperture, and using TTL flash exposure.

Flash Sync

All cameras have a shutter speed that the flash will sync with. Most cameras sync at 1/60, 1/125 or 1/250 of a second. The faster the shutter sync speed, the more flash power you have when mixing flash with ambient light, here's how:

If the ambient light is reading at 1/60 shutter speed, and F11, then say your flash will travel 15 feet at a given ISO.

The same ambient light reading is for 1/250 shutter speed, and F5.6. Now your flash will travel up to 60 feet at the same ISO. You also have the advantage of blurring the background more with an F5.6 setting.

Indoors, where the ambient light is minimal, the flash sync speed doesn't come into play.

Fill Flash for Outdoors

Using a flash outdoors can add an extra element to photos of people, if done correctly. If it's overdone, the results will not be good.

Here's the equipment needed:
External flash
Sync cord
Flash bracket
Difffuser - I always prefer the Lumiquest for a diffuser, easy to use and store. Gary Foong and Stoffen are also good diffusers.

How to do it:
Take an ambient light reading, using either a light meter, built in meter of camera, or grey card with camera.
Reference the light meter reading to flash sync speed, i.e if it's 1/250 flash sync, and the ambient light is reading ISO 200, 1/250, F8, then set the aperture to F9, F9.5 or F10.
Set the camera and flash to TTL.
This will cause the flash lighting to be just a slight bit more than the ambient lighting.
Make sure the subject is not right in front of an object, have a little space, so there are no shadows, and the flash is not illuminating the background.
The subject will be slightly brighter than the background, and evenly lit with the diffuser.

You can also do variations, once you have the concept down. The subject will be properly exposed, and you can have the background at the same exposure, slightly overexposed, or slightly underexposed. The lighting is key, to be able to control the exposure like that. If the sun is providing direct frontal lighting, then you can't get the subject properly exposed, and the background overexposed, both will be overexposed, unless you have an asistant holding a screen to block the lighting on the subject. If it's a clody day, or you're in a shaded spot, then you can accomplish it. You can use the setting sun as a backdrop, to create dramatic lighting and colors.

A good way to practice is by putting an object in front of a window. Shoot pictures where the object is always properly exposed with flash, and the background is over, under and right on. Once you have it down there, you can transfer that shooting style into the field.

Light Falloff

The bad news for flash is the light falloff, if the subject is 5 feet away, then 1X amount of light is hitting it. If the subject moves to 10 feet away, the light drops to 1/4X. For this reason, when shooting manually or with a meter, make sure you keep the subject in a set range, to prevent overexposure or underexposure.

Methods for Controlling Flash

TTL - Through the Lens

Almost all cameras have a built in TTL sensor. The flash fires, and the camera reads the light returning from the flash, and then shuts the flash off when enough flash lighting is bounced back to the camera. This is the main method I prefer for flash lighting, it's easy, the flash recycles quicker than using full power, and the exposures are generally very good. Occasionally it's necessary to increase or decrease exposure through the +/- exposure compensation.

Guide Numbers, Manual Flash Settings

Setting up camera flashes manually does give you a lot more creative control, and more consistent results. You see what ISO, aperture and shutter speed and the distance to subject, and then set the power of the flash unit to give the correct exposure. Most flashes will vary in power level from 1/128 to 1/1, so you can specify to the flash how much lighting it will output.

Flash Meter Readings

The advanced method of guide number setting is to use a flash meter. A flash meter will record the amount of flash and ambient lighting, and then tell you the correct exposure to set on the camera. It's not spontaneous, because you have to flash, set and then shoot, but the results are the most accurate. As long as nothing drastic changes, i.e. ambient light or flash to subject distance, then you can continue to fire away, and the exposures will be good.
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