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Thread: Photography without flash, anyone?

  1. #1

    Default Photography without flash, anyone?

    First, some background:

    I'm a new DSLR user. Currently own 450D with kit lens, and added 50mm f/1.8 recently. One of the reasons for wanting to pick up photography was to take good pix of my baby. Other reasons include wanting to take good pix of travels (but this is another story). Anyway, want to take good pix to preserve the moments in life, so that I can still look back 30, 40, 50 yrs from now.

    With the kit lens, I couldnt capture pix of my 2-yr-old in indoor, low-light conditions, so I got the 50mm f/1.8. This lens is marvellous for indoor, low-light conditions, and I did manage to get pretty decent pix of my baby.

    Now the problem(s):

    Been doing single subject (i.e. my baby) at f/1.8 with good results. With group photos (say 3 or more people) or "birthday events", f/1.8 indoors seems to be producing out-of-focus shots probably because of the poor DOF. I think I will try f/2.8 or lower in time to come.

    Here comes the question(s):

    Or is it because I didnt use flash?

    I'm not averse to flash photography, but thought that I'll take things a step at a time. In fact, I believe that flash photography is another major study in itself. After all, photography is all about lighting, lighting and lighting, yeah? (if you want to discuss this, pls start another thread, tks.)

    Does anyone shoot solely without flash, i.e. all the time? How do you do it? With what lens/equipment, and what settings for indoor low-light conditions, taking group photos?

    Is it sustainable to shoot without flash? i.e. is it easier to learn flash photography at the same time as you are starting to take pix without flash (perhaps because it boosts confidence by having produced good pix)? Or should I continue to take things one step at a time, i.e. take pix without flash first, master it, then move on to flash?

    Comments or advice from anyone welcome, newbies or seniors alike.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Honestly, you will never *fully* master both flash and available light (non-flash) photography, but there is no one right path to take. Some people prefer learning one at a time, some people will try and learn both.

    Chances are your group photos are soft because of the very shallow depth of field (DOF). You are right, stopping down from f/1.8 to something like f/2.8 may help. Depending on how large a group, sometimes f/2.8 is also not enough, and you must stop down further to f/4 or even f/5.6. All this will come at the expense of a slower shutter speed than if you were to shoot at f/1.8.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    me not very pro la.. but F1.8 is not poor DoF la. It is just very thin.

    If you taking group shot, probably u have to use F4.0 and then this is where the aperture is smaller thus maybe you will need flash so that you can shoot at higher shutter speed. Otherwise, pump the ISO if you have no choice.

    A flash definitely comes in handy in future. Bouncing/Diffusing the flash will nicely lit up ur subjects. But of cos natural light is good! use natural light whenever u can. probably ask ur subjects to stand near a window. It will be good if there is some see-through curtains so that u have some diffused lighting.

    the reason u start this thread means u are already thinking of getting a flash.. hehe. don't hesitate.... go grab one.
    maybe you can consider a softbox to cover the on-camera flash first? that will be a cheaper alternative.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    end of the day, whether to use flash or not will depends on what u want to get out of the shot, assuming its not because u definitely have to use the flash. u just need to understand its all just light and how u want to make it work for u.

  5. #5
    Moderator ortega's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    the idea is to make the flash look as natural as possible,
    while at the same time illuminating your scene with enough light to allow you to shoot with more DOF.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    hmm...it seems alot of ppl are getting a DSLR for the sake of their newborns. the manual functions does help alot in not using flash, which of course is not advisable for newborns. i have pretty much the same queries as TS, and the next question is whether the built in flash is sufficient. i am contemplating buying an external flash unit, but am holding on as i seriously consider whether is it necessary just for normal group photos in dimlight, or would the built in flash suffice, considering there is no intention of events photos with huge crowd.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Turn up the lights, drag lamps and lights in from other rooms, bump up the ISO. Picture too noisy, use Neat Image or any of the noise reduction programs around. Close down the f-stop to at least f/5.6 for anything more than 2 rows. Aggak aggak one more stop per additional row. Move slightly further back.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Or is it because I didnt use flash?

    If u use flash, u can easily get sharper shots at bigger f (e.g. 5.6, 8, etc). That flashlight helps a lot in shooting at faster shutter speed (less handshake blur), and with the bigger f, u can get a gd cover of people in groups. Hence, naturally, u will observe that shots with flashes turns out sharper, more "in focus".

    Does anyone shoot solely without flash, i.e. all the time? How do you do it? With what lens/equipment, and what settings for indoor low-light conditions, taking group photos?

    I shoot w/o flash most of the time. There are situations which no flashes cannot one. Lenses that can help me will be VR/IS lenses, bigger aperture, etc. Usually ISO nothing lower than 800. If possible, tripod will be good. For group photos, u have to use bigger f numbers, can't think of other ways.

    Is it sustainable to shoot without flash? i.e. is it easier to learn flash photography at the same time as you are starting to take pix without flash (perhaps because it boosts confidence by having produced good pix)? Or should I continue to take things one step at a time, i.e. take pix without flash first, master it, then move on to flash?

    It all depends on u. I started off with manual flashes. Screwed up many times and learned things the hard way. Soon i started to shoot more discretely by not having flashes. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. It will be helpful to experience and learn both, be it same time or not.

    Hope this helps.
    cameras are not made of tofu

  9. #9

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    for newborn better not use any flash. bad for their eyes... not fully developed yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by TigerOyster View Post
    hmm...it seems alot of ppl are getting a DSLR for the sake of their newborns. the manual functions does help alot in not using flash, which of course is not advisable for newborns. i have pretty much the same queries as TS, and the next question is whether the built in flash is sufficient. i am contemplating buying an external flash unit, but am holding on as i seriously consider whether is it necessary just for normal group photos in dimlight, or would the built in flash suffice, considering there is no intention of events photos with huge crowd.

  10. #10
    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    yes, i shoot solely without flash all the time. but then i'm a total failure with indoor shots and never got to push myself to try any studio or model shots. got a sb600 but hardly ever use it, becos i dun cope well with the unsatisfactory lighting control and that didn't entice me to practice either. to date, only have 1 gd flash shot, and the rest countable in fingers and toes all failed shots.

    but then since u say indoor event of small groups, why not push your focal length to a wider angle lens with large aperture? i have a 10-20mm which resolves the depth of view issue, and 20mm is decent enough to acceptable distortion. if your group is small, you need not even push for 20mm, how abt the various prime fast lenses with focal length 24-35mm? i'm in the same situation of trying out something wider than 50mm but not as wide as 10-20mm

    Quote Originally Posted by bluepanda View Post
    First, some background:

    I'm a new DSLR user. Currently own 450D with kit lens, and added 50mm f/1.8 recently. One of the reasons for wanting to pick up photography was to take good pix of my baby. Other reasons include wanting to take good pix of travels (but this is another story). Anyway, want to take good pix to preserve the moments in life, so that I can still look back 30, 40, 50 yrs from now.

    With the kit lens, I couldnt capture pix of my 2-yr-old in indoor, low-light conditions, so I got the 50mm f/1.8. This lens is marvellous for indoor, low-light conditions, and I did manage to get pretty decent pix of my baby.

    Now the problem(s):

    Been doing single subject (i.e. my baby) at f/1.8 with good results. With group photos (say 3 or more people) or "birthday events", f/1.8 indoors seems to be producing out-of-focus shots probably because of the poor DOF. I think I will try f/2.8 or lower in time to come.

    Here comes the question(s):

    Or is it because I didnt use flash?

    I'm not averse to flash photography, but thought that I'll take things a step at a time. In fact, I believe that flash photography is another major study in itself. After all, photography is all about lighting, lighting and lighting, yeah? (if you want to discuss this, pls start another thread, tks.)

    Does anyone shoot solely without flash, i.e. all the time? How do you do it? With what lens/equipment, and what settings for indoor low-light conditions, taking group photos?

    Is it sustainable to shoot without flash? i.e. is it easier to learn flash photography at the same time as you are starting to take pix without flash (perhaps because it boosts confidence by having produced good pix)? Or should I continue to take things one step at a time, i.e. take pix without flash first, master it, then move on to flash?

    Comments or advice from anyone welcome, newbies or seniors alike.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    ok...looks like there are anti-flashers here...

    Also, looks like my problem is a DOF problem, and if indeed so, isnt it true that no amount of the sun's power can save it, let alone a flashy little box?

    Quote Originally Posted by ortega View Post
    the idea is to make the flash look as natural as possible,
    while at the same time illuminating your scene with enough light to allow you to shoot with more DOF.
    Ortega, care to explain a bit more about this idea of yours? Does it involve buying and setting up more equipment, like reflectors and such?

    my reservations about using flash are twofold:
    1. there are already many variables to control. Can do with one (or more) less.
    2. there are already many things to carry (on a trip). Can do with one (or more) less.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoossh View Post
    ...why not push your focal length to a wider angle lens with large aperture? i have a 10-20mm which resolves the depth of view issue, and 20mm is decent enough to acceptable distortion. if your group is small, you need not even push for 20mm, how abt the various prime fast lenses with focal length 24-35mm? i'm in the same situation of trying out something wider than 50mm but not as wide as 10-20mm
    er...how does a 10-20mm lens resolve a DOF issue?

  12. #12
    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    wide angle have wide depth of field, esp indoor where foreground and background is not that far apart.

  13. #13
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    The answers you need are already given to you by DM and Mr Ortega.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    Turn up the lights, drag lamps and lights in from other rooms, bump up the ISO. Picture too noisy, use Neat Image or any of the noise reduction programs around. Close down the f-stop to at least f/5.6 for anything more than 2 rows. Aggak aggak one more stop per additional row. Move slightly further back.
    Yes, increase the ambient light, this one no need people to tell you, most aunties and ah soh also know these.


    Quote Originally Posted by ortega View Post
    the idea is to make the flash look as natural as possible,
    while at the same time illuminating your scene with enough light to allow you to shoot with more DOF.
    Yes, that's right, using (ceiling or wall) bounce light, off camera bounce flash etc etc...

    Quote Originally Posted by dingzyangz View Post
    for newborn better not use any flash. bad for their eyes... not fully developed yet.
    that is only refer to when parents shoot their baby with direct flash, built in flash with very close up, most adults already can not tahan the flash fired within one feet, how about babies?

    btw, most professionals shoot babies with flash, check out how Anne Geddes shoot babies, she shoot babies with 4x5 camera and huge studio flash, does all the babies turn blind after the sessions? (those who using 4x5 camera before should know minimum working aperture is f11 or f16)
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  14. #14
    Moderator ortega's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluepanda View Post
    ok...looks like there are anti-flashers here...

    Also, looks like my problem is a DOF problem, and if indeed so, isnt it true that no amount of the sun's power can save it, let alone a flashy little box?

    Ortega, care to explain a bit more about this idea of yours? Does it involve buying and setting up more equipment, like reflectors and such?

    my reservations about using flash are twofold:
    1. there are already many variables to control. Can do with one (or more) less.
    2. there are already many things to carry (on a trip). Can do with one (or more) less.

    er...how does a 10-20mm lens resolve a DOF issue?
    actually i shoot with and without flash, depends on the lighting situation at that location/time.
    that "flashy little box" is actually quite powerful in the hands of a skilful photographer.

    of back to your "problem" of not enough DOF

    to get more DOF for your indoor group shots

    1. shorter focal length has more DOF than greater focal length
    2. greater camera to subject distance has greater DOF than shorter distance
    3. smaller aperture (larger F number) has greater DOF than bigger aperture

    so if you do not want to use a flash, you need to maximise the above to get as much DOF as possible.

    or just pop on a flash and bounce it from the ceiling set your camera to
    Manual mode aperture F8 (for more DOF)
    shutter speed 1/60 (or as slow as you dare) to catch more ambient light
    ISO speed as much as you dare (depending on your camera)

    Set flash to TTL and click
    experiment to get different results

    or get the top of the line cameras with great high ISO noise control
    and shoot at ISO6400

  15. #15
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    btw, group photos need f5.6 and above.

    you need 1/60 sec to prevent handshake and subject movement.

    kit lens is good enough for most situation.

    getting a 10~20mm lens for group photos need skills, or else you will make the people at the corners with very big faces like a basin or elongated heads like aliens.
    Shoot to Live, Live to Shoot
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  16. #16

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by zoossh View Post
    wide angle have wide depth of field, esp indoor where foreground and background is not that far apart.
    If object appears same size within the frame taken by long and short focal length, both should have same DOF.

    Read this article at http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/dof2.shtml
    See my Photo Gallery at the Clubsnap

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    Moderator ortega's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by megaweb View Post
    If object appears same size within the frame taken by long and short focal length, both should have same DOF.

    Read this article at http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/dof2.shtml
    but if it is not the same size in the frame, there is more dof
    and there is no/little distortion
    here is the results

    taken with a 18-70mm lens, 1 shot at 70mm and 1 shot at 18mm and cropped

  18. #18

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by ortega View Post
    but if it is not the same size in the frame, there is more dof
    and there is no/little distortion
    TS's object is a kid, thus object should be similar size within a frame.
    See my Photo Gallery at the Clubsnap

  19. #19

    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    sorry, perhaps I was the one made all of you confused about the intent of this thread...

    It's not a discussion about DOF per se. I'm sort of 80% sure the problem I had was a DOF problem, but just wanted to tompang my own thread to ask if flash would solve the problem, or at least part of the problem.

    The main discussion, as the thread title suggests, should be on who uses flash and why. Do you use flash because you like the results or effects? Or do you use flash because you had no choice under those circumstances where light was just not enough? Do you use flash because, when used properly, it will enable you to shoot at a smaller aperture but faster speed yet capture enough light for the correct exposure?

    Conversely, for those who don't use flash - do you NOT use flash because you don't like the results? Do you NOT use flash because you were not able to control its use properly and the results didnt turn out well? Do you NOT use flash because you had the same concerns I had (i.e. less variables, less equipment)?

  20. #20
    Senior Member zac08's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photography without flash, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluepanda View Post
    sorry, perhaps I was the one made all of you confused about the intent of this thread...

    It's not a discussion about DOF per se. I'm sort of 80% sure the problem I had was a DOF problem, but just wanted to tompang my own thread to ask if flash would solve the problem, or at least part of the problem.

    The main discussion, as the thread title suggests, should be on who uses flash and why. Do you use flash because you like the results or effects? Or do you use flash because you had no choice under those circumstances where light was just not enough? Do you use flash because, when used properly, it will enable you to shoot at a smaller aperture but faster speed yet capture enough light for the correct exposure?

    Conversely, for those who don't use flash - do you NOT use flash because you don't like the results? Do you NOT use flash because you were not able to control its use properly and the results didnt turn out well? Do you NOT use flash because you had the same concerns I had (i.e. less variables, less equipment)?
    Why I would use a flash?

    To add illumination to a low light scene.
    To give the picture more oomph, the extra sparkle.
    To give me a better shutter speed and more DOF.
    To give the picture shadows in the right area.
    To light a backlit subject.

    these are just some of the reasons which one would choose to use a flash.
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