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Thread: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

  1. #1

    Default How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Need some help here with night potrait shots with background scenary. What i would like to achieve is e.g. there is a very nice background with lightings etc, but the area the person standing is quite dark, how do i illum the person and at the same time the background lightings and scenary will also be captured?

    Do i need to use a tripod and do slightly long exposure, if so what are the recommended shutter speed? since i want the background i suppose i need small aperture at least 8 or 11?

    My limitation is i am still using pop-up flash, would getting a pop-up flash diffuser help by not overexposing the person standing there?
    Sony a330 | 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 | 50 f/1.8 | M 28-80 f/4-5.6 | M 80-200 f/4.5-5.6

  2. #2

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    another question is if i get a external flash and use diffuser, how much would it helped? sorry i am new to flash photography and never use external flash b4 so need some guidance here.
    Sony a330 | 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 | 50 f/1.8 | M 28-80 f/4-5.6 | M 80-200 f/4.5-5.6

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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    It's ok to use your pop-up flash for now. Expose for the background, use flash for your subjects according to the aperture. At night, you probably DO need a tripod to expose the background well.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by karnage View Post
    It's ok to use your pop-up flash for now. Expose for the background, use flash for your subjects according to the aperture. At night, you probably DO need a tripod to expose the background well.
    but if shutter speed is slow, will the person be overexposed i mean is it anything to do with TTL and can the pop-up flash TTL be adjusted automatically?
    Sony a330 | 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 | 50 f/1.8 | M 28-80 f/4-5.6 | M 80-200 f/4.5-5.6

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    Senior Member Numnumball's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    For night portraiture, you need to compensate for passive factors in the scen, for instance lighting conditions, color temperature, and background elements etc. Most important of all depends on how well you balance flash with ambient light.

    Tripod is a must, as you need to stop stop to somewhat f8/11 to have a greater DOF (in whcih ideally u want ur subject and BG Elements to be in focus).

    Go M Mode, Flash on Rear Curtain/Slow Sync and adjust ur FEV or EV accordingly to blend ur flash with the ambient light, resulting in a more natrual lighting, this require experimenting and trial/erroring till the desired effect is attained.

    Using pop up flash is better than no flash at all, but it does have limitations, with the most apparent being that it?s fixed to the camera. Blasting the subject under dark conditions with head-on flash produces an unflattering portrait with harsh shadows on the face that can exaggerate the size of the nose or make eye sockets seem deeper.

    Another issue is that the blast of illumination may not match the ambient portions of the scene, leaving it very dark. Range is another issue with built-in flash. It has reach constraints,so if the subject is farther away, the flash exposure will underexpose the image.

    My advice : Get a external flash
    Last edited by Numnumball; 14th December 2009 at 11:38 AM.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    you need to understand how flash photography works first, remember that a flash will only light the subject and for bright background the camera will likely meter ONLY for the background, that's why for this reason, you almost mostly need to use M mode or S mode so you have full control of the shutter speed, since it is dark, you mostly do not want to care much about aperture as you're priority is to avoid motion blur and get background lighting, it's impossible to get people subject and background all sharp, remember you need light and your flash's short reach can ONLY light your subject, if you want to expose your background you will have to use long shutter speeds which makes it impossible for people subjects to not move so it's a trade off..

    most of the time shutter speeds 1/60 will do, fast enough to counter motion blur (subject movement or camera shake), but also slow enough to get ambient lighting..you will also need to boost your ISO to around 1600..in my case, 1/60 shutter, max aperture (f1.8-f2.8), 1600 ISO and flash will make for a bright background and properly exposed subject, of course you must experiment and develop your own style, you can even adjust flash compensation to fire strong or weak flash..

    another alternative is front/rear curtain sync flash but you need your subject to be still for a longer duration
    Last edited by gimumancer; 14th December 2009 at 12:09 PM.

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    Senior Member madmartian's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Hi, please read your manual. I'm sure there are instructions in it for night shoot. Or look at the dial on your camera & select night mode.
    Take the shot!

  8. #8

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    You may still use your pop-up flash. But it doesnt add shape to your subject as the flash is firing straight unto the subject.

  9. #9

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Look up 'how to photography natural looking night portraits', 'Night portraits', 'Lighting for nightportraits', and 'dragging the shutter'. Also look up similar topic on youtube.

    The information and tips online will be far more comprehensive.

    Also, if you're innovative and understand how light works, you need not be so limited by your in-built flash.

    Get innovative, and think of ways to shoot half-body or close-up portraits with the in-built flash and get bounced SFX and fill light, diffused soft light as well as medium or hard side lighting and fill! It CAN be done.
    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 14th December 2009 at 09:18 PM.

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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by hoppie View Post
    but if shutter speed is slow, will the person be overexposed i mean is it anything to do with TTL and can the pop-up flash TTL be adjusted automatically?
    To answer you directly and assuming a couple of things, TTL should automatically adjust to NOT overexpose your subject. BUT if your ISO is high, or your subject is closer than your flash's optimal range, overexposure is possible, in which case, you can adjust your flash output to lower some more.

    The main advantage of digital photography is instant feedback, so don't be afraid to experiment! =)
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by hoppie View Post
    Need some help here with night potrait shots with background scenary. What i would like to achieve is e.g. there is a very nice background with lightings etc, but the area the person standing is quite dark, how do i illum the person and at the same time the background lightings and scenary will also be captured?

    Do i need to use a tripod and do slightly long exposure, if so what are the recommended shutter speed? since i want the background i suppose i need small aperture at least 8 or 11?

    My limitation is i am still using pop-up flash, would getting a pop-up flash diffuser help by not overexposing the person standing there?
    A diffuser would be good if die die must use pop up. A tripod is a must because you need to slow down the shutter quite abit to capture the background details. You can also try spot metering on the person.
    Last edited by Burnings; 15th December 2009 at 08:03 AM.

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    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    when using flash, you can get away with a slower shutter speed handheld if you know how to balance it out. Shutter speed cannot be too slow but something in the range of 1/15, 1/20 is workable. Then balance out the exposure with ISO bump, while leaving your flash in TTL mode. A pop-up is less desirable due to: 1. no bounce, 2. no diffuser, 3. weak.

    This is a not a great sample of composition and photo taking but just want to show you what is possible and the settings used to achieve this.


    D90 on M-mode Shutter 1/15s, Aperture F2.8, ISO 720,
    SB-600 flash on TTL diffused with a stofen omnibounce at around 45% tilt.
    Tamron 17-50/2.8 at 34mm

    BTW, anyone who has been to jimbaran beach in bali will know that it is really quite dark after the sun set there.
    Last edited by daredevil123; 15th December 2009 at 08:25 AM.

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    Member Burnings's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    I think the TS meant that he wants to capture the person as well as the BG in details.

  14. #14

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    for something like this no need tripod la. hahhaha i think its over kill. unless you need it to show client. for your own fun, just learn to stand and breath properly.

    the first thing to note when not using a tripod is that, you have a limit on the longest shutterspeed you can hold (VERY STILL) for. My limit's at 1/13 at 50mm. but i think you should try 1/25 to be safe. So you are hereby limited by your hands and camera's make and len's quality. etc. its important to understand these limitations. EG handhold limit = 1/25. lens limit = f4, camera Limit = ISO800 for acceptable noise.

    So for night shots, a good guide line is to start with such limitations. means set camera to M mode. 1/25, f4, iso800. that should give you a good picture. if its too bright. simply dial the settings abit. eg up shutterspeed OR increase fnumber OR decrease ISO. But if its too dark, you're bummed. coz you're already at your limits. you have to work within your limits. (unless you want to use a tripod)

    the whole of the above part is for the background. Now for the subject. chances are, she is going to be underexposed. you will need to light her up with FLASH. Do note that Flash Exposure and normal Exposures are 2 entirely different things. They only become releated if the background is very near the subject but thats another topic altogether (and using flash a main light). So now use your flash to light your subject. dial the FEC (flash exposure compensation, its found in your menu, under the "bracketing" option) up if theres not enough flash. If your subject is Overexposed, simply move her to another spot with less light on her.

    of course you need to learn to stand properly. eg stand firmly on ground. close your chicken wings. make your body as compact as possible. lean against something if possible. and breathe slowly. hold your breath just before your click. eg2. almost the same as firing rifle
    Last edited by IsenGrim; 15th December 2009 at 10:25 AM.

  15. #15

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    wow really informative but guess need to try it out before i can understand the stuff. thanks guys!
    Sony a330 | 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 | 50 f/1.8 | M 28-80 f/4-5.6 | M 80-200 f/4.5-5.6

  16. #16
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    Quote Originally Posted by IsenGrim View Post
    for something like this no need tripod la. hahhaha i think its over kill. unless you need it to show client. for your own fun, just learn to stand and breath properly.

    the first thing to note when not using a tripod is that, you have a limit on the longest shutterspeed you can hold (VERY STILL) for. My limit's at 1/13 at 50mm. but i think you should try 1/25 to be safe. So you are hereby limited by your hands and camera's make and len's quality. etc. its important to understand these limitations. EG handhold limit = 1/25. lens limit = f4, camera Limit = ISO800 for acceptable noise.

    So for night shots, a good guide line is to start with such limitations. means set camera to M mode. 1/25, f4, iso800. that should give you a good picture. if its too bright. simply dial the settings abit. eg up shutterspeed OR increase fnumber OR decrease ISO. But if its too dark, you're bummed. coz you're already at your limits. you have to work within your limits. (unless you want to use a tripod)

    the whole of the above part is for the background. Now for the subject. chances are, she is going to be underexposed. you will need to light her up with FLASH. Do note that Flash Exposure and normal Exposures are 2 entirely different things. They only become releated if the background is very near the subject but thats another topic altogether (and using flash a main light). So now use your flash to light your subject. dial the FEC (flash exposure compensation, its found in your menu, under the "bracketing" option) up if theres not enough flash. If your subject is Overexposed, simply move her to another spot with less light on her.

    of course you need to learn to stand properly. eg stand firmly on ground. close your chicken wings. make your body as compact as possible. lean against something if possible. and breathe slowly. hold your breath just before your click. eg2. almost the same as firing rifle
    Thing is, the flash is very fast and will freeze action of the illuminated subjects. The only problem with too slow a shutter speed is the background may get too blurry or mushy.

  17. #17

    Default Re: How to do night potrait shots with Flash?

    You need a tripod for sure for best result. If not you will see your model is sharp yet the background esp. the lights are all blurr/ wavy. If you use nikon set the flash to REAR. Set it in A mode, the shutter will be slower than the original setting or i say the same without flash. So now you shoot, the model will be lighted while you see you still can see your background.

    Btw, i dun recommend using f8 and above. f4 should be the best but you really need to see what you are shooting.


    Quote Originally Posted by hoppie View Post
    Need some help here with night potrait shots with background scenary. What i would like to achieve is e.g. there is a very nice background with lightings etc, but the area the person standing is quite dark, how do i illum the person and at the same time the background lightings and scenary will also be captured?

    Do i need to use a tripod and do slightly long exposure, if so what are the recommended shutter speed? since i want the background i suppose i need small aperture at least 8 or 11?

    My limitation is i am still using pop-up flash, would getting a pop-up flash diffuser help by not overexposing the person standing there?
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