This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Umbrella Differences

I finally got my new umbrella after a long two weeks of hassles from UPS. They kept coming by and leaving a note saying there were custom charges owing, when I had contacted them and paid for it. At any rate, I had ordered a 32" soft silver Wescott umbrella. I got a second umbrella for my second flash, and since I already had a shoot through it made sense to get a smaller, silver umbrella. I was curious to see the difference in lighting and shadows compared to my larger umbrella. I setup a quick subject on my table. The ambient lighting was at 1/4s f/2.8. I set my 20D to 1/125s - f/5.6 to get rid of any ambient. Here is the test shot with no flash on (if you adjust the levels in Photoshop you can get a surprisingly accurate view of the room!):

First I setup my 42" as a standard white umbrella. I had my 580EX flash set to 1/8 power for all shots. This was interesting, as they are all exposed similarly. The light stand to subject ratio was about the same for each shot. Here is the first shot:

For the 2nd shot I turned the umbrella around and removed the black cover, turning it into a shoot-through umbrella. Note that although the flash is effectively much closer, my exposure was the same. This is interesting to me - I see lots of talk about how much less efficient a shoot-through it, but at close range the fact that the light source is effectively closer means you really don't lose any light. This is useful for product shots, still life and baby photos. With baby shots, this is great, as you can get the umbrella much closer as a shoot through, and thus get softer shadows due to the larger apparent light size.

Finally, here is the new 32". I like the fact that it gives a more defined shadow. Not a huge difference, but nice to have a few options to play with. Note that I used a vase that is partially reflective so I could see the different reflections that the umbrellas make.

I can't say that I would use any of the combos if I were shooting something reflective, but it gives me an idea of what my catchlight is going to look like - without having to bore one of my sons to death.

Monday, November 19, 2007

ETTL Autoexposure

It took me some time to realize what was going on when I first started using my 580EX flash. I would consistently get what seems like underexposure. I almost never shoot without bouncing the flash off something, but even in direct flash result don't seem consistent.

This is a sample shot with no flash exposure compensation. I had the main dial set on manual - 1/80s at f/5.6. No ambient light is coming through, this is all bounce flash. Note the histogram has nothing in the top 1/4, where the most information is stored (in terms of digital 'bits').

At first I thought it was because when the flash is bounced, there isn't enough light, but when I set the flash to manual on full power (1/1), the scene ends up almost totally white. This tells me I have plenty of power, even when bouncing.

Here is a second shot with the exposure compensation for flash turned up to +1 1/3. This completely changes the histogram to look 'right'. Data all the way, and more what you would expect in a scene like this. Note that I'm not claiming this is exposed properly, but nothing is blown out, and you can pull back a bit on exposure after the fact. In the previous case, if I pull the exposure up, I get a lot of noise in the shadows with my 20D.

I find this to be the case with my Canon flash when used in ETTL. I almost always need overexposure on the flash to get a properly exposed shot. I typically run with +2/3 when shooting in auto.
The bottom line is that you need to go manual if you want to nail the exposure every time, as ETTL shifts around a bit depending on the brightness and reflectance of the subject.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Getting Started

The purpose of this blog is to discuss and document the things I learn about EOS photography. I have used Canon cameras since 1985, when I got my first Canon AE-1. I didn't know for about 3 years that I could set my lens to A and get aperture priority! (I was 12 at the time and bought the camera in Hong Kong, didn't get a manual I could read, and my third party Tokina lens didn't actually have the 'A', but a circle.)

Nowadays, I am using a digital camera, the Canon 20D. I won't go into detail about my other equipment, except to say that I have been experimenting heavily with off camera flash within the Canon wireless system. I've learned lots from the ubiquitous Strobist website, as well as many others.

I intend to post tips and tricks that I have learned, as well as before and after shots for stuff I learn along the way. Not really intending this to become something many read, but if I can save someone from having to learn the hard way, it will be worth doing. At the same time, it is a place to put all the things I figure out for myself to refer back to. I suspect I will be surprised to look back in a few years and see what I was doing.

Sometimes writing something down is another way to cement the lesson learned.