Tips & Tutorials

How to Produce Bright and Vivid Shots

Raising the ISO speed increases the sensitivity of the camera toward light (photosensitivity), allowing you to capture a bright shot with a small amount of light. If you increase the ISO speed and fire the flash at the same time in a telephoto shot, the light of the flash will be able to reach a longer distance. Sufficient brightness can also be obtained easily when the intensity of the flash light is weakened. In the following, I will explain the effects that can be obtained when you combine a high ISO speed with flash photography. (Reported by: Koji Ueda)

 

Capturing the Radiant Complexion of the Models

When the emitter of the flash unit is placed at a greater distance away from the subject, the light will disperse over a wider area, thus weakening the illumination on the subject. In this case, you can raise the ISO speed to enhance the photosensitivity of the camera. Doing so allows you to obtain sufficient brightness even when the intensity of the flash light is weakened. In this example, I set the ISO speed to 800 and exposure compensation to +2EV to capture the radiant complexion of the two models on the stage in a luminescent tone. To prevent subject blur caused by the movement of the subjects, I set the shooting mode to Shutter-priority AE, and set the shutter speed to 1/200 second.

EOS 600D/ EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM/ Shutter-priority AE (1/200 sec., f/4.0, +2EV)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto/ Flash: Speedlite 580EX II (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation: +0.3EV)

Tips

  • Use a higher ISO speed to make up for the weaker light due to the longer distance
  • Selecting the Shutter-priority AE mode to prevent subject blur
 

Shooting Condition

The distance of the camera from the models was about 5m. The stage was surrounded by railings so it was not possible for me to move closer to them. At ISO 100, a considerably large amount of light is needed to obtain sufficient brightness from this distance. A brighter atmosphere would have been more desirable.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 5m

 
 

Capturing Wild Birds in Vivid Colours from a Distance

To reproduce the vivid colours of this wild bird in a dim forest, I made use of a flash, and decreased flash exposure compensation to -0.3EV to prevent the strong flash light from ruining the natural atmosphere. However, the distance from the camera to the subject was about 10m. So, I set the ISO speed to 1000. By raising the photosensitivity of the camera while keeping the intensity of the flash low, I was able to reproduce the colours of the distant bird in a bright, vivid tone.

EOS 50D/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (1/200sec., f/5.0, -0.7EV) ISO 1000/ WB: Auto/ Flash: Speedlite 580EX (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation: -0.3EV)
Photos by: Shogo Asao

Tips

  • Raise the ISO speed to reduce the flash intensity
  • Reproduce the main subject in vivid colours using flash light
 

Shooting Condition

A dim, tropical cloud forest after the rain. I climbed up a low hill to capture a shot of the famously colourful quetzal perching on a tree branch at its eye level. It would be difficult to reproduce the vivid colours with just a high ISO speed.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 10m

 
 

Reproducing the Fair Complexion of the Models Naturally

Here, I made use of bounce flash with a reflector to capture the models in a place with natural lighting. I selected the Shutter-priority AE mode to prevent subject blur, and set the shutter speed to 1/125 second. Taking into account that there is minimal noise at a high ISO speed, I chose the ISO 800 setting. Exposure compensation was increased to +1.3EV to achieve the maximum aperture for the lens I was using, while flash exposure compensation was increased to +2EV. By combining a high ISO speed with exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation, I was able to reproduce the fair and radiant complexion of the models in my picture.

EOS 7D/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ Shutter-priority AE (1/125 sec., f/4.0, +1.3EV)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto/ Flash: Speedlite 580EX II (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation:+2EV)

Tips

  • Make use of bounce flash with a reflector
  • Use a high ISO speed, exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation to produce a bright shot
 

Shooting Condition

It was a big event venue, and the ceiling and walls were located far away from the camera. Moreover, the lighting of the location was adjusted according to the products on display, so shadows tend to be created by the partitions and pillars of the booths. I wanted to capture the models with a soft lighting, but the surrounding conditions did not allow me to make use of bounce flash.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 3m

B: Dispersed

 
 

Steps to shoot with a high ISO speed and flash

1. Select a shooting mode

 

Select a shooting mode on the camera according to the condition of the subject.

 
 

2. Set the shutter speed and aperture value

 

Select a shutter speed and aperture value according your expressive intention. For flash photos with a Canon flash unit attached, the maximum shutter speed is generally set to a value between 1/200 and 1/300 second (varies with the body of the camera model).

 
 

3. Set the ISO speed

 

Take a few test shots, and select an ISO speed according to the brightness of the surroundings. While noise may become more noticeable at a high ISO speed, the existing EOS cameras boast a high level of noise-reduction performance, so the skin tone of the portrait subject can be reproduced beautifully up to about ISO 800.

 
 

4. Adjust the ISO speed as needed

 

Check the image you have captured. If the brightness is different from what you expected, adjust the ISO speed accordingly.

 

 

For more tips and techniques on using external flash, check out:
In Focus: The Basics of External Flash Photography

 
 

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Koji Ueda

 

Born in Hiroshima in 1982, Ueda started his career as an assistant for photographer Shinichi Hanawa. He later became a freelance photographer, and is now engaged in a wide range of work from magazines to commercials while shooting different cities and landscapes all around the world. He is also a writer and a lecturer at photography lectures and workshops.

 
 

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