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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials In Focus: The Basics of External Flash Photography- Part5

[Part 2] Capturing bright and impressive shot of flowers and subjects with daytime sync

In [Part 2], I will explain the methods of photographing flowers and portrait using daytime sync. Now that you have mastered the procedure for daytime sync in [Part 1], the next step will be to learn how to use flash in situations with insufficient light, such as in a shaded area or at night. (Reported by: Koji Ueda)

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Capturing vivid colours of flowers under a shade

Even for shoots that take place in the day, the colour of flowers may turn out dull. In such cases, the flash comes in handy. As the colour of the flash light is close to that of the sunlight in the day, you can produce shots that are as vivid in color as those illuminated by direct light. However, note that shadows would be created at the back of the flowers if the flash is too strong. In this example, I corrected the flash exposure to -1EV to create a natural ambience.

EOS 60D/ EF35mm f/2/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.5, 1/250 sec.)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ Flash: SPEEDLITE 430EX II (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation: -1EV)


  • Use flash to reproduce vivid tones
  • Adjust the flash output using flash exposure compensation

Shooting Condition

A shot of flowers blooming in a park. The vivid colour of the blossoms turned out dull as a result of the shade, so I used the flash in replacement of the sunlight.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 1.0m

Capturing portrait shots while retaining the colour of the sunset

When capturing a portrait shot with the setting sun in the backdrop, adjusting the exposure based on the portrait subject would result in an excessively bright background, thus compromising the ambience of the scenery. Taking this into account, I selected a decreased exposure. When there is a very strong light source inside the image, such as the sun, it is difficult to obtain the intended brightness in the automatic exposure mode. In the example here, I adjusted the exposure according to the brightness of the background in the manual exposure mode, and fired the flash to brighten the portrait subject, which would otherwise appear underexposed as a result.

EOS 7D/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ Manual exposure (f/10, 1/250 sec.)/ ISO 100/ WB: Flash use/ Flash: SPEEDLITE 430EX II (Manual, 1/2)


  • Set to a decreased exposure in the manual exposure mode
  • Adjust the brightness of the subject by firing the flash manually

Shooting Condition

This shot was taken on a hill with the setting sun included in the backdrop of the portrait subject. I used a tripod to steady the composition as well as to prevent camera shake.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 5.0m

How to create lively portrait shots

By firing the flash to brighten the eyes of the portrait subject, you can produce shots with livelier expressions. Light that is reflected in the eyes, known as "catchlight," increases in size when the area of the light source is larger. In this example, flash is fired with the flash emitter directed toward the reflector behind the photographer. The purpose of the reflector is to reflect and diffuse light. Here, the amount of light reflected and diffused was insufficient, so I compensated the flash exposure by +1.3EV.

EOS 600D/ EF50mm f/1.4 USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/200 sec.)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ Flash: SPEEDLITE 580EX II (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation: +1.3EV)


  • Use the flash to create catchlight in the eyes
  • Use a reflector to reflect light from the flash

Shooting Condition

The portrait subject was standing in a shade in this shot. Under normal circumstances, the resulting image would turn out dark. Also, the beautiful skin tone of the female model would not be conveyed, and her expression would also look dull. What I did in this case was to use a reflector behind the camera to reflect light from the flash, and make use of the soft diffuse light to brighten the subject.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 0.2m

B: Approx. 1.5m

Steps for Exposure Compensation

For models with a Quick Control Dial

Check the state of the Multi function lock switch, and enable the use of the Quick Control Dial. Next, turn the Quick Control Dial* while half-pressing the shutter button, or within four seconds after half-pressing (six seconds in the case of the EOS-1D series). Turning the Dial in the clockwise direction increases the exposure (brighter), while turning it in the opposite direction decreases the exposure (darker).

* For models not built in with functions such as those in Figure A, half-press the shutter button, followed by turning the Quick Control Dial.

For models with the Exposure compensation button

Turn the Main Dial while pressing down the Exposure compensation button. To increase the exposure (brighter), turn it in the clockwise direction. To decrease, turn it in the opposite direction.

Tips The size of the catchlight varies with the size of the reflector

The size of the catchlight is proportionate to the size of the light source reflected in the eyes. In other words, a large reflector is recommended if you want to create a larger catchlight. Also, the close the reflector is from the eyes, the larger it will appear, so try to find an ideal position for the reflector, camera, and subject. If a reflector is not available, you can use a white wall or a piece of white paper as a substitute.

Change in the size of the catchlight with the reflector size

Small Reflector

Large Reflector

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.