Playing with No Flash

I love my camera.  It’s like another child to me.  I talk to it, sing to it, take it everywhere with me and spend a lot of money on it.  Just like a member of the family.  My current pro camera has no flash.  It has a hot shoe mount, but no flash that pops up.  And I love this.  It forces me to think before pressing the shutter button and taking the picture.  And believe me, it has taken me a long time to be able to do this almost second nature, without looking at the dials, to do it subconsciously, manually.  And let me just say that I am in no way a camera genius, I definitely have a ton to learn about manual shooting and flash.  I’m just hoping everything I write today makes sense, it’s early and I’m still drinking my first cup of coffee as I write.

Last week at the cottage, the boys were sitting on the couch so nicely all together.  And let me tell you, that very rarely happens.  When it does, I like to grab my camera and try to get a shot.  Usually I’ll grab my little point-n-shoot (which I have to tell you I hate) because it is close to hand at home and my big pro camera is usually out of reach.  But last week at the cottage I only brought my pro gear.  As I sat in the chair opposite them, I looked at the light.  Being inside, I automatically change my ISO setting up from 100.  If I’m outdoors, I normally always have my ISO at 100.  To put it in layman’s terms, ISO determines how much noise shows up in your pic.  The lower the ISO number, say 100, the less noise there will be in your shots.  Think back to film days, when I shot film there was a great film made that had a really high ISO.  Somewhere around 2400, I can’t remember the exact number now.  But it would give you a very grainy, almost antique look.  But the higher the number, the slower the shot happens, letting in more light.  You will also get more blur if you don’t have a tripod or if you are moving too much.  Because of this, I like to keep the ISO at 100 if at all possible.  But sometimes I need to change that.  Most receptions I photograph are indoors in a dark reception hall.  I can tell you I normally shoot my receptions at an ISO of 400 or 800.  I’ve even done a few at 1600.  Not all cameras have an ISO feature that goes that high, and you have to watch the graininess of your shots when shooting at high ISOs.  Anyway, sitting in the chair opposite the boys I dialed the ISO up to 400.

I also almost always shoot with a wide open aperture.  My go-to lens is my 85mm fixed focus lens that can be dialed down to an F 1.8 aperture.  I would love to upgrade to the 85mm 1.4, even the 50mm 1.2, but let’s stay in reality here.  The lower the aperture number, the more light being let in.  This took me a long time to understand, it always seemed backward to me.  But 1.8 lets in more light than 5.6.  It also narrows down the focus considerably.  You just have to hold steady and make sure that everything you want in focus is on the same focal plane.  The boys were all sitting next to each other on the same level and therefore, all stayed in focus.  So I kept the aperture at 1.8.  This will also give you a creamy, out-of-focus background.  Camera guru’s call this bokeh.  The lower your aperture setting, the more bokeh you will get.  Another rule of thumb for aperture that I use, if i have one child in the shot, I know I can keep the aperture at 1.8.  If I have a couple, I like to dial it up to 2.2.  If I have a family of five, I’ll move it up to 5.6.  I try to keep the number of people corresponding to the F-stop number.  Not an exact science, but it helps me.

Next, I looked through the view-finder and focused on the boys.  I use my in-camera light metering system.  For my camera, this is great.  I trust the results and they seem to be right on.  I almost always shoot hand-held, very rarely using a tripod.  When hand holding my camera, I never want to be under 1/60 for my shutter speed.  If I can stay around 1/125, I’m happy.  When I’m out in the sun, that number could be all the way up to 1/8000.  The light coming in the slider door to the left of the boys was beautiful and allowed me to set my shutter speed at 1/80.  This was fine, as I was sitting in a chair and could balance the camera on my knees.  (I should have taken a picture of me doing this, I looked like a total professional…yeah.)

Now, the reason I love these shots is because of the lighting here.  There was only one light source, the big slider doors to the left of me.  The light seems to skim across their faces and is very creamy in color.  The tan skin and the brown couch help with that too.  This style is a departure for me, as I normally like a lot of light and get nervous about shadows or dark areas.  I love the depth of these shots and even though they are just candids, I love them.  Wow, that was a long post.  These shots are all straight-out-of-camera with no editing.  All taken at F1.8, 1/80, ISO 400.  Hopefully you made it this far and will enjoy these shots as much as I do.

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Categories: Family, Photography

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2 Comments on “Playing with No Flash”

  1. July 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Love, love, love the simplicity of these shots! Thanks for sharing all the info, althou I probably wont retain any of it 😉

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