On the sixth day of Christmas…

This is not time for geese, especially six of them… today is time to use flash to balance with the available light on location.

Aperture priority – no flash

Without flash, just ambient light

Without flash, just ambient light

So first up is a picture where no flash is used, the model is positioned in the shade of a large tree. The camera is set for aperture priority and f/4 is chosen to reduce the depth of field. The camera opts for a 1/30s shutter speed to try and balance the model and the brighter scene in the background.

Aperture priority – built-in flash

With on-camera flash

With on-camera flash

Activating the built-in flash makes some improvement in the balance of the lighting. The camera now realises that to get a reasonable exposure for the background it can select 1/60s shutter speed and the flash will light the model and tree trunk. The result is not ideal since the on-camera flash is just a flat source of light right from the camera position. The pattern detail in the models jumper is flat and there’s actually a hint of red-eye too.

Aperture priority – off-camera flash

With off-camera flash

With off-camera flash

Simply adding an off-camera flash in E-TTL mode to the right of the camera gives the picture a real improvement. The light from the side starts to sculpt the texture in the model’s jumper and all hint of red-eye is gone. The exposure is still 1/60s at f/4 and this is a fully automatic picture. I was using the EOS 650D on this particular shoot so simply used the Easy Wireless setting on the camera to control the off-camera flash.

Balancing flash and ambient light

EOS cameras automatically balance the ambient and flash exposures if you use aperture priority – that’s how they are designed to work.

If the ambient light level is low then the camera will happily select really long shutter speeds so keep an eye on the shutter speed the camera is choosing. I often switch to manual exposure mode on the camera in dim conditions.


See you tomorrow for another in the 12 tips for Christmas…

All I want for Christmas is you…

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This is one of a series of twelve posts, inspired by the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I’m giving all my blog readers a free tip for each of the twelve days.

About the twelve days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas start with Christmas Day and ends with the eve of Epiphany on January 5 th. The Twelve Days of Christmas dates back to English origins in the sixteenth century although the music is reputed to be French. The first publication date for The Twelve Days of Christmas (The 12 Days of Christmas) was 1780.

source: 12 days of Christmas

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag