Over the days leading up to the 25th of December I’d like to give something to everyone who stops by my blog. These tips cover camera settings, flash, lighting, software and gear. I’ll be providing a pair of tips each day until 25th December.

#35 – Manual flash exposure with Speedlites

manual flash exposure

It is no secret that i’m a big fan of E-TTL automatic flash. When you know how it works, and operate within the operating envelope where it works well, E-TTL is excellent. For me that means almost all the time. However, there’s one time that I always use manual flash exposure; and that is when the flash is aimed back towards the camera. For the photo above, I have one flash behind the model to create lens flare, and another to light her face. The flare inducing flash is set to manual exposure.

manual flash exposure

This shot is similar with a light on the model’s face, and another not quite out of shot, to provide a rim-light. The Speedlite at the rear is set to manual exposure, the one on the model is set to E-TTL. If the light from the flash falls on the subject from the camera direction or the side, then E-TTL is stable, but if you aim the flash to light the back of your subject, rim-lights, hair-light or similar, it needs to be in manual mode.

manual flash exposure

This is one time where I select Group mode on the Speedlite 600EX-RT or ST-E3-RT transmitter. Group mode allows me to set my main light groups to E-TTL and the light aimed back towards the camera to manual. When working, I first turn off the E-TTL groups of Speedlites, and take a test shot to see how the back lights look with my current manual setting. One the backlight is sorted, I can switch on the E-TTL groups.

manual flash exposure

Since this last shot is all backlit, the flash is set to manual, to give me the silhouette I wanted to create.

#36 – My Menu for quick access to regular features

my menu

My Menu is the green tab at the end of your camera menus. Many of the photographers who I train start off with this menu looking blank and un-loved. A short introduction to how useful it is and they’re converted. Some even turn off all the other menus and only need the “green zone” menus for their photography. Just think if all the items you needed where in a structure that made sense to you, and was perfectly optimised for you, that’s  My Menu.

my menu
Initially My Menu was just a single page with up to six menu items, but more recently, cameras have the possibility to add up to five sub tabs, each with up to six items. Each tab also can be given a descriptive name. The example above is from my EOS 7D Mark II where I have put several elements relating to focus settings in one easy to use location.

my menu
Lastly there’s a couple of options that determine what is displayed when you press the MENU button on the camera. By default you’ll return to the last menu item used, in any of the tabs or sections. You can have it jump directly to the My Menu section, or even show only the configured My Menu tab. This latter choice simplifies finding the items you need, if your My Menu is suitably configured.

Here’s a few more festive fifty tips

Festive fifty – day #8
Festive fifty – day #24
Festive fifty – day #14
Festive fifty – day #2

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