Adjusting flash power with flash exposure compensation

Trick Photography And Special Effects

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When you shoot with your built-in flash, the camera attempts to adjust the flash output as needed to produce a good exposure in the current lighting conditions. On some occasions, you may find that you want a little more or less light than the camera thinks is appropriate.

You can adjust the flash output by using a feature called flash compensation. This feature works similarly to exposure compensation, discussed earlier in this chapter. But flash compensation affects the output level of the flash unit, whereas exposure compensation affects the brightness of the background in your flash photos. As with exposure compensation, the flash compensation settings are stated in terms of EV (exposure value) numbers. A setting of 0.0 indicates no flash adjustment; you can increase the flash power to +2.0 or decrease it to -2.0.

As an example of the benefit of this feature — again, available only when you shoot in the advanced exposure modes — take a look at Figure 5-26. I snapped these tomatoes during bright daylight, but they were shaded by a tent awning. The first image shows you a flash-free shot. Clearly, I needed a little more light, but at normal flash power, the flash was too strong, blowing out the highlights in some areas, as shown in the middle image. By dialing the flash power down to EV -1.3, I got a softer flash that straddled the line perfectly between no flash and too much flash.

No flash

Flash EV 0.0

No flash

Flash EV 0.0

Figure 5-26: When normal flash output is too strong, dial in a lower flash compensation setting.

As for boosting the flash output, well, you may find it necessary on some occasions, but don't expect the built-in flash to work miracles even at a flash compensation of +2.0. Any built-in flash has a limited range, and you simply can't expect the flash light to reach faraway objects. In other words, don't even try taking flash pictures of a darkened recital hall from your seat in the balcony — all you'll wind up doing is annoying everyone.

Whichever direction you want to go with flash power, display Shooting Menu 2 and highlight the Flash Exp Comp option, as shown on the left in Figure 5-27. Press Set to activate the little meter and then rotate the Main dial to specify the amount of flash compensation. A higher value increases flash output; a lower value reduces it.

Flash exp comp WB SHIFT/BKT Custom WB Color space Picture Style Dust Delete Date

Flash exposure compensation setting

Flash exposure compensation setting

Figure 5-27: Adjust flash power via Shooting Menu 2.

By the way, if you use flash exposure compensation a lot, you can customize the camera so that pressing the Set button displays that control, saving you the trouble of using the menus. Chapter 11 shows you how.

To let you know that flash compensation is in effect, the icon labeled on the right in Figure 5-27 appears in the Camera Settings display when you press the shutter button halfway. You see the same plus/minus flash symbol in the viewfinder, although this time without the actual flash exposure compensation value.

As with exposure compensation, any flash-power adjustment you make remains in force, even if you turn off the camera, until you reset the control. So be sure to check the setting before you next use your flash.

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