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Photography Question 
Rhonda Ramirez

Flash Photography: Beyond Snapshots

I use a digital rebel 300D. I love to use natural light, and I have a separate flash (when needed) so I never use my camera flash (built-in). But I still feel like my pictures are coming out like snapshots. How can I get that soft, glowing tones in a color photo without too much PS intervention? Viewing my gallery I guess would help me out and giving some pointers. Thanks to all.

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5/12/2006 4:49:42 PM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006
Part of the reason your pictures still look flat is because of the angle of the light. You didn't specify, but I'm assuming your (separate) flash is mounted on the hot shoe of your camera. The light is still head on, which is very flat, harsh and unbecoming, except for snapshots. A diffuser over the flash head will help to soften the light so it won't be as harsh, but it will still have that flat look.
You may want to look into a flash bracket, which will not only move the flash from over the center of the lens, but also elevate it some. This will help give you a little shadow and cut down on red-eye.
I use a stroboframe bracket for my Sunpak 544. I like to keep the flash as high as I can. This casts a little shadow so the light isn't flat looking. There are numerous types of brackets on the market these days that have adapters for all types of flashes from shoe mount to handle mount like my 544.
Whoever made your flash might also make diffuser panels that fit over the flash head to help disperse the light so it won't be so harsh. If not, there are a number of ways you can go on the after market, from inflatables, to soft boxes and mini-umbrellas. Or, at the very least, wrap a clean white hankercheif over the flash head.

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5/12/2006 7:34:29 PM

anonymous A.    I accepted your invitation to view your Gallery, Rhonda. The first thing I noticed is that, although you specifically asked about color photos, most of your pictures are monchrome; the color photos are mostly quite well lit, with nice tonal range. But the monochrome images are very flat, and I think there are a couple of issues. The first is focus and depth of field. You seem to prefer to leave large areas blurred out of focus, and in some cases there seems to be motion blur (camera shake or subject movement), associated with slow shutter speeds. I haven't read your descriptions yet, just viewed the pictures, but a good starting point would be to ensure that an appropriate range of your photos are in focus ( usually focussing on a point 1/3 between the closest and farthest points you want sharp will do the trick), but you need to keep a small enough aperture to achieve this; try to keep between f8 and f22 with the kind of photos you have on display.
This is partly a question of taste, so if you were aiming for the shallow DOF, fair enough, but it is adding to the flatness in the images.
The other main issue is the conversion to B&W (or sepia in one case). Just using the softwares IMAGE/MONOCHROME conversion does lead to flat, dull images. Using Color Channel, checking the monochrome box and then adjusting the Red, Blue and Green channels will add a lot of life and tonal range to your conversions (the total of the 3 channels should be about 100).
On the question of the use of flash, All I would add to Bob's excellent suggestions is to consider using a reflector in conjunction with your flash, and to try bouncing your flash off the walls or ceiling for a more natural, appealing light.

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5/18/2006 4:44:40 AM

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