BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Michelle Montgomery

Dark Photos with Speedlight

I have a Nikon D200. Is there any reason my photos would come out dark if my camera is set at an ISO of 1000 and f3.8 and I was using the Nikon speedlight 800? It was in a chapel with not too bad of lighting. Could something be wrong with my camera or the lens? FYI, I am NOT a professional.

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6/27/2011 6:25:06 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Michelle,
There is a learning curve to using a speedlight, and there are courses here. But if you are set up for TTL and metering on the subject - you should get better results. Also note that when you increase your ISO, you are also increasing the power of the flash.
I took a wedding course at BetterPhoto a few years ago and the speedlight was part of the lessons such as using diffusers, bouncing the light off of ceilings & walls and much more critical information.
Hope this helps,

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6/27/2011 7:33:29 AM

Bruce A. Dart   Hi Michelle,
Carlton is right, there is so much with each flash. I teach a course at a local university and spend two hours covering flash and only scratch the surface. So much "depends!" Since the fall-off of light varies in an inverse square proportion, in a very short distance there is half as much or twice as much light...essentially, F-Stops. What seems like a little distance can actually be twice or four times less or more light. The size of the room and how close you are to walls also is important. Too close and you get more shadows, too far away and you "lose" light. TTL or through the lens technology helps balance flash and ambient light. Take a photo with only ambient light in a gym and you can see the other end of the court lit pretty well. However, a flash lights up a distance of 10-20 feet and the other end suddenly goes dark. With manual flash, say set at F8 to properly expose the subject, a slower shutter speed is needed to pick up more ambient light. The TTL sort of does that by leaving the shutter open a bit longer to balance things out. Bouncing things off walls and ceilings is cool if they are close enough (40' ceilings don't work well) and the COLOR also is critical. A green wall, for example, will bounce GREEN into your image. The key is to test and practice. With the SB800 you can also adjust the output in partial F Stops either up or down. Add a stop of light or decrease it by a stop. Sometimes by setting the flash to minus 1 stop and using more ambient light you can get a more natural looking image. Other times you need to bump it up. as Carlton mentioned, ISO also can help in low light, although with the D200 I found it was helpful to have the high ISO noise reduction turned on to help avoid the digital noise. Best of luck.

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6/28/2011 5:57:06 AM

John Quinn   Hi, Michelle,
There is a very good chance that your shutter speed was way too high...given the extremely high ISO and wide open aperture. You may well have exceeded the appropriate flash-sync shutter speed of 1/200-1/250 sec.

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6/28/2011 8:34:19 AM

Susan K. Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2010
  You can cut your learning curve by taking classes at BetterPhoto on flash photography. Because I'm a Canon user, I took Introduction to Your Canon Flash with Paul Gero. But other instructors may teach Nikon.

Regardless, Paul used both the Canon manual for the flash as well as the camera. I would imagine that this would apply to Nikon as well, as both need to talk to each other and they will if the setting is correct.

Check out the courses offered at:
You might receive a directional answer by writing one of the instructors to see if they can help you, upon your taking their class, with your Nikon.

It's by far the easiest way to understand and receive the answers to questions with your flash, as I no longer know Nikon.

When I shot manual, film Nikon cameras, I used an off-brand flash but had taken a course from a local professional and he helped me learn the basics.

Courses cut the learning curve enormously. Otherwise, go to your local camera store and have them explain to you how to set up your flash for your camera. If you bought your flash and camera online (as I did), the only solution is to take a course. If you bought it from a local store, perhaps they know how to work the equipment they sell.

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6/28/2011 9:50:45 AM

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