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A Beginner's guide to exposure when mixing flash and continuous light

The message A Beginners Guide to Exposure when blending Flash and Continuous Lights first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever struggled with situations with high contrast? Perhaps you have come across shadows that are so dark or large that they steal the attention of the subject? That's because sometimes you have to add a second light to your images. However, if they are different types of light, it can be difficult. Keep reading for a beginner's guide on how to expose when you mix flash light and continuous light.

Taking a photo means capturing and registering the light, so understanding how to do that is the key to achieving good results. In this tutorial I want to talk about continuous light and flash light, and how you can set your exposure to register both. First I will explain what I mean by these conditions.

Types of lighting

Continuous lighting

Continuous light (also called constant light) is the light that stays on during the entire duration of the photo. This can be natural light when you are outside, but it can also be window light when you are inside. It can also be artificial light, such as a table lamp or even professional photography lighting. In short, it varies from the sun to a candle – as long as it is continuous.

Flash lighting

Then there is flash lighting, which is only available for a short moment when activated. This can be a professional flash light, a flash outside the camera or the flash that is integrated in your camera. You can use these two different lamps exclusively or together to supplement your lighting. You can use them to create a special atmosphere or to achieve a certain effect. In this tutorial I will explain how you can set your exposure when you use both continuous and flash exposure in the same shot.

Mix the lighting styles together

I want to show you a situation where I continuously used natural light as the main light and then filled in the shadows with a flash outside the camera.

I took this first photo with only sunlight from a window on the left and behind the camera. The camera settings used were ISO 2OO, f / 8 and 0.3 sec. It is enough to light the bowl of fruit; however, the dark shadows that it has thrown on the wall are not attractive.

Photography is about presenting our three-dimensional world in two-dimensional ways. To do this, we use different things. One of them is a shadow because they give depth. So we don't want to remove all shadows – we want to determine how many there are, how dark they look and their direction. If I slow down the shutter speed to let in more light and fill in the dark shadows ' to soften them, the main subject is overexposed.

If I slow down the shutter speed to let in more light and fill in the dark shadows ' to soften them, the main subject is overexposed. It happens here at ISO 2OO, f / 8 and 2 seconds.

That is why it needs a different light source from the right. You can add this light source with another continuous light or with a flash. I did this image with ISO 200, f / 8, 0.3 seconds – the same settings that I used for the correct exposure with only the continuous light. This solved the problem of a series of shadows, but ended up creating new shadows on the other side, so I have to correct the exposure again.

Because the flash is only a flash of light that lasts a fraction of a second, it makes no difference how long your shutter speed is open, such as when shooting with continuous light. You can set your shutter speed as slowly as you want or as fast as the synchronization limit allows (in my case that is 1/250 sec). The flash exposure must be controlled by the aperture.

I used ISO 200, 1 sec, f / 11 for this image.

In this image I used ISO 200, 1 sec, f / 16.

If you set the shutter speed to the light coming from the left, which means that the continuous sunlight comes out of the window and the aperture is set based on the light coming from the right flash, you can control the full lighting of the scene.

Conclusion

You can determine which shadows to keep and which shadows must be filled in and by how many. To summarize, have an image with depth and sufficient information both in the highlights and in the shadows to keep as desired as a shot or post-production.

Exposure ISO 200, 1/250, f / 8

* Extra tip

As you may have noticed in the examples, each light has a different color temperature, so some pictures have warmer or colder tones. This is a broad subject that I cannot cover in this one article, but I wanted to mention it. When you mix different types of lighting, you may have to handle this. Sometimes the auto white balance of the camera does well enough. But if that is not the case, I advise you to do some more research into it.

The message A Beginners Guide to Exposure when blending Flash and Continuous Lights first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Ana Mireles.

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