Help me to get started with the SB800, please

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May 7, 2007
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Hi

I just can't get to grips with the SB800 on my D300 at all. I'll admit I should have spent a little more experimenting but even the shots that I have done so far have been so appalling that the SB800 has sat in my bag un-used. Its now time to try and get a bit of use from it.

There are a couple of situations I want to learn how to approach a shot in terms of setup of the camera and flash unit. I can get the CLS working no problem but dont fully understand how to control my often poor results.

My first aim is to take a shot into a nice sunset with a subject (probably a person) in the foreground, well exposed. I'd be happy to get the SB800 off camera if required.

Secondly I'm just looking for a general setup for everyday shooting. I took a few shots last weekend, outdoors on a fairly bright day, but with a pretty flat grey cloud covered sky. I probably incorrectly used iTTL-BL mode and the images were hideously over-exposed.

Can anyone help me love the SB-800, I think if I get just a few results, I'll be far more inclined to knuckle down and learn it properly.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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My first aim is to take a shot into a nice sunset with a subject (probably a person) in the foreground, well exposed. I'd be happy to get the SB800 off camera if required.
Dave Hobby is The Strobist. He has an article on his blog titled, "How to Shoot Flash Into a Sunset" that's a perfect response to your question.

Secondly I'm just looking for a general setup for everyday shooting. I took a few shots last weekend, outdoors on a fairly bright day, but with a pretty flat grey cloud covered sky. I probably incorrectly used iTTL-BL mode and the images were hideously over-exposed.
There are two possibilities. If the subject was overexposed, you may have been to close. Your sb800 needs to be at least 3 feet from the subject for iTTL to work. If the entire frame was overexposed, you were probably in aperture priority mode, and it was due to the setting for max shutter speed when using flash.

Can anyone help me love the SB-800, I think if I get just a few results, I'll be far more inclined to knuckle down and learn it properly.
You'll find plenty of helping hands on this forum. The best way to start is to show us an unsatisfactory result, along with all of the shooting data.
 
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Gordon I'll start with you first as I havent quite gotten to try Frank's suggestions yet but I do want to say a sincere thanks to you both for taking the time to reply.

Ok Gordon, all I can say is WOW, this is exactly what I have been trying to do/learn, I fired off a few test shots in the garden just there and I've far from nailed it yet but I'm a heck of a lot closer than I was.

I'm just about to grab some dinner but I'll post up my results when I'm done.

Thank you.
 
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Ok, guys I now have the images on the pc and they dont look just as good as I had thought. In each I reckon I have underexposed the subject quite a bit.

Please ignore composition etc, these are just test shots to try and get the lighting correct. The images are SOOC, with only a colour profile adjustment to sRGB for web. They were shot RAW with Auto WB and centre weighted metering. The speed light had the bundled diffuser installed and was in TTL mode.

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View attachment 222836

View attachment 222838

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In most cases I struggled with the shutter speed so had to shoot at F22 to get one stop below what the background was metering at (that's what I'm supposed to be doing right ?). The first shot above was actually the last shot taken and it had gotten a little darker so I could open up the apperture a little more.

So yeah the subject looks underexposed and I suppose so is the background but I reckon looking at Gordon's tut I simply need to dial in some +ve EV on the speed light to resolve this (subject) and go with the meter to lighten the background ?

Despite these first results, I am still really pleased as I do feel, like the tut says, that I'm back in control and that I now have a way to get closer to what I'm after .

Perhaps you'd like to see the image that prompted this thread ?

Again SOOC

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Frank, your correct I was in AP mode - is this a no/no for Flash and if not may I ask why ?

Thanks again gents. I'd be happy to hear any comments/tips from anyone, no matter how harsh.

I'll try and get Gordon's tut down, then I'll ask about Auto FP, then try and move on to Franks link. Off to practice...

***I am also aware of the dirty big dust splodges, hoping to get sensor prof cleaned this weekend.
 
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Frank, your correct I was in AP mode - is this a no/no for Flash and if not may I ask why ?
Aperture priority mode isn't the problem. That's my preferred mode 95% of the time, since it allows me to determine how much depth of field will surround my subject.

But let's say I'm in aperture priority mode, and have selected f/4.5 and iso400 (as you did).
  • If it's a bright scene, the camera might want to use a shutter speed of 1/2000 to get the proper exposure.
  • But if I put a flash in the hotshoe or pop up the internal flash, the fastest shutter speed my d200 can assign is, by default, the max sync speed of 1/250.
  • I'll get a warning in my viewfinder. Where it normally displays the shutter speed, it will display HI. That indicates the light is too bright for the shutter speed, and that I'll get an over exposed picture.
  • But the camera presumes I noticed the HI, didn't think it was saying hello, and wanted to take the picture anyway.
The result is the kind of blowout you got in your example.

The exif data shows the picture was taken at f/4.5 1/250 (max sync speed) iso400. The flash didn't overexpose the picture... the ambient did.

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Some ways of solving the problem:

  • Always use your camera's lowest iso setting for outdoor flash shots.
  • Check for the HI warning before tripping the shutter.
  • You have the option of setting the max flash speed to FP, which allows flash to be used at any shutter speed, but the range of your flash will be reduced at shutter speeds above 1/250.
 
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In most cases I struggled with the shutter speed so had to shoot at F22 to get one stop below what the background was metering at (that's what I'm supposed to be doing right ?).
Unh, not necessarily. Let's look at the exif data for the shot.

50mm 1/250 f/22 iso200

The problem is your flash was struggling to put out enough power to light your subject at f/22. The first thing you should have done was to lower the sensitivity of the camera to iso100. That would have brought your aperture requirement down to f/11 and given your flash a fighting chance.

If you look at the histogram, you'll see that both the subject and background are well underexposed. But that's not as big a problem as you might think. You're actually just a keystroke away from a terrific picture.

If you have some version of Photoshop, open the picture and press the key combination [Ctrl + Shift + B]. That invokes auto-color, and viola!

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Autocolor doesn't always work, but it did with varying degrees of success on all 4 of your samples.
 
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I have adjusted your exposure to the right on your histogram and it now shows that the balance between subject and background is close to being right. I would need to know more about the positioning of your flash, lens used, aperature, shutter speed, etc., before I could analyze why your overall exposure is approx. 1.5 stops too low.

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Oh, I see that Frank has given you some good advise. I had not seen that before I made this post. Keep at it you are getting close.
 
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Aperture priority mode isn't the problem. That's my preferred mode 95% of the time, since it allows me to determine how much depth of field will surround my subject.

But let's say I'm in aperture priority mode, and have selected f/4.5 and iso400 (as you did).
  • If it's a bright scene, the camera might want to use a shutter speed of 1/2000 to get the proper exposure.
  • But if I put a flash in the hotshoe or pop up the internal flash, the fastest shutter speed my d200 can assign is, by default, the max sync speed of 1/250.
  • I'll get a warning in my viewfinder. Where it normally displays the shutter speed, it will display HI. That indicates the light is too bright for the shutter speed, and that I'll get an over exposed picture.
  • But the camera presumes I noticed the HI, didn't think it was saying hello, and wanted to take the picture anyway.
The result is the kind of blowout you got in your example.

The exif data shows the picture was taken at f/4.5 1/250 (max sync speed) iso400. The flash didn't overexpose the picture... the ambient did.

Some ways of solving the problem:

  • Always use your camera's lowest iso setting for outdoor flash shots.
  • Check for the HI warning before tripping the shutter.
  • You have the option of setting the max flash speed to FP, which allows flash to be used at any shutter speed, but the range of your flash will be reduced at shutter speeds above 1/250.
Frank, putting it like that it now seems so obvious to me - doh ! I can't believe I was so stupid. I had been shooting without flash hence the settings and didn't bother to think that when I applied the flash gun, I'd have to redo my settings on camera.

Great advice many thanks AGAIN.
 
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Unh, not necessarily. Let's look at the exif data for the shot.

50mm 1/250 f/22 iso200

The problem is your flash was struggling to put out enough power to light your subject at f/22. The first thing you should have done was to lower the sensitivity of the camera to iso100. That would have brought your aperture requirement down to f/11 and given your flash a fighting chance.

If you look at the histogram, you'll see that both the subject and background are well underexposed. But that's not as big a problem as you might think. You're actually just a keystroke away from a terrific picture.
Ahh got you, the D300's lowest ISO value is 200 but it does have 'lo' settings that would have achieved this - I must engage my brain ! Also just checked the histogram and I can see there is a huge chunk of data missing from the RHS of the graph.

I'll be honest Frank, I cant quite get my head round what you mean regarding "enough power to light your subject at F22" but I'll make a stab and you can correct me if i'm wrong...

Are you saying that the apperture is so small that the amount of power required from the flash is huge and perhaps too much in this case to light my subject ? I suspect this is what you mean.

If you have some version of Photoshop, open the picture and press the key combination [Ctrl + Shift + B]. That invokes auto-color, and viola!

Autocolor doesn't always work, but it did with varying degrees of success on all 4 of your samples.
Great tip, I tend not to use autocolour but will take a look at this, I have had a play myself and can salvage quite a bit from the shot in ACR alone so its not too far away but I wanted to show you guys the image SOOC and will be working to try and get my exposure closer in camera.

Your a star - thank you. :smile:
 
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I have adjusted your exposure to the right on your histogram and it now shows that the balance between subject and background is close to being right. I would need to know more about the positioning of your flash, lens used, aperature, shutter speed, etc., before I could analyze why your overall exposure is approx. 1.5 stops too low.

Oh, I see that Frank has given you some good advise. I had not seen that before I made this post. Keep at it you are getting close.
Gordon, the flash was mounted on the D300 pointed straight at the subject, I was keen to get some of the nice evening sky in hence the shooting angle. I used a 50mm lens 1/250 f/22 iso200. But I'm assuming that the reason you'd give for the underexposure would be as per Frank's advice above.

Thank you for taking the time on this.
 
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Dave Hobby is The Strobist. He has an article on his blog titled, "How to Shoot Flash Into a Sunset" that's a perfect response to your question.
I read this quickly yesterday and it pretty much went right over my head, reading it again today and armed with the knowledge from Gordon's tut, I can see that the principal is almost exactly the same.

Now all I need is a nice sunset to try it out. Well right now in Scotland just some sun would be nice...:biggrin:
 
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I'll be honest Frank, I cant quite get my head round what you mean regarding "enough power to light your subject at F22" but I'll make a stab and you can correct me if i'm wrong...

Are you saying that the apperture is so small that the amount of power required from the flash is huge and perhaps too much in this case to light my subject ? I suspect this is what you mean.
Yes, that's what I was suggesting. Normally, the sb800 would have more than enough power to illuminate a subject at such close range, even at f/22, but if I understand correctly, you had installed the diffuser dome over the flash head. The dome scatters light in all directions, which is useful if you're indoors in a small room where the light can bounce off the walls and ceiling to bathe the subject in soft light from all directions. But when you use the dome outdoors, the mis-directed photons can never return, so you effectively reduce the max power of your flash to a fraction of its potential. I believe the combined effect of f/22 and the diffuser dome thwarted your speedlight's best efforts.
 
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Yes, that's what I was suggesting. Normally, the sb800 would have more than enough power to illuminate a subject at such close range, even at f/22, but if I understand correctly, you had installed the diffuser dome over the flash head. The dome scatters light in all directions, which is useful if you're indoors in a small room where the light can bounce off the walls and ceiling to bathe the subject in soft light from all directions. But when you use the dome outdoors, the mis-directed photons can never return, so you effectively reduce the max power of your flash to a fraction of its potential. I believe the combined effect of f/22 and the diffuser dome thwarted your speedlight's best efforts.
Thank you Frank, you are once again correct, I did use the diffuser but I had no idea that it had such an impact on effective output power - but I do now. Thanks again.
 
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I thought I'd post an update of how I'm getting on using the techniques suggested to me. Please ignore composition etc as I've only be concentrating on getting the technique correct. Any feedback would be welcomed.

My friend Tony with Glasgow in the background, ISO100, F20, 1/250s:

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My pregnant wife proudly displaying her bump, ISO100, f20, 1/50s:

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My friend Gordon whilst we were camping on Arisaig Beach, Scotland - a most unwilling model - LOL, ISO640, F20, 1/10s (I know I should have opened up the apperture here) to allow a drop in ISO or increase in shutter speed)

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Thanks again for all your help.
 
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Congratulations on the upcoming addition to your family, Anthony! Your wife is very beautiful.

And congratulations on the progress you've made with 2 part lighting. Your results are good, and based on the comment you placed with your last sample, you understand the process. Now we need to work on getting your flash off the camera ;-).
 
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. . The dome scatters light in all directions, which is useful if you're indoors in a small room where the light can bounce off the walls and ceiling to bathe the subject in soft light from all directions. But when you use the dome outdoors, the mis-directed photons can never return, so you effectively reduce the max power of your flash to a fraction of its potential. . .
Frank,
This I understand; is the same true with the built-in wide flash adapter? Or would one be better off using nothing to "shape" the light while shooting outdoors? Off-camera flash of course!!!
 
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Frank,
This I understand; is the same true with the built-in wide flash adapter?
I don't know how much it attenuates the light from the flash, but deploying it sets the sb800's zoom head to 14mm, and scatters light all over the place. Outdoors, that will result in wasted power.

Or would one be better off using nothing to "shape" the light while shooting outdoors? Off-camera flash of course!!!
Since mis-directing photons does nothing for the softness of the light, I'll either use the bare flash, or increase the size of the effective flash area by using a Lumiquest softbox that velcros over the front of my speedlight.
 
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