Ever wondered if you can get good quality directional light from your DSLR's popup flash just like the big boys with external speedlites do? This is what we'll try to find today. Hit the jump for the details.
DISCLAIMER: If you feel this post is hastily made, then you're probably correct, I had only one hour to prepare the images and write the post because of time constraints, so excuse me, I will be revisiting this topic later on with more finesse.
Ever since I bought my first speedlite I wanted a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce diffuser, I had almost zero lighting knowledge back then and I thought this was how everyone used their external flash, but since we don't have great camera accessories shops in Egypt, all I was able to find was this strange looking thing:
Excuse the lousy quality of the pictures but I really had no time (available light, handheld, ISO 1600), anyway, as you can see, this diffuser has a translucent white material at the top part, the sides and the front part, while the back part which looks black from the outside is lined with a bumpy reflective silver material from the inside. I think I bought this contraption for less than $6, and I also think it is supposed to fit on the speedlite's head some way or another, but I was never able to find any use for it with my flashes and it sat gathering dust for a long time.
Then one day I had the idea of using it on my camera's popup flash to bounce light of walls, can it work? Does the popup flash have enough power to get through the diffusing material, bounce from the wall and back to the subject and still give acceptable exposure? I know that new sensors now can deal with ISO 1600 with almost no noise, but will this be enough?
I think my camera's popup flash guide number is 13 or something, while the speedlites have guide numbers of 40 and more, but even then, I remember that in several situations my speedlite didn't need to use full power to successfully bounce and give me a good exposure. So to try this idea I started off with a high shutter speed to kill the ambient and see how the flash did on it's own, I even started with ISO 400 to challenge the flash even more. I will be using f/2.8 aperture throughout the post, needless to say, this whole article is talking about indoor shooting.
|Base Exposure - f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400|
|Direct Flash - f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400|
|Directional Popup Flash - f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO 400|
|Directional Popup Flash - f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO 800|
|Base Exposure - f/2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 800|
|Directional Popup Flash - f/2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 800|
You might be wondering by now why go through this hassle and not shoot available light directly, two reasons, first, for the sake of experimentation, I am a geek and I like to try things, and secondly, because it looks way better than overhead available light that throws ugly shadows, see for yourself.
|Available Light Only|
|Popup Flash Diffused Light (and no, the difference is not in WB alone)|