I have been saving up for quite some time,
The flash unit I have purchased was an FL-36R, the lower end option provided by Olympus. It eats up only 2 AA batteries easily lasting me averagely 200 shots (on 2050 mAh batteries), The flash unit is relatively small and light, and capable of wireless flash control via direct communication with the camera. In addition to that, the flash can do FP flash, a term used by Olympus to describe the high sync flash with shutter speed up to 1/4000 sec. The guide number is 36 which is not terribly helpful but I guess it will have to do for now.
I have been using the flash mostly for bounce shooting with the presence of walls and ceiling, and wireless TTL trigger for macro works (my spider and insect shots). Other than that, I usually tuck the flash away, and shoot with natural lighting. I have had a few preconceptions on how the flash may adversely affect my photography instead of improving it in certain circumstances.
And here is a list of my initial thoughts on flash photography, which in the end turned out to be myths !!!
Flash Myth 1: Flash photography creates unnatural colors and skin tone.
It is true to a certain extent that flash if not used correctly, can result in washed out colours and dreadfully displeasing looking skin tone. Often, the results would come out to be whitish, flat and very dull. Surprisingly, this was not the case for my first attempt. From the pictures, it is evident that the colours were still vibrant and alive, while the skin tone was not too badly affected at all !! The flash actually enhanced the skin tone in several areas: 1) reduce the shadows/contrast on the skin, 2) boost the brightness, as if the skin was glowing 3) added a hint of warmth, which was really desirable rather than a totally whitened out image.
Flash Myth 2: Using flash would create highlights and shadow clippings
Proper diffusing technique is important in this regard. I am still new to this, but so far the
Flash Myth 3: Using flash will result in dark and uninteresting background.
If you set everything in your camera to auto, yes that is probably what you will get, with your subjects being brightly lit and the background thrown off into darkness. It depends on what the photographer wants to do with the pictures, really. There are times the background is too distracting, hence darkening it by employing the flash can help pop out your subject. There are also times that we want the background to work for us, thus we need to bring it out to evoke a natural look on the photo. In my attempt, I have mixed both intentions; I still want the background to be visible to grasp the ambient mood, yet not too bright to distract my models. If you are using a manual control capable camera or a DSLR, you can surely play with the settings to get what you want in the background.
Flash Myth 4: Do not buy cheap external flash. It is not powerful and fast enough for event shooting.
People (you both know who you are) were getting concerned that if I bought the cheapo flash instead of the other higher end one which costed twice as much, I will suffer from poor flash performance. There are two main concerns here: 1) The flash may not be powerful enough to cover a long distance, and 2) The flash may not recycle (recharge) fast enough for continuous shooting.
To answer the first of the concerns addressed, I do not see any underexposed photo during the weekend session of fashion shows, as evidently displayed here in this entry. Yes, the flash is sufficiently powerful to cover the HUGE stage, producing evenly lit and bright pictures and I was not exactly standing at the best firing range. Also bear in mind that the power of the flash has been cut down to less than half by fixing the omni bounce diffuser on it. On the other hand, I do not shoot continuously in burst mode; hence the recycle waiting time was not a concern.
The performance did not dampen my speed much, and I was shooting comfortably as if I was not using a flash. Of course an FL-50R (the higher end option) could have been performing a lot better in every regard, but I am satisfied with what I have now. Being able to achieve what I needed well enough, yet at half of the cost, I should not be complaining much.
This session of Fashion Show was held at the Gardens, by Promod and Springfield. As you can see, the set up of the backdrop and stage were not as plain and as bright as the concurrent shows at Mid Valley. The ambient lighting was rather dim too, and the spot light hit directly from the front of the stage, starkly exposing the models from one heavy side. This compelled me to try using the flash, because I know I will most definitively end up with disastrous results without flash, having issues with imbalanced exposures.
Thank goodness there was the external flash unit to save the day.
The position I was shooting from for this session was not that good, and I was shooting the models from an extreme side. The ideal position would have been somewhere towards the center, facing more directly to the front of the models. Nevertheless, I was using merely entry level camera with budget lenses and accessories, who was I to stand amongst those “L” lens users who flooded the central shooting area. As they swing their lenses around I could be blown away by their forceful wind. Geez.
On the whole I was quite happy with the photos, considering this was my first attempt on event photography with flash. The skin tone came out better than I initially expected, and the flash was more than adequately powerful, bright and fast. I do not quite know how to describe it, but the flash gave the models a glowing quality, a more realistic three dimensional effect. Of course, I am still very fresh to flash photography, but hey, this session has proven me wrong on so many grounds (the four aforementioned myths) and broken the restrictions I have put myself on flash usage.
More samples on how effective the flash worked for me and the models in the coming entries !!