External 580EX II flash usage on my T1i, overcoming intimidation of it

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mtbdudex, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    #1
    I bought my Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash in Dec-09, but just now am getting around to "playing" with it, experimenting with its capabilities, limitations, etc.

    Even though I've had the T1i since Oct-09, I wanted to learn the camera usage w/o flash, and not overload on too much learning.
    Now I'm ready for the next level....hopefully.


    I plan on using this flash for indoor family group shots, outdoor fill flash, I'd like to experiment with some H20 drop freeze action (those are cool), etc.

    I'm looking for suggestions for me to get:
    - Which 1 book to really learn my flash? (yea, I hate to ask this way)

    I like reading a book and then trying the device, I’m not into online reading learning material as much; my reading time is usually 8:30-9:30pm at night after kids put to sleep, or while I hide for 20-30 minutes in the "reading room" with door shut (aka bathroom).


    I’m also looking at flash diffusers, many people recommend this one:
    Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce (white)
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t..._shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=A17MC6HOH9AVE6&v=glance

    While I’m at it/ordering, should I get these also for different lighting situations??
    Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce (Green and Gold)
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t..._shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=A17MC6HOH9AVE6&v=glance

    Plus an Off-Camera Flash Sync Cord.


    I’ve got a boom stand which I used for my IB subwoofer acoustic measurements, possible I could use that to hold the speedlite for indoor shots?
    I’d need a long enough sync cord. I’m not going $$$ wireless at this time.
    It has thd end which should be adaptable for off camera lighting.


    Honestly, I'm somewhat intimidated by the 580EX II , even though I've read the manual that comes with it 2-3 times, but I do want to learn how to use it.
     
  2. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #2
    Shooting is a great way to learn, or taking a class, strobist.org is good (but online). Alternatively, find pictures you like that used flash and see if you can recreate the effect. I don't have an actual flash book (unless you want a book for studio type lighting, there are a million of those, but life will get expensive as you realize you need a bunch more lights).

    The omni-bounces are fine, I am not the biggest fan, but they are small and indestructible and much better than a straight-on flash. Check out something like the better bounce card, it is more work and less durable, but can give better results.

    I would recommend getting used to on camera flash (bounce, straight-on, with a diffuser, manual and ETTL), then moving on to off camera flash. Shooting manual flash on camera will help you get a feel for the power setting you need off camera. When you move to off camera, if you start using diffusers (like umbrellas), you will notice you photos become magically better (and much less like horrendous PnS flash shots).

    The 580 is pretty simple to use wired. The wireless on it could definitely be more user friendly though (although you aren't going that way at this time).
     
  3. panoz7 macrumors 6502a

    panoz7

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #3
    The best flash book I've found, hands down, is Light Science and Magic. It's a good place to learn the technical foundations / rules of lighting. It's not so great if you want creative inspiration, though the author's have recognized that and provide a pretty good explanation for the reason the book is the way it is.

    I'll second reading through the strobist blog. It's a bit intimidating at first, but once you understand its structure it's not too bad. I'd start by reading through the lighting 101 and 102 archives and some of the linked to on assignment posts. There's also a page with some pretty good book recommendations.

    In terms of the stuff you want to buy, I'd highly recommend either building your own sync cables, or going wireless from the get go. With off camera flash you're usually going to be using manual anyway and there's no real need for a cord that can handle ettl. If you're going to to go wireless then I'd recommend the cybersync transmitters from paul buff. They've worked really well for me and are about half the cost of pocket wizards. If you do want a ettl capable cable or really any flash related cable then look at flashzebra.com. They have just about everything you could need and great service too.

    You'll also probably want to get an umbrella at some point in which case you'll also need an umbrella adaptor which attaches to a light stand (and maybe your boom stand) and has a hole for the umbrella and a hotshoe for your flash. I use manfrotto adaptors, but you can get much cheaper generic ones too for around $10. You'll also probably want to pick up some color correction gels since with only one flash you'll often be balancing it with ambient.

    Don't be too intimidated by your flash. If there's one thing I really took away from that light, science, and magic book it's that light is light, regardless of its source. Most of the complexity in your flash is going to disappear once you flip it to full manual. Then all you have to do is decide what power you're going to set it at and what beam spread to use. Then it just becomes another light and you no longer have to worry about it as much.
     
  4. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2005
    Location:
    Netherlands
    #4
    There is lots of info on the internet regarding flash photography. For bouncing google ' a better bounce card'. Useful youtube video, that will give you much info and will save a lot of money on plastic tupperware.

    Have a look at Neilvn's website Oh forgot to tell you the obvious: play play play (read: practice)
     
  5. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #5
    A diffuser is always good, but you can use the built-in diffuser in a lot of places. Bounce the light off the ceiling, a wall, etc. Also, access the flash's menu and crank the light output to around +1/3 or +2/3. After doing that, mount the flash on your camera, and set the camera's "external flash" settings to control the flash (both should match).

    Set your camera to M, f/4, maybe f/5.6 or so for a very small group, ISO around 400 (or auto). Experiment with these settings. Also, read the stickies relating to flash photography in the forum below, and then read about what others are doing with their flashes.

    Experiment at a party or something by setting the ISO around 1600 and using the flash. Remember that the flash illuminates the subject, while the camera's sensor uses the ambient light (look a some high ISO photo samples):
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=35

    Please note that a lot of the training classes posted above can be downloaded and printed (that's what I did). Also be aware of the copy-write laws, which should not be a problem as long as you use the information only for leaning how to use the flash.

    You can start here:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=138907
    High ISO and party shots:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=369787
     
  6. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #6
    Huh? I thought the saying was that aperture controls flash while shutter controls ambient, and ISO affects them both.
     
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    #7
    I would skip the diffusers. understanding how they work is more useful since you can figure out a better way to do it.

    an off-shoe cord is not that useful for off-camera unless you're using a flash bracket. just get wireless triggers.
     
  8. mtbdudex thread starter macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    #8
    Thx everyone for all the advice/suggestions.

    I'll practice shoot this weekend around the home, prior to Easter weekend.
    I like the play, play, play, but with limited time I want effective play with worthwhile learning involved.

    Since we live in a log home I can't do the bounce off the ceiling trick, the wood will colorize the images "weirdly", correct?

    I've ordered the White, Green and Gold Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce, I was at "The Camera Mart" in Pontiac Mich and they were not in stock there. (I'm willing to support "local" camera shop with my biz).
    Definitely
    strobist.org is "the place" to learn online, hmm if I had an iPad no need for books...

    Fwiw, this basement DIY bathroom project has been pre-occupying my "spare" weekend time over past few months.
    Now I'm in the homestretch, grouting the tile this weekend and installing the shower glass doors, so there will be more "play" time shortly.
    My goal was "done" by Easter, probably setting bath floor tile Easter weekend then toilet install/cabinet/sink install. So, weekend after easter....(sorry tmi, I'll be just glad to get this done)
    [​IMG]
     
  9. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #9
    The flash illuminates the subject, and the light reaches only so far on TTL. By using high ISO, any ambient light in the background (past the light from the flash) is also gathered by the sensor. Instead of an exposed subject and a black background you get an exposed subject and a light background.
     
  10. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #11
    Ok, if that suits you. Personally I'd rather increase the shutter time than suffer high-ISO noise though.
     
  11. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #12
    There isn't too much noise with high ISO when a flash is used. If any noise, it's not on the subject (person) but in the background, and this can be easily removed if that's what one wants to do. Take a look at the second link I posted above. The OP was experimenting with his new 580EX II at a party, and a lot of people are doing the same. Most times you don't want to show the background since you are trying to isolate the subject, but sometimes it's nice to show the people listening to the main subject, or just doing their thing whatever that may be.
    This one:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=369787

    As with any flash, experimenting with it will yield a lot of interesting results.
     
  12. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #13
    Take photos of your family and friends at night (indoors). Just use the flash to illuminate the subjects. Look at the "party shots" taken by new flash users at the links I posted above.
     
  13. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #14
    Exposing for background and letting the flash bring out the subject sounds more like a solid approach rather than experimenting to me. I would hesitate to use 1600 on a crop camera, but I certainly would if the situation called for it. Note however that the poster in your link knew what he was doing, it wasn't just "oh I put the ISO on 1600 and it looked nice". So to just blindly advice others to do the same seems a bit rash.
     
  14. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #15
    The poster in the link was experimenting with his flash. I would not hesitate to use 1600 ISO with any camera. How would one learn about such things if not learning from example (from others), following a manual or something, or just experimenting?

    The OP wants to learn how to use his flash, and believe me when I tell you that he won't learn much from the manual, but by experimenting with it. There isn't anything dangerous nor wrong by telling the OP to use high ISO (I posted the link for him to see what I was talking about). The 580EX II is not a weapon, just a flash, and the OP hasn't complained about my advise.

    I learned about my 580EX II from those two links I posted above. Complete lessons on how to use the flash are listed there, some on pdf format for downloading and printing. There are links for making your own diffusers, and a lot more.
     
  15. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #16
    Yes, I agree with you! You definitely should experiment, but if you read the following posts in the same link you would see that the poster experimented with the technique in his garage before taking it "live". It wasn't just some sort of happy accident or optimal setting that you can copy straight off. There was a clear reason for him using 1600, and it's better to learn why he used it than just put the camera on 1600 and expect similar results.

    Just like a scientist, it's good to do your experiments separately from the mission critical launch day. (Mixing metaphors, have had some drinks...)
     
  16. funkboy macrumors regular

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    elsewhere
    #17
  17. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #18
    Yes, he did. That photograper already did the homework. That's why I posted the link :eek: Also, it's you arguing about nonsense, not the OP of this thread. How do you expect this OP to learn about his camera and flash? Why being a sort of "missionary position photographer"? One of the best things one can do to learn about a camera and flash is to try the numerous settings of both, from different ISO speeds and flash output, to different lighting conditions and situations. That's an excellent way to learn. In fact, he should even try higher ISO settings than 1600 if available in his camera, in conjunction to the flash.

    This is the title of this thread:
    He is not going to blow himself up by using whichever ISO speed he wants; he will just learn what happens by trial and error.

    By the way, the OP should even try:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=646469
     
  18. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 29, 2008
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    Finland
    #19
    I just wanted to say that learning how exposure works might just maybe perhaps make him understand photography better. I don't see that as nonsense, even though my way of advocating it turned out less than ideal.
     
  19. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #20
    I agree with you. It's a good idea learning about exposure. But he wants to learn how to use his flash, and that's what I was referring to. I have the same flash (580EX-II), and there isn't much on the manual for a new user to understand. There is a lot of technical stuff, but not examples or step-by-step for one to follow when confronted with different lighting situations.

    I faced the same problem as the OP, and then learned how to use the flash by doing the things photographers were doing and posting at the photography forum I posted above. It's much easier to follow such ideas because one does not have to do the homework; they have. I bought the flash about a week before a very small wedding. The groom wanted me to take some photos of their wedding, but not as the official photographer (there wasn't any). I was just another person taking photos there, and had three or four days to practice before the wedding. I took myself through a crash course following the instructions provided in the Canon forum (below), as well as some instructions provided by one of the photographers there.

    My photos turned out to be the best, and all I did was to follow these instructions (some light available in the room, but not very much, low ceiling, white walls):

    a. Increase the light output of the flash by about 2/3 or more using the flash menu, flash on TTL
    b. Camera on M (manual), lens aperture to perhaps f/4 for two people side by side, and perhaps f/5.6 if one or two people slightly behind the main subject (for more DOF), shutter speed as high as 400
    c. Set the camera to external flash (through the menu), double-check the menu to make sure that the camera and flash were synced


    Those were the instructions I used as "base" to practice party shots. I just took a whole bunch of photos of my family, indoors at night, close up to perhaps 14 feet away. I kept on making adjustments (ISO, aperture, shutter speed, distance form the subject, bouncing the light from a wall, ceiling, etc.), but did not move very far from the "base," just enough to keep me in the ball park.

    Also, there are quite a lot of lessons one can use to learn about the flash. These are free, deal with Canon flashes such as the one the OP has, and can be downloaded as study material. Some of the files are quite large, but in pdf format ready for downloading. All the homework has been done by photographers, so all one has to do is to follow the lessons. There is a lot more (stickies) at the Photo Forum, but this is a start:

    Main forum:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=35
    This is one of the "stickies," and one should look at before asking questions about Canon flashes and lighting at the main forum:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=138907
    --------------
    To the OP:
    Once you have taken a few photos of your family, download the photos and see how they look on the computer screen. You will notice that at the beginning the photos look brighter (about perfect) on the camera's screen than on the computer screen. If that's the case, you may have to increase the flash output and try again. You don't want the photos too dark, but a "little dark" can be easily taken care off with PhotoShop. If too dark, then there will be more digital noise. Too much light could overexpose the photos, so you want to find the right medium by experimenting with the camera and flash ahead of time.

    Forgot to mention: if the ceiling (or wall) is close enough, you can bounce the light off these. You can also bounce some light using the built-in bounce screen. Point the flash head toward the ceiling (or wall), pull the bounce screen straight out, and flash away.
     
  20. panoz7 macrumors 6502a

    panoz7

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #21
    One of the great things about digital is that you can change something and immediately see how it affects the photo. This makes learning really easy. If everything's set to full manual you can change one thing while leaving everything else constant and pretty quickly get a sense of what each individual variable does.

    Alaskamoose: Your method seems to have worked well for you, and that's great, but it may not be the best method for everybody. Following very specific instructions may get you through a single situation with a little guess and check but they don't teach you to really understand what you're doing so that you can apply the same ideas to all situations. The only way to do that is to experiment in a controlled fashion and read general advice.

    To the OP: I'd learn to do everything fully manual to start with. I can tell you what changing aperture, shutter speed, ISO, Flash Power, beam width, subject to light distance, subject to background distance, etc. will do, but I doubt it'll really sink in. The best way is to learn it yourself via experimentation. Do experimentation in a controlled fashion, changing one variable at a time, and you should quickly get a sense of how it affects the photo. Then it's just a matter of combining the affect of a single variable with the affect of another.
     
  21. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #22
    You are correct. I used that method to learn in a hurry, and only for taking photos of people indoors in low light. It was just a "base" for me to expand on.
    I began here:
    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=177622
     
  22. mtbdudex thread starter macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    #23
    I'd like to sincerely thank everyone for their time, bandwidth, advice, and information given.

    I was at Borders Sunday and after reviewing suggestions, bought these 2 books:
    "Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting"
    Fil Hunter; Paperback;

    "Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition)"
    Bryan Peterson; Paperback;

    I'll be experimenting Easter Weekend, maybe post some shots for critique here.
    Thx, my fellow :apple: users come thru again!
     

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