At her recent byLumiere speedlight workshop Nikon ambassador, Kate Hopewell-Smith, passed on her top 5 tips for taking control of your speedlight for better, more creative exposures:

1. Speedlight tip: Use manual exposure mode

When you’re trying to create natural looking images with balanced ambient and flash light so your images retains the colour and atmosphere of a scene, it’s vital that you get the ambient exposure right first. The best way to do this is to take a few test shots with the camera set to manual exposure mode. You’re looking to get the background and general scene right, the main subject however is likely to look underexposed – that’s what you’ll address with the flash light.

2. Speedlight tip: Use TTL for flexibility and Manual for Control

While manual flash exposure gives you the ultimate in consistency and control, modern TTL systems are extremely useful when the distance between you and the subject keeps changing. As the distance increases it will bump up the amount of light emitted to compensate for the speedy drop-off in light. Conversely it will reduce the amount of flash light when the subject is close. It saves you having to reset the flash power continually.

3. Speedlight tip: Use flash exposure control

Flash exposure control (FEC) works in a similar way to standard exposure compensation mode but it exerts its effect on the amount of light emitted by the speedlight. It allows you to tailor the impact of flash in TTL mode. Applying a negative flash exposure compensation darkens the subject if the flash is pumping out too much light when it’s left to its own devices. Conversely if you want a bit more light, dial in a positive value.

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4. Speedlight tip: Bounce flash indoors

Bouncing flash light off a wall or ceiling effectively turns a small light source into a big one to produce a wider spread of softer light. Keep in mind that light travels in straight lines so you need to consider the angle of the flash and tilt or twist it to the correct angle. Also check the colour of the wall or ceiling, if it’s not white you may need to use a coloured gel to compensate or use a modifier such as a MagMod Bounce that simulates the bounced effect.

5. Speedlight tip: Rim lighting needs a dark background

There has to be a dark background in order for backlighting to create that attractive rim-lit look. If the background is bright, the bright halo of light will be lost into it. This means that you need to choose the shooting location and angle very carefully.

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