Lighting Key Concepts, by Drew Loker (

            Using ambient and flash lighting

            Using slow shutter & rear curtain sync flash

            Using fill flash - manually metering a scene for effective use.

            Vibration reduction/image stabilization lenses and bodies - achieve even slower shutter speeds, with and with out flash. Fast 50/f1.8 lens as alternative

            White Balance – digital cameras allowing easy on the fly changes to flash usage. See WB



Use available light to your best advantage no matter where you are. Learn how to use low light and flash together with slow curtain sync and how to make correct exposures for effective fill flash.


Using existing light is the most ideal. The goal of using flash is generally to balance the flash with the ambient light.

Try adding light before using a flash. Turn on house lights, flood lamps, etc.

Use reflectors to bounce light back into a scene with a white poster board or car window shade reflector.

Using flash on location


               Fill flash- shadows underneath eye sockets, etc. Just because you camera THINKS there is enough light does not mean you should not use a flash

               Color balance- to balance fluorescent, daylight film indoors, churches with TV lighting, etc. Flash is balanced with the sun

               Light the entire scene- add all the light you can

               Slow curtain sync – using a shutter speed SLOWER then designated sync speed of your camera.

               Rear curtain sync- flash added at the end of a long exposure

               Multiple flash- multiple burst of light in one exposure

               Multiple flashes- more than one flash (i.e. piece of equipment)



Move subject further from the background

Move flash off camera so it can stay above the center of lens

One dimensional

Get your subjects at the same plane of light

Reflect light into the scene

Bounce light – watch for color influence, i.e. non-white ceilings.

Red eye

Get flash away from the lens

Increase ambient lighting

Limited distance

Increase ISO (film speed) which increases sensitivity of film/ccd and increases the distance light will effectively travel.

Use a stronger flash

Get closer to your subject

Flash sync speed is too slow for large aperture outdoor portraiture work

Work in the shade

Use a neutral density filter. A 2-stop ND8 (or POL) filter allows you to go from f/8 to f/4.


Practice Fill Flash – try taking a picture with and with out flash

TTL & Auto Flash are great, but may require flash exposure output control to reduce intensity of light.

Use MANUAL metering mode on your camera. Set the exposure based on the back ground, then turn the flash on. The flash will set exposure for foreground.

Practice slow shutter speed- find a lowly lit scene

                     Some cameras have a Night Portrait Mode which defaults to AMBIENT exposure WITH flash.

                     Manual cameras – set ss to 1/15…or even slower. Keep flash on A or TTL

Additional Natural Lighting Examples































Additional Sow Shutter Flash Sync