May 2, 2013

External flash and grey card helps to take pictures in low lighting

During my lessons at the Henry's school of imaging I learned many tips on how to take pictures especially when the lighting is low. One of the tips the instructor at Henry's told me was to use a grey (gray) card and an external flash to help me during low lighting. When I used both these tools it made a huge difference to the same picture, which you can see in these unprocessed pictures.
I usually try to find the correct light before taking the picture on AV mode. However having the grey card and the external flash helps me take pictures anytime in all types of lighting.
AWB built-in flash
The built-in flash on the camera doesn't help and makes the pictures "ugly" because of its harsh, direct light that reflects; so I don't use it.  
Using the external flash helped the pictures turn out well.  Although the external flashes are costly it is very useful to have with the camera gear to take pictures when the natural lighting is lacking.
Images from Canon site
I enjoyed testing this Canon Speedlite 320EX external flash in the past few weeks. Reading the manual before using it helped me to know how to set it up and use. This Canon Speedlite flash requires 4 AA batteries that are not included. Once it is hooked up just set the external Flashcontrol mode E-TTL II by selecting it from the Menu of the camera and use it when needed. This model has the capabilities to use the "slave" option and click using a wireless remote; I didn't test this, as I don't have a wireless remote. We can tilt the flash head to either 0°, 60°, 75° or 90° depending on how we want the light to bounce off. There is an LED light in the front of the flash that helps when we take home videos as it continually lights. This is the first time I used an external flash and this Canon 320EX helped me realize the positive impact of having an external flash. Canon has other higher-end models such as 430EX II and 580EX II that has more useful features. The pictures on this post are not processed, so you can see the direct results of using the external flash.  
External flash AVmode
I also find keeping the camera steady on a stand or tripod is helpful when taking pictures, although I prefer free hand most times :).   
AWB AVmode free hand
AWB AVmode in stand
Grey card
AWB before grey card
External flashes are quite costly so if you don't want to invest on one right now then using a grey card will be very helpful to take pictures when there are lighting issues.  
This 2 pack 18% CPM grey card is 8"x10" helps get the correct exposures regardless of brightness and conditions.  
To use a grey card...
1. Set the lighting and subject
2. Place the gray card with the subject then defocus the camera a little and take a picture of the grey card. The grey card doesn't need to fill the frame, but needs to be visible. It helps if the card is kept straight and not at an angle. Defocusing the camera will help take a picture of the grey card colour and not the texture.
3. Then set the camera's White Balance to Custom WB.
4. Remove the gray card out of the subject and take the picture.  
Image from Google
Custom WB from the camera
Custom WB after setting the grey card
When I use a grey card the results of the same picture changes and becomes easier to process, and I think it makes a big difference.
As a non-expert, I think having an external flash and a grey card with the camera gear is helpful when we take pictures especially during low lighting.

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  1. Oh wow! How cool! I always struggle with taking pictures in low lighting. I'm going to try out this technique. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Didn't know a grey card existed for pics in low light. Thanks for pointing this out. I'm gonna compare it to a flash.

  3. I really, really want to get into photography, but it's not in the budget right now :( This is a really good tip, I can't believe the difference in those photos! I believe the external flashes are very pricey though, am I right?

    I love photography tips, with my little dinky camera they really help out - especially taking photos of my cakes!

  4. That looks like a great camera - It's amazing what that flash can do!

  5. I have an external flash but never used since I mostly shoot food pics in natural light. Does it work well for food pics ?

  6. That is SO cool! I want to take a photography class!

  7. Hmm. Perhaps there's something else that would show a more dramatic difference... I'm going to look into this more.

  8. i have an awesome camera that i have no idea how to use., i seriously need to learn.

  9. wow that flash does make a huge difference


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