As my new assignment dictates that at least two of the finished portraits need to be lit by artificial lighting - be it flash or studio lights - I decided do some experimenting with the Metz flashguns that the photography centre has here on campus. I have never used flash with digital cameras, let alone film, so the thought of photographing with flash on my Olympus was quite a daunting one. However, I know feel more confident after having tinkered with the Metz - turns out flash is nothing to be afraid of after all!
The difference in lighting between the sunlit and shadow areas in a bright, sunny scene is often too much for film to handle, particularly when using colour film. If you expose to keep the highlight detail, the shadows will be black and empty. Using fill-in flash supplies extra light evenly across the subject. This has little or no effect on the brighter areas, but boosts the shadows dramatically to give much more preferable results. Correct use of fill-in flash should not be noticeable, and if anything will make the subject look healthier. It will also help to liven up the subject on those dull, Cornish winter days.
The general calculation for fill-in flash is 1.5 to 2 stops below the ambient light reading. For example, if I had a light reading of 1/60 at f/8, I would set the Metz flash, in 'auto' mode to f/4, and my camera to 1/60 at f/8.
Flash as main light
If the ambient light is insufficiently illuminating the subject, an alternative is to use the Metz flash as the main source of light. By simply reading of the scene, I could set the Metz .5 to 1 stop brighter than the reading, and set the camera likewise. For example, if the light reading is 1/60 at f/4, I would set the Metz, on 'auto' mode, to f/5.6 and set the camera accordingly at 1/60 at f/5.6. This will make the subject stand out on a dull and dark day.
Flash to make daylight look dark
As an aside, I could consider turning daylight considerably darker by setting the flash to 4 stops over the ambient aperture reading. This will create the look of 'night-time' in daylight. So, for example, if my ambient reading was 1/15 at f/11, this would now become 1/250 at f/11 (setting the shutter speed four stops faster). This will be difficult to achieve with a 35mm camera due to limited synchronisation speeds, but could be considered nonetheless.
My flash testing
Below are the results from my play-time with the Metz flashgun...
The straight flash gave quite a harsh lighting effect, with all depth in her facial features completely blown out. I was also getting this rather annoying dark line appear at the bottom of the frame - I was later told that was due to using such a wide lens (18mm) and that the Metz work best with a 50mm prime.
The bounced flash gave a lot more of a three-dimensional image and a more diffused light.
I will not be going on any more shoots until I return home to Suffolk for Christmas, so for now I am just getting my head down to some research and experimentation.