Yes my friend, pho­to flash can be a cru­el mis­tress.… well, let’s just say it’s easy for even the work­ing pro to get unpre­dictable results. So here are some tips I gave a young asso­ciate on han­dling flash in sit­u­a­tions like an audi­to­ri­um where the sub­ject might have a fair amount of stage light hit them, but not enough to go with­out flash. The same holds true with bright flo­res­cent light­ing.

Nor­mal­ly I sug­gest when a sub­ject is in a nor­mal tung­sten envi­ron­ment, you shoot flash for the sub­ject expo­sure and drag the shut­ter (low­er the shut­ter speed to like 1/15th) for the back­ground to not be a dark cave. BUT when the per­son is in pret­ty strong spot lights, up the shut­ter speed and the aper­ture (Use man­u­al F4  125th say, or Pro­gram mode maybe, or Shut­ter Pri­or­i­ty but 125th or 250th of a sec­ond). I bounce around through all of those choic­es till I find what works in a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion.

You’ll find shots  much crisper with just a lit­tle change (eg  F4 and a 60th)  than at  2.8 at 1/25th.
Over­ex­po­sure:
Remem­ber when there are lots of dark suits, and those dark blue gowns, and maybe a dark room, your flash will tend to over­ex­pose as it reads the whole scene and thinks it’s a good even expo­sure (some­thing it made glow and some­thing black = a nice mid­dle gray good expo­sure to your cam­era!)
Same with white gowns, white dress shirts, white walls… they all make the cam­era mud­dy the expo­sure, so up your expo­sure a bit.
To do that, learn about your +/- but­tons. There’s one for just the Flash, and one for the over­all expo­sure, and they affect each oth­er in mag­i­cal, con­fus­ing ways.
Reset at the End of the Shoot:
AND remem­ber at the end of any shoot to check your ISO, col­or tweaks, +/- and reset it all to zero so you don’t mess up your first shots on your next shoot.
To get real­ly good with using flash, check out books and DVDs from the Pho­to­Vi­sion peo­ple HERE or this book by Joe McNal­ly is amaz­ing:

 

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