Try This Technique to Make Your Flash Photography Look More Natural

There are lots of reasons why beginner photographer might avoid using strobe lighting, but a common answer is that they don't like the look. While I know exactly what they mean, there doesn't have to be a "look" at all.

Like many photographers, when I was first starting out, I liked the natural light look. I didn't go as far as to call myself a "natural light photographer" — god forbid — but I definitely didn't like how flash made images look. What I felt strengthened my case was that I had to use strobes for some of my photographer, particularly macro, so I "knew" how to use flashes and then just made the decision not to use them.

Now, looking back, I realize I didn't know how to use them. Or rather, I knew how to use them, but to nowhere near their full potential. I can say with certainty that I wasn't sure how to properly balance artificial and natural light and that if I tried portraits with flashguns, they typically looked like those old high-contrast Polaroid shots.

In this video, Manny Ortiz goes through a technique he uses to make artificial lighting look more subtle and realistic, sometimes even giving the appearance of natural light. For anyone who isn't happy with how their images with flash look, work on balancing the light better to make it seem more believable that it's simply all natural.

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2 Comments
Eli Weitz's picture

Robert, I really liked the video & the tip. Please give some clarification. You said you were going to make it a little darker & use flash; & you said you used 1/100sec f2.0 & ISO 160, but you didn't say how much darker… 1/3 stop, a full stop; starting numbers, b4 you made it a bit darker, please!

Also, you said since there is a lot of sun, you are going to set flash to lowest #… 1; but that is Full flash! Did you mean 1/128th power? I know Arianna was distracting you a lot, but you need to add this info to the video by editing-in text at the appropriate time!

Yes, you had someone paying attn to all you said. I get the idea; but the settings would be helpful! Thanks in advance!, Eli

Rosalind Furlong's picture

He said he changed his shutter speed from 1/100 to 1/200 ie one stop. Also he was using a studio strobe (which goes up in 0.1 increments - ie a tenth of a stop) rather than a flashgun so on a studio strobe 1 is low and 10 (or whatever it goes to) is high. On a flashgun full power is 1/1. Hope that helps clear up the confusion.