A Simple On Camera Flash Technique to Amaze your audience…. Creating Camera Flash Images So Unique that No-one can replicate them – even you!
By popular demand, I am re-posting, updating and giving more details/samples on this technique since many of my recent photography class and workshop attendees have asked me to do so in the Blog.
I came across this technique about 15 years ago by accident while I was playing with my camera settings at a wedding reception when the lights were down low and the dancing started. In the process of taking a photo someone knocked my elbow and the camera rotated as I pressed the shutter. When I saw the finished print I couldn’t believe or understand how I got the amazing effect of a crystal clear portrait of the bride and her family and a cool funky blurred background- but I do now! I teach this technique at most of my digital photo classes, seminars and lectures. Try it during a birthday party or with your dining room companions.
For a little background, I tutored this technique to a gal from Calgary and a guy in Vancouver a few months later. There were individually on a trip to Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro and one saw the other using this technique (very evident to see because it looks really weird from anyone watching you use it!) and in chatting, they found that they had both learned it from Dave the Rave (that’s me!) in private lessons back in Canada. What a small world! Well here it is… and I gave it a name: Dave’s Dynamo Effect ™ . I am certainly not the first person to uncover this trick but you may be hearing this firsthand here.
Dave’s Dynamo Effect (tm)
Facts: A camera flash will freeze close fast-moving objects in low light and has a limited distance range beyond which it has no effect at all. The duration of flashes vary by type and model, off-camera or built-in/pop-up and is typically between 1/1000 to 1/30,000 of a second. This is like a super fast shutter speed and when most or all of the light is from the flash (and not other sources) then you freeze anything to tack sharpness within the flash distance range, even if it is moving quickly. Objects that are beyond the flash range become more blurred if they move quickly or you rotate the camera. Therefore, in low light situations and with a very slow shutter speed you will get a tack sharp close moving object and blurred far away objects. Well, if the far way object, or background is not moving then you will get a dimly lit blurred background because of the slow shutter speed – boring!. Solution to this: Spin rotate your camera as you take the picture – this will cause the background to become ethereal looking, dizziness like, wild and crazy. Background lights will create a variable “falling star” trail increasing with more distance from the camera.
You can get this effect on ALL cameras by using an option that sets a slow shutter speed and forcing the flash on. A common setting to use on a point and shoot cameras is party mode, night portrait or slow sync (the later usually found off auto mode by scrolling your flash button) or in scene modes. The best setting to use on all SLR cameras and some Point and shoot cameras is Shutter Priority (S or TV) with flash forced on and set a shutter speed between 1/10 sec to 1/35 sec. If you can, vary the shutter speed as the effect will differ. Don’t forget to rotate the camera bigtime as you take the picture and everyone watching will think you are nuts! Try it. Some love this effect and some hate it! What’s funky is that no-one, even you, can duplicate the image again because they will be all different.
- Camera techie/enthusiasts s should set their shutter sync to 2nd curtain for optimum results. This will cause the trailing lights to go “in the right direction” but don’t worry about this setting if you don’t have it on your camera.
Confused? Read the above again slowly, attend one of my classes or look at the photos – all taken with Dave’s Dynamo Effect (tm).
Photo Workshops/Public Speaking
David Smith leads digital photography classes and digital camera workshops for beginner, enthusiast and professional levels in the metro Vancouver, BC regions and guest lectures on cruise ships and conventions worldwide. For more visit David Smith Workshops/Photography Training
Anna Smith leads textile arts and cultural handicraft workshops and speaks on exotic fabrics of the world. Visit Anna Smith public speaking and workshops
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