Monday, June 14, 2010

Shooting with the Popup and a Torn Piece of White Paper

Isn't it funny when your equipment starts to fail exactly after their warranty period ended?

It's as if they were programmed to fail or break at that exact moment in time when you are no longer eligible for that free-of-charge repair / replacement. The products served their purpose and they served it well. No, not for the consumer by performing flawlessly for the past [insert warranty period here]. For the seller and the producer for being sold and setting themselves ready for repair / service / replacement once the free period ends. Which maximizes the revenue for the manufacturers, sellers and service providers. They're cons doing piracy. Conspiracy!


Last Saturday my SB-600 Speedlight failed on me. I was asked to take photos of my ex-roommate's engagement and just when I was about to start shooting the flash failed. I was sure it wasn't because of the lack of battery power because I just put in a fresh set. It was the speedlight that refused to work.

I was stricken but I didn't panic. The popup flash on the D60 can still provide artificial lighting. Problem is, it's harsh, and I lose control over the direction of the light and having bounce light from the ceiling. I don't want my shots to look too amateurish. I had to improvise.

I attached a torn piece of white paper in front of the popup to diffuse and soften the light. I set the power to manual 1/2, and took control over the exposure manually by setting the ISO, aperture and shutter speed for each shot and lighting conditions.

It wasn't easy.

With the SB-600 I can just use Aperture-priority and bounce the light of the ceiling and the pictures would turn out fine. With popup this wasn't an option. I had to punch in the controls for every shot. In some ways, the experience taught me a lot about setting exposures on-the-fly. Before this I only relied on the camera to set the correct exposure every time. This time I had to do it on my own. And fast.

Improvisation, coupled with some post-production in Adobe Lightroom, managed to produce some decent photos that I can safely present to my friends who got engaged that day. I was worried that they won't like the photos because of the bad lighting and all, but after I put the photos up in Facebook I got a call from my friend and he said they both liked the photos I put up, so I felt relieved.

Here are some of the photos I shot that day with a popup flash and a torn piece of white paper.

Eira and her friends before the engagement ceremony. This was shot in a room with bright green walls and a green bedside lamp. I had to reduce the saturation of the greens in the photo so that the color of the walls won't stand out too much.

Notice the harsh shadow behind her. Without the torn paper softening the light from the popup flash, the shadow could be worse.

In the two photos above, although there's no shadow behind her, you can see harsh shadows underneath her chin and on her neck. It's subtle, but experienced photographers (not me) would notice that instantly.

Either I get another flash (maybe a Nissin or a Metz) or have the broken one serviced. Either way, I'll be losing munny over this, but I really want to be able to be in control of the artificial lighting, and I can only do that with a dedicated external speedlight. Replace or repair, I haven't made my decision yet. I shall seek counsel with my wallet and bank account first.

Anyways, congratulations Idzuddin and Eira for your engagement! Looking forward to the wedding next year!

P/S: I kept getting asked "when's it your turn?". I feel indifferent to such queries already, having been asked questions of the like for the past 5 years.

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