Giving the Speedlite Some Love

Ever since getting the mark II I’ve been a bit lazy in low light situations..the ability to shoot at ISO up to 3200 without too much image degradation is seductive -very very seductive.  And often it is the right choice in a given lighting situation, but in others you just need that flash.

Like these images I took of Jasper in the bath last night. If I hadn’t used the flash I might have gotten a useable image, but his eyes would have been like little black holes!  Instead, by angling the flash behind me and up at about a 45 degree angle I was able to create catch lights that really bring his eyes alive:

All images shot with my Canon 5D Mark II , Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 Lens and 430 Ex II Speedlite at these settings:
SS 1/60th
ISO 400

A useful tip I read on another blog recently:  a good thing to remember when using a speedlite and dragging the shutter is the “4, 4, 4” rule meaning a good place to start with your settings is f4, 1/40th SS and 400 ISO.  Start at those settings and keep in mind that when dragging the shutter you are using the shutterspeed to control how much ambient light you want in your scene and the aperture is controling the amount of light on your subject. The 400 ISO (as opposed to say 100) is so you can use less flash power to give a more natural look.  So if you feel like you need more light on the subject, go wider than 4 like I did here.

I also tried using ETTL mode with the speedlite and gave up in favor of manual flash mode (where I always feel more comfortable).  In a circumstance like this it’s SO important to keep an eye on your histogram to make sure you are getting enough light without clipping any highlights.

I know it sounds like I was fiddling with my settings forever, but really I took about 6 test shots to get it perfect.. and because I was just checking the exposure I wasn’t trying to get eye contact so didn’t miss any good shots while adjusting.

Now, on a completely unrelated note..

Jasper was up ALL.NIGHT.COUGHING which means I was up all night too.. please someone tell me that there is something you can give babies in this era of no cough syrup for children under 4? We tried Boiron Chestal Honey with no success. I am desperate!!!

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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Kiran says:

Hi Arianna

My son has the cough too. We have a tried and tested family recip. A tsp of honey+sprinkle of lemon juice+some ginger (can skip)+ very little turmeric. Heat it in a microwave for 10 secs and give it to jasper. It is helping my baby and my husband.
– Mustard oil massage on chest back and foot. Warm it a little before using.
– Vapor rub on the sole of the foot and chest
– Humidifier w/ vicks liquid
– eucalyptus drops in bath water

Lisa E says:

Thanks Ariana! Your photo’s are great and you are mastering Exposure. That is where I want to be. I do not like to use PS unless I have too.

One more thing… What type of batteries do you use in your speedlite? I am experiencing problems with it not flashing after taking 2 pictures. Not sure what the problem is.

ariana says:

@Caroline, I mean the flash mounted on the hotshoe and angled at 45 degrees and swiveled to face behind and not infront of you.. hope that makes sense!

@Lisa- you can’t use auto or program mode and get good results with draggin the shutter I’m afraid! Next time try putting your camera in manual mode and don’t go quite so slow with your SS, if there is too much ambient light you will end up getting some motion blur.

I don’t edit much in photoshop at all anymore now that I am better about getting exposure correct in camera! For B&W I do use an action called “lemondrop’s b&w’ action that I downloaded for free on ILP. I JUST got noisweare and use that on any images if I had to shoot at really high ISO. Other than that, sometimes I’ll do a slight levels or curves adjustment and that’s it!

Jill says:

Coughing at night…warm apple juice and Vicks vapor rub on the bottoms of the feet. It really helps!

the pictures are gorgeous!! sigh…

i didn’t know cough syrup was a no-no before 4. Hmmm, we haven’t been faced with coughing yet. What about some natural remedies… honey/lemon? Hope the little man feels better soon and you all get some rest.

Maddie says:

gorgeous photos as per usual!

Lisa E says:

Hi – its me again… So i used my Speedlite last night at a party. I have to say it was very frustrating. I tried the 4,4,4 method and my pics were too dark. I then changed it to P mode, but the F stop stayed on 2.8. Several of people were out of focus (light was good though). Then towards the end, the flash stopped working. The power was on, but the flash wouldn’t fire. I know it is all user error. Any tips? Below are examples of the pics I took.

Lisa E says:

When a subject is looking directly at you (eyes are on the same plane), where do you put the focal point?

Also how much editing do you do in Photoshop and if so what are you common actions?

krysta says:

thanks so much for the awesome speedlite tut! I really really need to start learning mine – and I always know where to check for tips! :)

as far as the coughing goes – we’ve been awfully blessed in our household, so I’ve never had to use any of these tips – but I’ve heard them from many moms…

first – if you’re comfortable with honey – it is a natural cough suppressant.

second – definitely the vicks and socks – I’ve heard it works like a CHARM.

third – a steamy bathroom/humidifier in his room.

and to follow suit – on an unrelated note…do you shoot RAW or JPEG?

thanks ariana!

caroline says:

hi Ariana,
can you explain what you mean by having the flash behind you? You must mean you didn’t have the flash on the hotshoe. Did you use a tripod to hold the flash behind you? i just got the same flash unit and have no clue how to use this thing. I love the catchlights you got in Jasper’s eyes, and would love to be able to do the same. Thanks for any input you could offer.

kari says:

bookmarking this lesson for when i get a speedlight!

for the coughing thing we have had luck w/ the california baby stuff…

they have a great bubble bath w/ eucalyptus and also some essential oils etc.
plus, i second (or third, or forth) the vicks vapor pads that you can put in your humidifyer!

also- my girlfriend swears by this organic blessings stuff… i haven’t tried it.

MaryT says:

Hi again. Please consider trying Astragalus Extract for Kids ( I give this to my son Alex, which is just 2 months younger then Jasper, for a stronger immune system and then if he has coughs, runny nose I give him Echinacea/Golden Root extract for Kids ( I give him these for 10 days, once a month, 2 to 3 time a day). It’s preventive and it works for us. You will find them in organic health food stores or online. When I start him on these we were dealing with bad cough, lots of runny nose which I hate because it’s so hard to clean it and help him breath better), but then I did the monthly dose and we really didn’t have any problems, especially with coughing.
So please give them a try. If you do the 10 days a month you will see he is going to have a stronger immune system and not get sick as often. It worked for us, I believe it will work for you too. And also, I will consider, when he is being sick like that to give him a little accydophilus for babies like a a little bit less than1/4 tsp) since he is under 4. I give Alex this brand:
It helps put back the good bacteria and kind of giving him an extra protection to what’s out there. Also, you can take some too. This the one I take : And I can tell you that I didn’t got sick at all.

Samm Ivri says:

You probably won’t hear this from anyone else – but my pedi has prescribed Dimatapp for coughs to DD ever since she was 8 months old. He explained that the reason it was “banned” was because people were misusing it. Like giving it along with other meds or giving the wrong doses. But he always gives me the correct dose based on her weight and it gives her some relief. Has your pedi ever mentioned using it?

jbhat says:

The photography talk goes over my head. But I read it anyway.

Hey, our little one kept me up all night too, so I feel your pain. I hope Jasper feels better soon. Try plugging in your humidifier?

Kimberly says:

NO… Vicks makes BABY RUB… I think the lid is pink. Should be in the baby section OR right next to the regular Vaporub… but it’s a gentler and milder formulation than the regular stuff.

Lindsay says:

A nurse friend of mine said that juice can help with the cough. I don’t know how that would work, but it couldn’t hurt trying I guess. :)

ariana says:

Ok, obviously I need to try the vapo rub! So its the regular adult kind you all use?

pam says:

the coughing, that is our life. bleh. i’ve never tried the vicks trick, though. interesting. our ped told us to raise their crib on one side, but my boys roll all around their cribs all night, so i can’t see how that would help.

Kimberly says:

I second the Vicks Baby Rub on chest and feet. And there’s a liquid made by Vicks you can add to your humidifier if you have one… that helps as well.
Love Jasper’s expression and his sweet little curls in the bathtub! Hope you’re able to get some rest this weekend. :)

katie says:

I second the vapor rub on the feet. Some people have said they’re afraid to use the vapor rub because of some reports of it causing breathing problems in small children, though, so use your own judgment. You can google a few articles on that. But my 6 year old and my 4 year old really do seem to get relief with vapor rub on their feet.

Thanks for the speedlite info! I tried that yesterday with my daughter in the bath, but she hates having her picture taken so I didn’t get anything worth keeping. Your tips on dragging the shutter from a while back have helped me SO much in my indoor photography! (I found you via clicknmoms.)

mandy mester says:

vapo rub on his chest and ON THE BOTTOM OF HIS FEET with footy pjs or socks. helps the coughing!