Getting pretty flash!

I have another wedding shoot coming up in a few weeks, in the evening at Shambles Brewery in Hobart. A beautiful location, but with high ceilings, dark walls and questionable light, (view here) it will be a challenge!

I’ve never done much work with flash, much preferring natural light or LED’s if required, so have been learning up and practicing the dark art of flash photography with my gear. This has been quite an eye opener for me on what can be achieved with a bright pulse of light.

Here’s what I’ve been playing with because I already have it. At left, an older Olympus FL-36 designed for the previous generation 4/3 system, I’ve found it works great in TTL auto mode, but my EM1 II won’t control it fully in manual mode despite having the same contacts. It only takes 2x AA batteries so flash life and re-cycle times as batteries diminish aren’t great. I made up a white reflector with helps bounce the flash when there’s no white wall or ceiling – and also reduces direct flash in the subjects eyes.

The TT560 speedlite makes a great “slave” or second off camera flash which is triggered by a flash on the camera and is easily controlled on the back panel. With 4x AA batteries it’s going to last longer.

Under them, Andoer remote flash triggers – while they work great, I will likely avoid using them to keep things simple – they take AAA batteries.

The Olympus EM1 II camera is shown (in first image) fitted with a hot-shoe cable and the diminutive Olympus FL-LM3 flash which comes with most Olympus MFT cameras. While I first dismissed this flash, it is actually brilliant and belies it’s small size! Firstly, it doesn’t have batteries and is powered from the camera’s batteries. This means it is pretty quick to re-cycle and one less thing to worry about. Secondly, though there are no controls on the unit, it can all done easily through the camera fully manual or auto! While it has a fully swivel head for on camera bounce, I found with the cable and white reflector in one hand, the light becomes very controllable for side lighting – and triggering the TT560.

At bottom right (in first image) is a Meike FC199 LED ring flash. These fit onto the end of the lens and provide a nice round light on the subjects eyes, however, it has a few drawbacks. LED isn’t as bright as a normal flash – though it does consume less power. It has a different white balance. You have to be careful with vignette using a wider lens – anything wider than 15mm zoom and I could see it. The LED won’t trigger the TT560. It can also be used off camera as a constant light – so I’ll likely throw it in my bag.

Excuse my model’s tardy unkempt appearance, he simply refused to shave or sleep properly.

Flash bounced off the ceiling provides more even, less harsh light than direct flash, though you need be be careful of shadows under eyes and chin and it can leave the subject a bit flat.

By increasing the shutterspeed you can darken the background or ambient light. Bouncing flash off a wall to the side can be more flattering to the face – well, some faces.

Changing the flash angle and distance also has an effect on the final result. I took hundreds of images messing around and learning, the images shown here are unadjusted from the camera, shooting in RAW allows for a greater margin of post-processing.

There are a few good YouTube tutorials on using flash, below are my notes from a few in relation to my gear. Maybe it will be helpful to someone – or just confuse you.

Thanks for visiting my work in progress, any tips gratefully appreciated 🙂


Olympus FS-FL-36
TTL and FP-TTL automatic flash metering
Range of 12-36 m depending of focal length
Field of view coverage of 8mm (16mm equiv.)

EM1 II – for TTL AUTO on flash
In control panel, WB Flash, Fill in Flash on,
Speed 20-200 (doesn’t change exposure, only blur)
F5.6 – F stop changes exposure!

MANUAL FLASH – Manual on flash
Closest distance 60cm
(On camera flash intensity has no effect in manual)

CAMERA exposure – room ambient exposure – test with no flash.

Shutter speed 100.     80-160 (no faster than 250 the sync speed! – changing doesn’t affect flash power) ambient light reduces as shutter speed increases.
(15 for background motion blur – be careful with DJ lights)

F5.6.      F4 (or widest aperture for full zoom on lens so it doesn’t change)
ISO 100.      400-1600 (aperture and ISO control the overall exposure)
WB: flash
Single focus, single point, face detect.
Turn off “live view”  D2 – enable live view boost On1
FLASH time – person
Manual, not TTL. Adjust flash power – start with 1/4
Close low 1/64 freezes movement  –  far high 1/1 can blur movement
Set zoom to lens zoom length

Bounce off white ceiling, or use white card/reflector if dark. Diffuser softens and widens flash for groups.

Flash can freeze action – faster than shutter speed.

Menu > Camera 2 > RC Mode > ON

9 thoughts on “Getting pretty flash!

  1. Your skills and knowledge are very impressive, Tone! Far above my skills, I hope that your wedding shoot will be a huge success! I was just thinking this morning that I haven’t tried to grow a beard since the 80s, it’s been a while. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John, I’m always learning, I think that’s why I like photography so much, I don’t think you could ever know it all, it’s such a broad hobby! My “beard” usually doesn’t get much longer than this, but occasionally I’ll let it go through winter, I think of it like my organic scarf 😉


    1. You are right there Anneli, I think that’s why I have stuck with it for so long, it never gets boring for me and there’s always something new to learn and experiment with! Hopefully next week I’ll have something brand new to experiment with before the wedding … and I might not need a flash! To be revealed in my next post 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I honestly never thought I would do a wedding as I’m fairly reserved and often not confident. There is some pressure to get it right at the moment – one shot. Weirdly for me I’m looking forward to it with excitement!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Morgaine, it was all over my head until I started researching and experimenting, I’ve never really played with flash as I thought it was more unpredictable than using lights.
      I tell myself I’m only after ONE good shot for the couples wall to take the pressure off, otherwise it can be overwhelming, you only get one chance to get it right at a wedding. If I can be relaxed and enjoy the moment and relax the couple, it makes it so much easier.

      Liked by 1 person

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