Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Photography is all about lighting. When all is said and done, it's about getting the light to bounce off things in a nice way and land in the right place on a photosensitive surface. Dictionary definition, right there. But what if the light you have available is rubbish? You have to supplement.

Up to now I've been limited to built-in flash and a non-adjustable slave for backlighting. Not great for getting light in just the right place because you're basically limited to pointing the light straight at the subject. Harsh shadows abound. However, I recently took delivery of a Yongnuo YN-460 flash. It's entirely manual, so no TTL or auto-metering. It has no zoom. But it does boast an impressive range of features considering that it costs £30.

It has adjustable flash power, from full to 1/64th. It has slave mode so you can use it off camera. It has a fully adjustable head, with 90 degrees of movement vertically and 270 degrees horizontally. Pointing it where you need it is no bother at all. It also has a deflector and diffuser built in that handily stash in the top when not in use.

But what to do with it? Portraits! Combine the new flash, the slave for handling background, and my nifty fifty I had a go at shooting some nice shots of Emma and the kids.

Using the YN-460 in full power mode pointing at the ceiling, and my little slave flash bouncing off the wall behind the subject, I got this lovely blown out background combined with a nicely balanced foreground. I generally shot between 1/125th and 1/250th second, because the flash couldn't deal with any more and the lack of automatic sync meant I got tearing.

I was shooting entirely in RAW to make the most of the available light. Combining that with Aperture 3 I had a load of options to play with. Like this.

Now, taking pictures of the kids is an interesting proposition. Getting them to smile, or do something photo-worthy, while managing to also keep control of the framing and focus is a bit of a black art, it seems.

After trying one technique of getting them to tickle each other just as I was about to shoot, I went one better and told Daniel to bite Larissa's nose. Here is the result.

Good eh? I like it, anyway. Just messing about at the end I also got this lovely portrait of Larissa shaking her head, attempting to wibble her lips. She was grinning too much for any wibbly action, but her swishing hair more than makes up for it.

So, the YN-460 then. Nice flash. Low build quality according to reviews, but mine seems alright. And it's entirely manual, so be prepared to learn about flash theory and fiddle with it quite a bit, especially if bouncing it off walls. But well worth the cash, I feel.

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