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Old Sep 23, 2005, 11:20 AM   #1
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Have been stuck taking pics at my nieces wedding announcement cocktail party in Jersey. I have the above photo hardware. Any hints as far as techniques to get good pics in a moderately well lit contemporary house setting at night? Should I just let it fly on "P" program setting and wing it? I also am just getting the Canon 420ex flash from B & H Photo UPS'd to me today, so I'll have about 6 seconds to learn how to use it with my 20D, any hints there?

Jay from CT

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Old Sep 23, 2005, 12:26 PM   #2
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In case people missed it, the equipment list is:
20D/battery pack/17-85 IS Canon lense/420ex flash

Do you know what they will want to do with the pictures? Prints, or just digital images?

That lens isn't the best lens out there, but it isn't bad. So I'm not sure you'd want to make big prints with it. It has a decent range of zoom, so that will help.

I don't really seen any equipment you're lacking. Maybe a second flash card... depending on the length of the even I'd go for 2G minimum. An extra battery is a MUST.

If you have time, get an off-camera flash bracket. It makes red-eye almost non-existant.

Here are my thoughts on non-equipment stuff. Note that since I've never done even photography before they are only impressions from people who have done it.

Learn to take pictures quickly. Anticipate moments and be ready for them. It is often the cute little thing on the side, and not the manditory "Event" image that really makes people smile. The classic that I remember is seeing the groom (in full tux) kneeling infront of a small kid putting a flower into his lapel(sp?). The expressions involved were wonderful. A great quick moment that would have been missed if the photographer hadn't been lucky and also tallented.

Practice with that flash. Flash photography is hard, very hard. Bring multiple battery sets (or a battery pack, but they ain't cheap!) because recharge time will drop a lot. Learn how it effects metering. Lean how to do bounce flash effectively. Do realize that it reduces power, so it has to be a low ceiling.

Learn the event schedule. Go to the same location and go there the day before at the same time of day. Try to figure out the light angles. You *have* to learn when you can use natural light.

I believe the mode effects how the flash it used. In P it can be the dominate light source, but in Tv/Av it is a fill flash only. Others can correct me here. As I said, flash adds a dynamic to photography that you won't have experienced before.

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Old Sep 23, 2005, 12:46 PM   #3
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Thanks Eric.

At best they may want me to make some 8.5 x 11 size prints from the get together. I have the Canon battery pack attached with two 511a batteries and a couple more for backup. I usually enjoy outdoorsey pic taking so this indoors stuff is pretty foreign to me. Actually just got back from a Glacier Park/Yellowstone Park/Grand Teton Park trip and here are some pics from there:


I'm not gonna have time to get a flash bracket,Canon make one of those for the 20D?

I have two 1 gig Ultra Scandisk cards with a couple regular 1 gig cards for spares.guess from what you're telling me I'll just keep it set on"P"

We shall see how it goes.


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Old Sep 23, 2005, 3:47 PM   #4
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Try setting the camera to Manual. Set the shutter speed to 1/125 or 1/250 sec. The flash will provide the light required to give a good exposure. Try this ahead of time and adjust the exposure as required.
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Old Sep 23, 2005, 4:11 PM   #5
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I might also suggest shooting in RAW instead of jpeg. If the colors don't come out quite right, it is much easier to correct. I just finished shooting a friends wedding and reception, and at the reception I went through at least16 batteries in my flash, it was a long reception and I probably took about half of the 500 pictures I took using the flash. Eric is right about the flash bracket if you could come up with one they really help. Stoboframe has one for about $50 retail but you will also need a off camera shoe cord and they are also about the same price.
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Old Sep 26, 2005, 6:54 PM   #6
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A bracket like the Stroboframe Press-T allows the flash to flip when you turn the camera to vertical. The flash remains above the lens and also keeps its orientation to the frame. It is expensive, plus you need an anti-twist plate (absolutely essential!!!),a flash shoe to keep the flash from twisting on the bracket, and youmust havethe flash extension cord from Canon. All in all...too much to spend on a freebee!

Given what you've got, when you turn for portrait orientation, the flash will be on the side, so make sure your subjects are far from background walls, or you'll get shadows off to the side.

If you can afford another $20 or $30, get a Lumiquest soft box (the big one, not the mini). It will soften those shadows and generally give a softer, more flattering light. It attaches with velcro and stores flat. Worthwhile accessory. I also use four binder clips to hold the "flaps" together a bit more securely.

The 17-85mm IS is excellent for this kind of event. I've done a number of parties in very close quarters. It's wide enough for groups in tight spots and long enough for across-the-room candids. I have many 13x19 inch prints of pictures--mostly landscapes--taken with this lens. They are very sharp. Watch out for doorways, walls, etc. when you use it at 17mm, though, as it suffers pincushion distortion, and those architectural features will highlight it. I also borrowed a 17-40mmL for one party--it was a disappointment. Not enough length for the closeups. After 30 minutes, I put it in the bag and went back to the 17-85.

Settings. You can use P(rogram) for your shots, but everything will be at 1/60th and maximum aperture. If you shoot AV, the shutter will be too slow most of the time, but your backgrounds will be properly exposed. Also called "dragging the shutter", using AV indoors with flash can give some good effects, but you need to practice them first or just do a few experimental shots. You can also shoot in manual mode. With this you can set the shutter on, say 1/30th and adjust the aperture from wide open to stopped down a stop for better quality and greater depth of field. This is what I usually do. The slower shutter speed allows a little more ambient light. I find ISO 200 to be a good compromise between quality and speed, although I have also used ISO 400 successfully with a 20D.

One more thing. Canon DSLRs defaults are set to a flash underexposure bias in my experience. FEC of + 1/3 stop is a starting point. Sometimes + 2/3 stop may be necessary, depending on the subject and background.

Good luck, and next time someone asks, say you're scheduled to be out of town that day!
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Old Sep 26, 2005, 11:14 PM   #7
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wburychka wrote:
If you shoot AV, the shutter will be too slow most of the time, but your backgrounds will be properly exposed.
You can set Custom Function 3 (I think) to force Av with Flash to use 1/250 sec shutter speed. The default works well mostly for fill flash in adequate lighting or if you want to do a night portrait. The latter is best accomplished with a tripod. I prefer using the 1/250 as the default unless I am doing something special... Usually I just use Manual and set the shutter speed to between 125 and 250 and then set aperture as necessary. It does pretty much the same thing as Av mode set as above.

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Old Sep 27, 2005, 8:25 AM   #8
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bigboyhf wrote:
You can set Custom Function 3 (I think) to force Av with Flash to use 1/250 sec shutter speed... I prefer using the 1/250 as the default unless I am doing something special... Usually I just use Manual and set the shutter speed to between 125 and 250 and then set aperture as necessary. It does pretty much the same thing as Av mode set as above.

Using CF3 to lock flash shutter speed to 1/250, or setting a high shutter under manual, will help prevent motion blur. The down side of those high shutter speeds is the virtual elimination of ambient light, resulting in black backgrounds. If you like that look, that's fine. Otherwise, 1/30 shutter lets in eight times the ambientlight of 1/250. Still an underexposed background, but at least visible. And remember...the shutter speed has no effect on the flash exposure, which is under control of ETTL setting the flash durationmuch shorter than any shutter speed you might set. (Avoid higher than 1/250 with the 20D unless you set HS Sync on the flash.)

However, indoors the flash will usually freeze your subject anyway, and getting some room light to show gives a more professional look, IMO, even though the room light is almost always the wrong color. FWIW, in the classes I have taken on flash lighting, the instructors have always favored use of a slow shutter speed in conjunction with flash for this very reason, suggesting use of shutter speeds as low as 1 second if dictated by Aperture Priority mode. One such procedure says this is OK even handheld! When you shoot like this, you are supposed to warn your subject not to move after the flash fires, then immediately after pressing the button you say, "Stay still, stay still, stay still", while the shutter is open.

Of course, one must take practical issues into account, and I only rarely find a party where I can get that to work--or even avoid getting bumped myself during an outrageously long exposure. I have, however, used a long shutter speed with flash to capture the colored lights used by a DJ or in a dance hall. The flash will freeze an image. The long exposure gathers the ambient light for a half second or so. The effect creates blurs of light, faces, and some ghostly people images as well. This is an occasion where 2nd curtain sync is also desirable--so that the blur trails behind moving subjects rather than in front of them. Again, this is for a special effect shot and not your regular pictures.

Oh yes, one more thing about the "dark art" of flash photography. I have found in indoor party environments with the 20D and Canon flash (580EX and 420EX), that Auto WB or Flash WB both cause pictures that are a little red. After a round of test shooting, Ifound the best results with WB set to 5000 degrees. Of course, you can fix the raw images later in DPP.

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