Modern TTL Flash    


Attaching a flash to one’s camera has been, and still is, a hot topic of discussion that was going on long before I got serious about photography in the 1970’s.

I remember being confused, well actually, really confused, and read everything I could find trying to understand how a flash attached to my camera’s hotshoe worked, and how adding light from a flash (on and off camera) could be used to enhance my photography.

Early flashes produced a constant amount of light no matter how close the subject was, and over or under exposures were common. The most frequent way of controlling flash power was to use exotic technology like a white handkerchief, a translucent soap holder, or attaching a white bounce card to the flash.

Later technological development included light measuring sensors in the flash that read the light reflected back from the subject and shut off the flash when a predetermined amount was reached.

Then TTL (through-the-lens) flash came along and small computers in the camera controlled the flash. The reflected light was read by the camera, making the lens focal length, the aperture, and the distance all part of the exposure equation.

Today’s hotshoe connected flash is nothing short of amazing, and there is absolute control over the flash.

Subtracting light intended for the subject no longer needs some translucent material placed over the flash head.

Using devices like white cups, and bounce cards with a TTL flash have become all about softening or diffusing the light instead of only reducing it.

The latest flashes easily control power output, and can be comfortably used with wireless off-camera technology. Alternatively, the flash can also be connected by a dedicated cord and still remain off-camera allowing the photographer to point the flash toward the subject at flattering angles without time consuming calculations.

A photographer can, while shooting, easily select the exposure in camera, or dial the flash power output up or down. It is now so simple to reduce or increase the ambient exposure while maintaining or brightening the subject alone for more natural looking photographs than it was with early flash photography.

When I began using a flash many years ago it changed the quality of my photography. It became just like the image change I gained by using different focal length lenses.

I no longer had to rely on ambient light and I began to notice my subjects had more “pop” than those without the flash and I was pleased at being able to fill unflattering shadows coming from overhead lighting and reduce deep shadows caused by sunlight.

The modern speedlight (hotshoe) flash gives a photographer control over the quality of light and using a flash (or several flash units off-camera) when photographing people is more than just brightening up subjects in a darkened room.


11 responses to “Modern TTL Flash    

  1. Pingback: Modern TTL Flash     | mohammedaldawd66

    • I have been thinking about a weekend session with simple how-to flash. I have been wondering if I should make it a “two-part” and include studio flash in the second. I’d appreciate you thoughts Lynne.


  2. Ha…… flash has always been my bête noire; never get it right and because of this I hardly use it so don’t get any better.
    No excuse really, Nikon speed lights are amazing in what they can do, one day 🙂


    • Using flash doesn’t only add another technology to learn, it adds more equipment to carry.
      I always admire the images you make of those ancient buildings…sometimes I find myself wondering if employing several lights might change things. (not better – just change)
      I always think flash. But setting up flash equipment would mean taking a lot more time of each shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am like David, I really know nothing about general flash use so apart from popping it up now and then to decrease some shadows I never use it! I do not do portrait generally so have gotten away with this, but I do like macro photography and I know it can benefit from using the flash. I would be interested in a simple how-to session….in late May?


    • I suppose I always am thinking flash. Just as I decide which lens is best for a particular subject, I decide whether or not to use a flash.
      Photography has always been a series of problems to solve for me.
      Flash is certainly not only for portraits. Gosh, no!
      Check out my 2 December article, “Photographing a late fall garden” and my 2 April article, “Photographing graffiti in a tunnel”.

      Regarding flash classes. I plan on having more one-day sessions for those of us that prefer using speedlights. I’ll be sure to let you know Wendy.


  4. Ok, I have to admit I HATE using a flash. On my dslr(I no longer use) it had a pop up flash. Now I use a mirrorless camera and I have yet to attach the flash. I’m not sure why, but I’m just not a fan. I’d rather have grain and up my iso(I actually miss the grain found in film)


  5. That is too bad that your hate using flash Nora. I expect that means you have never taken the time to learn about flash. The quality one can achieve using flash is easily proven. Just look at the “flat” looking images made by those relying on high ISO.

    I always have mirrorless camera owners attending my lighting workshops and I delight in the “wow’ expressions on participants faces when they get what I have been saying about adding flash.

    Film was, and is so limiting with low light. The horrible grain at 800ISO and even worse with 1600ISO kept us away from large prints. I used to “pull” 400ISO to 200ISO to get clean grain enlargements.

    I agree with you Nora regarding the “tactile” quality (grain) of some films.


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