determine which method provides the best results under
various conditions. The method you choose to light the
same subject separates you from the average snapshot
shooter (fig. 5-27).
Off Camera Flash
Some of your best flash pictures can be made with
the flash unit off the camera. Holding the flash off the
camera and above the lens tends to throw the shadows
down and behind the subject. This is a good way to
minimize distracting background shadows that occur
when a subject is standing close to a wall. A flash held
high above the lens, either left or right, makes the viewer
less conscious of the flash illumination. People are
accustomed to seeing things lit from above, and by
placing the flash above the subject, it closely resembles
the lighting of the sun or ceiling lights.
Light that is far enough off the camera to illuminate
the subject from an angle produces modeling or
roundness. This type of light creates the illusion of a
third dimension-depth-and is more pleasing to the
viewer than the two-dimensional flat effect you get with
direct, front lighting. Light from an angle can also be
used to bring out the texture of a subject.
Indoors, two factors are important when
determining the modeling and texture effects you will
get: first, the surface of the subject itself; second, the
way you light that subject. To illustrate these points, try
photographing a Ping-Pong ball and a tennis ball
together. When you use direct, front lighting, your
picture records a two-dimensional visualization of
height and width, but little of roundness, depth, or
texture. When you light the balls from the side, both
acquire the illusion of depth; however, only the tennis
ball reveals texture. The Ping-Pong ball is much
smoother and is almost textureless.
Now substitute a young child and an old person for
the balls. With frontlighting, most of the lines and
wrinkles in the old person's face will be minimized by
the evenness of the light; however, when lighted from
the side, almost every crease will become a shaded area
and the ridges will be highlighted. Thus the texture of
the old person's face is emphasized. The child, on the
other hand, when side lighted, is still almost textureless
just as in the case of the Ping-Pong ball.
Lighting ratio can be considered as a measure of
contrast. Lighting ratio refers to the combined intensity
(at the subject) of the main and fill lights as compared
to the intensity of the fill light alone; for example, both
the main and fill light of equal intensity are shining on
the subject. A reflected light meter reading is taken off
an 18-percent gray card at the subject position that
indicates there are 100 units of light falling on the
subject. Now, with the main light turned off and the
fill-in light still illuminating the subject, the reflected
meter reading indicates there are only 50 units of light
falling on the subject; therefore the lighting ratio is 2 to
1. Lighting ratio is usually expressed as the comparison
of two light intensities, such as 1:1, 2:1,3:1, and so on.
The largest number in a lighting ratio indicates the
most intense illumination at the subject position; for
example, a 2:1 ratio indicates the most intensely lighted
portion of the subject (highlights) is receiving twice the
amount of illumination as the least intensely lighted
portion of the subject (shadows). The light that produces
the most intense illumination is called the main, key, or
modeling light. The light that produces the least intense
illumination is called the fill, or fill-in. A fill or fill-in
light, as the name implies, fills in and softens the
shadows produced by the main light.
Because a lighting ratio is a comparison of the
combined main and "fill light" illumination intensities
to the fill light illumination intensity alone, the fill light
must be in a position so it completely illuminates the
portion of the subject visible to the camera. This requires
positioning the fill light close to the lens.
As a rule, 3:1 lighting is considered the best general
lighting ratio for both black-and-white and color
photography. This 3:1 ratio provides normal contrast
between the highlights and shadows and produces good
natural-looking photographs.
Some automatic electronic flashes allow you to
control the output of light. When set in the manual
position, you can adjust the light output by changing the
intensity of the flash unit to 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, and so
forth. This allows you more control of flash-to-subject
distance as well as aperture (depth of field) control.
Achieving the desired lighting ratio with an
automatic flash unit where the flash intensity can be
controlled is quite easy. To achieve a 2:1 ratio, you set
both flash units at the same distance and at the same
intensity (either full power, 1/2, 1/4, and so on). To
achieve a 3:1 ratio, set both flash units at the same
distance and set the main light flash at full power and
the fill flash at one-half power. A 5:1 or even higher
lighting ratio can be obtained by setting both flash units
at the same distance and the main flash at full power and
the fill flash at one-fourth power, and so on. In order to

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