Indoors Flash Photography with Nikon Speedlights

Whether you are shooting with an entry-level or a professional Nikon DSLR, speedlights are a great way to improve your indoors photography. While fast lenses and high ISO levels certainly help to take pictures in low-light environments, they often do not work well for photographing people indoors. In low-light situations, cameras have a tough time acquiring correct focus, motion often results in too much blur and bright backgrounds can ruin the subject’s face and emotions. Speedlights are versatile tools that are designed to overcome these problems and deliver sharp, blur-free and noise-free images with beautifully exposed subjects.

At the same time, without the right technique and tools, flash can quickly transform pictures into flat, lifeless images. Knowing how to bend the light and take advantage of the surrounding environment to manage it is a skill every photographer should master. In this introduction to indoors flash photography video, I will first quickly talk about the differences between Nikon speedlights, along with my recommendations. Then, I will do my best to explain differences between direct and indirect flash and how both affect indoors portraiture, using specific examples.

I highly recommend viewing the video in HD. You can do it by viewing the video in fullscreen mode, then picking “720p” on the bottom right corner.

P.S. The video is kind of long, around 30 minutes. I actually had to cut a lot of it out to keep it smaller and decided to split some of it to upcoming articles on indoors flash photography. I will write the text version of the above video next week.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Michel
    December 13, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Hello Nasim

    A big thanks for the video and thanks to your lovely wife who was so patient listening again and again to your comments and posing quietly.
    I have a question though, I own a 3Ds without built-in flash but have a SB900. If I want to flash through an umbrella like you did, what is the correct solution ? Do I have to buy a SU-800 commander ? Or is there another way ? I have a wire for deporting the flash but it’s not convenient, it’s too short and don’t like too much the feeling of being attached to the flash.

    Thanks

    Michel

    • December 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      Michel, I will be posting a video on PocketWizards this week!

    • December 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      Michel, don’t get the SU-800 – it is a waste of your money. PocketWizard is the way to go. Stay tuned for a video with an article.

  2. December 13, 2010 at 4:57 am

    @Michel: I have a D3s as well. What you can do is either buy a SU-800 commander or another SB-900 and use that as a master or you can go and buy radio transmitted devices like the pocketwizards (those are industry standard and quite expensive, there are cheaper radio transmitters, but I wanted to name those because they are proven to be the better ones out there).

    With a radio transmitter you have one attached to the flash and one attached to the camera. Remember though that you loose the TTL ability (with the newest pocketwizards that just came out a month ago for Nikon you actually remain to have TTL control). With the cheaper models there is no TTL ability so you have to manually adjust the power on the flash if necessary.

    The advantage of a radio transmitter is that it will always fire and from greater distances. When using another flash (or the build in flash of a camera) you always need to be in “line of sight” with your flash, so the flash can see the camera and knows when to fire. With radio transmission this is no longer needed.

    Good Luck and if you need more info, feel free to contact me :)

    • 4
      ) Michel
      December 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Hello Sjoerd

      Thanks so much for the input.
      I went to the website of the PocketWizard thing and it seems that I will go with that thing.
      I asked my dealer and he’ll get maybe for this month a set with a transmitter and 3 receivers.
      I’ll have to go to the shop to see what’s the offer and what model he’s proposing.

      Michel

      • December 13, 2010 at 12:31 pm

        Hi Michel,

        No problem, glad to be of help :)
        Make sure if you go with the pocketwizards to check out the newest controlTL models. They are called the Mini TT1 and FlexTT 5. They are just new to the Nikon brand, but they are great for controlling the flashes with TTL capabilities and manual control from the camera. (more info: http://www.pocketwizard.com/inspirations/technology/controltl/ )

        Good luck and if you need more help, let me know!

  3. 3
    ) Peter
    December 13, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Excellent video. Lots of new stuff for me and some refresher.

    Also, special thanks to Lola for her patience.

  4. 5
    ) Yash Upadhyay
    December 13, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Fantastic video!!!! and as Peter said thanks to Lola for her patience…
    I think I am gonna go with SB-600…. This video came just in time when i was abt to buy a flash…great!!!
    Hey Nasim if possible can you also do a video about Tripods….
    I am looking for one…I am not a pro so I dont wanna spend much …I knw people say tht spend a good portion of your money on tripod :)….
    I shoot with a Nikon D5000 Tamron 19-270mm and Nikon 35mm 1.8
    Thanks!!!

  5. 9
    ) Karl
    December 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you very much – both of you!
    I like that you start from the basics to come to advanced level;

    /Karl

  6. 10
    ) Allen Cui
    December 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Excellent video and great information, Thanks both of you!

    Your website is great.

    Regards

  7. 11
    ) Jeanne
    December 15, 2010 at 1:17 am

    Nasim & Lola,
    Thank for so much for sharing the video online. I definiately learn alot from your sharing.
    Yours and Lola’s willingness to teach us is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  8. 12
    ) sekhar
    December 15, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Nice video and one can learn a lot from it… I am about to buy a speedlight for d90 and was wondering whether to choose SB600 or 700. Atleast for now, I am mostly going to concentrate on portraits. Do you have this choice of moving the speedlights in all directions in both these flash units? I really like the on/off way to go from commander to slave on SB700…i think i loose patience if every time i have to go in to the menus !

  9. 13
    ) Diane Burchfield Johnson
    December 23, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Could you send me your full script about the video? You can email this to me directly so I can fully understood what your saying. Remember I cant hear but just have to catch by the picture of what your showing. That would help me out so I can do what your talking about. Hope to hear from you real soon.

    Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

    • January 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      Diane, I apologize for a late response. I would love to send you a full script, but it would take me a long time to type up everything in a 30 minute video. Plus, I don’t know how I would be able to synchronize text and video :( Going forward, I will do my best to write articles to accompany videos, instead of just posting bare videos.

      • 17
        ) Diane Burchfield Johnson
        January 6, 2011 at 7:17 am

        No problem Nasim, I will get a friend of mine to do the interpreter from that video so she can tell me what ya are talking bout. Just do the best you can. There is something that utube that can be provide with the text title. I’ve seen some of em from u tube that has those subtitle, even though I dont know how that works. :) By the way, I will stick to your web and blog as usual. Nothing to hurt me yet since I watch it very closely by the hand of your showing. I’m good with it. :)

  10. 18
    ) thunderMan
    January 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Greeting from Malaysia ! Nice video you got there . And thanks you so much for sharing this awesome video. Hope you will come out more such nice videos. Sharing is the best , thanks you and appreciate !

    • January 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      You are most welcome, thanks for watching.

  11. 20
    ) Terje H
    February 17, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Dear Nasim!

    I have recently (December) bought my first DSLR, a Nikon d3100. Since then (actually before) I have been on a steep learning curve, scouring the net to learn about exposure, composition, light and all the other aspects that make photography far more interesting then I had actually envisaged.
    Of the plentiful sites out there, I find your’s to be a great combo of easy-to-understand, yet technically in-depth. I find myself reading one of your posts at the strangest times of the day, as it’s perfectly fit for a Smart Phone.
    The comments after the blogs are almost as educating as the blog itself, as both you and other people actually answer all sorts of “stupid” questions from newbies like myself.

    But to the question: I have just purchased the SB-700 speedlight, and was wondering if you would be making the text version of this video mentioned above?
    The thing is, I’m based in China at the moment, where Youtube us frowned upon, and subsequently banned (along with Facebook, Flickr and Picasa, so not at all fortunate for photo enthusiasts, but there you have it)

    With regards,
    Terje H

    • February 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      Terje, I was planning to write a text version of the above video tutorial, but simply have not had the time. I am planning to come back to flash photography later this year, so I will hopefully post a lot more useful info for flash owners.

  12. 21
    ) RMT
    February 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Does anybody else have a problem with the SB-700 flash hurting your forehead? The on-off switch or the edges of the control wheel are really starting to annoy me. I didn’t have this issue with the 600. Anybody have any suggestions?

    • February 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      RMT, I am assuming that’s with the SB-700 mounted on your camera? :) If that’s the case, I know what you mean, had a similar experience when shooting with the D90. I wish the flash was pointed to the front a little more…

      • 24
        ) Jacla
        March 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

        Hi Nasim, would the sb-900 have the same problem on D90?
        love your site!

        • 25
          ) Jacla
          March 4, 2011 at 8:40 am

          i asked because i plan to get the sb-900 for my d90..what is the average lifespan of these speedlights?

  13. 26
    ) Rick Smith
    March 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    What type of placement do you suggest for taking pictures of a baby in a crib…the crib is down low…would I want to just lower the light stand so it’s even with his face?

  14. 27
    ) Kathy B.
    December 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I can’t seem to locate the post from Nasim on how to set up the different speed lights as an external flash……can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Thanks
    Kathy Baxley

  15. 28
    ) Terry
    December 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Just wanted to let you know I really enjoy reading article and watching your videos on your website.’

    Question about using the D7000 with SB-800. I’m shooting a wedding at the end of the month for a friend. I’m not a full time wedding photographer, I shoot when every someone (usually friends or friends of friends) ask me to. For the past few years I have used a D200, but it has been acting up lately and I don’t trust it now. I recently got a D7000, but I’m not as familiar with it as I am with the D200. I didn’t really want to shoot this wedding due to me being new to the D7000, but my friend insisted I shoot the wedding. I’m still what I call in learning mode with flash photography. In the past I would shoot in aperture mode, but while watching your videos you said you prefer manual mode. Any suggestions on what setting to use on the D7000?

    Thanks,
    Terry

  16. 29
    ) J.R.
    January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

    That is one awesome video…I have watched it in its entirety.

  17. 30
    ) Daniel
    February 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Thanks for excellent tutorial.

    Best Regards from Poland,
    Daniel

    • 31
      ) Daniel
      February 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      I forgot about one thing.
      Greetings to your wife for her patience.

      Daniel

  18. 32
    ) phil brown
    February 23, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Hi Nasim

    Great video, have you made a video on manual set up with on camera flash,and also how to set your exposure for setting your camera and flash for ambient light and flash light together?.

    Yours Sincerely

    Phil

  19. April 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Great tutorial! Thank you for taking the time to put this togethor.

    Steven

  20. 34
    ) Daniel
    May 3, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Nasim, First I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge of photography and helping others. I have found your video to be most informative and you know your subject thoroughly. This makes learning easier for us novices. One problem I’ve had with flash (using an SB800 and a D200) is when I use the diffuser or if I use bounce flash, I tend to have underexposed shots due to the inverse square law. If I am in a situation where I cannot get closer to my subject, should I compensate with ISO? Thank you again for this great video. Daniel

  21. 35
    ) Malcolm
    July 19, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I watched your video on speed light flash photography and found it to be very helpful. However, I have just purchased a Nikon D800 together with a Nikon AF-S105mm F/2.8g VR (Nano Crystal Coating) lens to take photographs of chocolates. As the chocolates have a very high gloss surface finish, I have been getting flash reflections in the chocolates, therefore, I was thinking of purchasing the Nikon Close-Up Flash Speedlite Kit – R1C1 which has a Wireless Speedlight commander SU-800, with two Wireless Remote Speedlight SB-R200s. Therefore, my question is have you any experience using this Speedlight kit, if so, have you experienced any reflections? or do you think I would require any subsequent lighting as I do not wish to have any shadows. I await your comments. Kindest regards, Malcolm

  22. November 6, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Hi Mansurovs!
    Thank you guys so much for all the amazing information. I’ve been coming here a ton ever since my friend recommended it to me. I’ve learned so much from you guys. My website is tandemflightphotography.com if you’d like to check it out and let me know how I’m doing!

    Amy

  23. 37
    ) Shakti Aggarwal
    November 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I watched your video about flash light photography and found it to be very useful. I have just purchased a Nikon Sb -700 speed light. One problem I’ve had is when and under which light to use SZ-3TN Incandescent Filter & SZ-3FL Fluorescent Filter. After using color filters, is it advisable to bounce the flash or directly point the flash towards the subject? Also do I need to adjust the white balance settings in camera according to the color filters I am using?
    Any thoughts from you will be of great help.
    Look forward to hearing from you.
    Regards,
    Shakti Aggarwal

  24. 38
    ) Paul Ling
    January 23, 2013 at 1:51 am

    May I know the 1/60th shutter speed consider as 0.01 shutter speed?

  25. 39
    ) Inah Briones
    July 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Hello good day. Just wanna ask what is the best speedlight for nikon d800 and we are using nikkor 24-70mm lens. Thanks in advance.

  26. 40
    ) Khan
    August 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Please help me what kind of light ornament you put on a tree on the corner.
    The one with different color.
    Thanks very much.
    Khan

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