Creative Lighting With Your Pentax

Ways to make your photos more creative using flash.

30/11/2012 - 00:00

The first time you use flash is likely to be the built in option on your Pentax camera. It's close to the lens and the results are quite harsh, but the flash illuminates the subject and produces a decent result in low light, so we accept it.

The Pentax K-5 built in flash

Those who find the benefits of flash photography and own an SLR may go a step further and buy an additional portable battery operated flashgun. This type of flash mounts onto the camera's hot shoe. They improve the angle of light slightly, but are still very direct and harsh, so some photographers modify them by adding a variety of gadgets to the head to bounce, diffuse, spread and soften the light, but it's still coming from the front.

There is a solution. With a flash extension cable attached or by using a slave trigger system you can take the flash away from the camera and change its position.

This short technique is to offer an alternative way to light still life objects using flash. We notice from many photos uploaded to online galleries that most people who've used flash off camera have still used it from the front. And while this is usually good for portraiture it's not always ideal for still life table top photography.

Where possible you should try the flash from different angles to see which gives the best lighting.

In our first illustration we've taken a photo of a calculator and taken it with the typical flash on camera approach.

It's okay, but it does lack any form of dimension as there are no shadows on the background. That may be desirable, but look what happens if we change flash position.

Direct light

Here the flash was moved to the right so it's about 45 degrees from the camera. This is a common lighting position for portraits. Look how the keys have started to become more three dimensional as the light catches the right edge

Light at 45 degrees

Now we moved it to 90 degrees from the camera so it's to the right of the calculator and the keys lift even further and so does the right side of the calculator.

Light at 90 degrees

And now we've moved it to 135 degrees so it's behind and to the right of the calculator, this adds a shadow in front of the keys and the base of the calculator to give it even more depth.

Light at 135 degrees

Finally we've set it at 180 degrees from the camera and in portraiture would be called back-lighting but here it's produce shadows in front and highlighted the LCD panels so the calculator comes to life. Much more vibrant than the on camera position.

Light at 180 degrees

The lighting position depends on the subject, its design and shape, reflective surfaces etc., so you need to change flash position accordingly. The main thing when shooting still-lifes is to be more creative with your flash or light position. While this article is based around a still-life with flash, the technique will work with most subjects and any light source, including natural light from a window.

So try the technique and post your creative flash photos in the Pentax User Gallery.

Lighting diagrams created online at

Related Photos


Link Posted 16/12/2012 - 12:02
This has always been a popular demonstration in our Club, it goes further than that though, all of the above applies to any image you take including Landscapes, the way the keys get more 3D also works an a tree or a bush in a Landscape it makes them 'pop' too.

The other point that this brings up is that when outdoors photographing most anything, you have to be around when the Sun is at the right angle for what you want, in other words WHEN becomes as important as WHAT.

Good article - thanks


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