Beginner Still having beginner problems with lighting (in camera flash)

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#1
Still having beginner problems with lighting (in camera flash)

Right I am missing something here.....

Usually I shoot with flash, on 1/250 to freeze motion, then after edit using CS5 or LR to get the effect that I want,

Seems to do me well, But I want to cut down on my after editing time.



My main problem is shooting photos of reptiles too big to go in my light tent, such as larger boas.

So when I have to shoot indoors on rainy days, this is the problem I am having.

Here's a photo done on my camera
using the in camera flash
1/250 TV to freeze movement, and ISO 100
(No editing whastoever, not even a drop, just straight off the camera)



The blacks are too light, some details are lost etc and overall not great....


But as I shoot RAW With after editing, I can get a photo such as this one, which I am happy with, BUT I want to cut down editing time and improve my overall skill, I want to be shooting better images, that don't need as much editing afterwards !



HOWEVER, if I shoot without flash, I get an image such as this one
Shot handheld at 1/80, ISO 1000


But when I edit this one afterwards in CS5 or LR, I get a lot of noise and disturbance and a image I cannot use.


What settings etc. am I getting wrong ?

I know ideally I should be using a studio setting and lighting etc, but sometimes when I have snakes other than this one (who doesn't mind posing a little, other than buggering off lol ) I sometimes have to photo aggressive snakes and the camera and its built in flash is all that I can use.

So what can I do, with just the camera and the inbuilt flash, to improve my photos ?
 
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#3
Can you recommend a decent speedlite, that I can get cheap second hand, fo my EOS 40D?

Or is there anything I can do without buying anything extra...
 
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#4
You don't need a speed light (although it would help) but you can bounce the light by adding a card if you have a suitable surface to bounce it off:

http://www.cnet.com/uk/how-to/how-to-make-a-supersimple-bounce-flash-for-your-dslr/

However I don't think that will solve your problem. It will give you more even lighting, but what you need is more contrast between the subject and the background.

The problem you have is that your subject is very close to the background, so the light is hitting both almost equally. The only way i can think of addressing this is to keep the snake on the black surface, but raise another back sheet some distance behind it (a few feet if possible) then shoot it from a much lower angle. That way the light from the flash can hit the snake, but "fall off" a few stops before it reaches the background, giving more contrast and making it easier to fix in post (although i don't think you can do away withthe post processing phase entirely).

Just be aware that if the snake's body is trailing further behind the head, you will get light falloff on that too, so you might want to try to position the snake across the same plane (or use the changes in light for some artistic effects).
 
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#5
I'd have thought a white background would look better- preferably a white paper roll.
It would also help with fill lighting.
Yongnuo do decent flashes and there are loads on Ebay from about £20.
 
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#6
As Timmy says, the problem is that you're lighting the subject and the background equally - this will tend to grey the black cloth unless you process the image (which should be a very quick process).

I'd look at improving your set. Will the snake pose on a branch allowing you to get the black cloth several feet behind it? - that reduces the light falling on the cloth relative to the subject (inverse square law) and make it blacker straight out of the camera, and even better you could look at getting a flashgun(s) and using it off-camera (cord or wireless) with a softbox or umbrella to increase the relative size of the light source.
 
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#7
I will definetly try the above suggestions, but there are times when being Face level with some, shall we say, less than amicable large reptiles is not the best idea.

Usually I would want to get an overhead shot, as it shows the pattern better
 
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#9
Actually Alistair just made me think of the other factor at play here. The vast majority of the image here is black (or at least it should be) but the camera doesn't know this. Your camera will always assess the scene as being middle grey. Take a picture of judt the nlsck sheet, then do the same of a pure white sheet to see what I mean. If left to the camera to decide, you should see thst both images look pretty similar; I.e. grey.

To overcome this you need to tell the camera that the scene it is looking at is largely black, and when using flash you do this with something called "flash exposure compensation" check you manual to confirm how to adjust this, but I would say you neef todial this down by -1 for these types of shots.

That said these images don't look overexposed, so moving the subject away from the background will likely have more of an impact in this case.
 
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#11
You don't need a speed light (although it would help) but you can bounce the light by adding a card if you have a suitable surface to bounce it off:

http://www.cnet.com/uk/how-to/how-to-make-a-supersimple-bounce-flash-for-your-dslr/

However I don't think that will solve your problem. It will give you more even lighting, but what you need is more contrast between the subject and the background.

The problem you have is that your subject is very close to the background, so the light is hitting both almost equally. The only way i can think of addressing this is to keep the snake on the black surface, but raise another back sheet some distance behind it (a few feet if possible) then shoot it from a much lower angle. That way the light from the flash can hit the snake, but "fall off" a few stops before it reaches the background, giving more contrast and making it easier to fix in post (although i don't think you can do away withthe post processing phase entirely).

Just be aware that if the snake's body is trailing further behind the head, you will get light falloff on that too, so you might want to try to position the snake across the same plane (or use the changes in light for some artistic effects).
Nice idea Timmy - think I'll give that a go myself as well :D
 
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#12


The blacks are too light, some details are lost etc and overall not great....

Go and do some reading up on inverse square law, and how small, point light sources near the subject like a small flashgun suffer more from this than larger light sources futher away.

http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/th...t-were-afraid-to-ask-101.440126/#post-5028332


Also.. light from the same place as the camera looks crap... only ever use light near the camera for fill-in.




HOWEVER, if I shoot without flash, I get an image such as this one
Shot handheld at 1/80, ISO 1000

That's because the light is coming from behind, and to the left of the snake. Take the snake somewhere else where there is light coming from a more flattering angle... or just where there is more light.


But when I edit this one afterwards in CS5 or LR, I get a lot of noise and disturbance and a image I cannot use.
That's because it's probably under exposed and you are recovering dark shadow areas in post process. You can't do this... as you've discovered. Get exposure correct by learing to take control of your camera and using it's light meter.

Good photography requires good lighting. Nothing you do in post process will alter that fact.

You need to learn, study and practice lighting. It really is as simple as that.




So what can I do, with just the camera and the inbuilt flash, to improve my photos ?
Not much. In-built flash is sh1t. It will always give results similar to your first shot unless you are using it as fill-in flash for already existing lighting. If the only light source is on-camera flash, it will pretty much always look crap.

Get a proper flashgun that allows you to swivel and tilt the head, so you can bounce flash off other surfaces.


As an example, I took this as part of a lighting tutorial for students... it was taken using one cheap flashgun bounced off a white ceiling, and a couple of reflectors.



One flash gun... and a few pieces of A2 paper. Nothing more.... and that's straight off camera... no post processing... other than removing a cat hair and cropping to square :)


There's no quick fix... learn how to light. Photography is a technical subject... Learn, study, practice.



...but in-built flash is sh1t... get a proper flashgun, and learn how to use it creatively.
 
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#13
What David said.

Light from the built in flash will be crap even with the best prep and PP in the world, and not wanting to offend anyone, but ignore anyone who tells you different.

It's summed up in your question, you're having beginner problems with lighting purely because you're using beginners lighting.

If you want things to be lit properly, it's simple, light them properly. Your pictures look like you've plonked a snake on a sheet and snapped it, because.... (you get it now).

Get a pair of triggers and a cheap manual flashgun, then go about creating a nicely lit set.

Create an interesting space and choose an interesting angle and the right focal length lens. Those instructions are the same no matter what you're shooting, and if you're honest, you've made little effort towards it in those shots.
 
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#14
Appreciate all advice, will have a go with most of it

But people who keep telling me to use a more flattering angle , I'm not going to put myself face level with an aggressive snake lol


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#15
Appreciate all advice, will have a go with most of it

But people who keep telling me to use a more flattering angle , I'm not going to put myself face level with an aggressive snake lol


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I don't blame you.... but we're talking about putting the LIGHT at a more flattering angle.. not necessarily the camera. Well I was referring to light any way.

You are tending to shot from high up, looking down though... it's not a very interesting angle. If you fear getting your head close, then put the camera on a tripod, and use Live view so your face isn't directly behind the camera.
 
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#16
But people who keep telling me to use a more flattering angle , I'm not going to put myself face level with an aggressive snake lol
I had assumed that a pet snake would be used to handling. However, if the snake is not comfortable with being handled I doubt using flash is going to improve its attitude. Have you tried using continuous lighting? Either window light and reflectors, or standard house desk/floor lamps? (make sure the bulbs are all the same type is using domestic lamps).
 
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#17
Or a longer focal length lens so you don't feel so vulnerable, or choosing your moment when it's docile (after being fed?)

You know more about snakes than I do, I'm sure you can work it out.
 
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#18
Appreciate all advice, will have a go with most of it

But people who keep telling me to use a more flattering angle , I'm not going to put myself face level with an aggressive snake lol
Off topic but regular handling should help in that respect - I've x11 snakes in total most of which are Boas and all are handleable.. the only time they're occasionally grumpy is when they're shedding... (y)
 
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#19
In addition to all the lighting advice above, have a search on google for reptile photography, i'm sure you will turn up either you tube videos or guides and advice on websites and forums. You won't be the first to have come up against these problems.

I think the suggestion of a white background is a very good idea. Your on camera flash with something to diffuse it and a couple of large sheets of white paper to bounce and fill shadows will be a great start. Then in PP just up the highlights to really whiten your background. As your snakes are on the darker side, the PP shouldn't affect them and you will retain detail where you need it.

If you are shooting against mostly black, lower your exposure comp (-1 to -2 EV) and the opposite for white backgrounds, increase by 1 to 2.
 
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#20
Off topic but regular handling should help in that respect - I've x11 snakes in total most of which are Boas and all are handleable.. the only time they're occasionally grumpy is when they're shedding... (y)
I have a lot more than 11, I also rescue, Mine are all very good, including my bloods, however the ones I have got off other people are not always the same, and often need some time to build up trust.
 

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#21
Live view? At least that'll give you some extra separation from the snakes.
 
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#22
Anyone that's suggested you can get proper lighting (not fill) from the onboard flash want to share some examples?

I'm happy to be proved wrong.
 
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#23
I have a lot more than 11, I also rescue, Mine are all very good, including my bloods, however the ones I have got off other people are not always the same, and often need some time to build up trust.
So if you've that many to choose from then start of by photographing some of the less aggresive ones to perfect the techniques needed :D
 
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#24
Your on camera flash with something to diffuse it and a couple of large sheets of white paper to bounce and fill shadows will be a great start.
No.. it wouldn't. It would be a terrible start.... and one that will lead to disappointing results. A mirror to reflect the light upwards, or at angles away from camera to bounce it can lead to better results, but the low power of the flash itself makes you run into problems here.

You can probably get a Canon 430EX for around £100 used off Ebay I reckon. That will be better. In fact, if the OP's Canon camera can use the in-built flash as a commander for the 430 (not many Canon SLRs can compared to Nikons)... that's probably the only good use in-built flash has IMO.
 
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#27
What's wrong with a facemask?


...and just to join in ... £40 used flashgun, bounced!
I don't want to break my snakes teeth.

Is rather them bite me than break their teeth on one of those

Better yet I'd rather avoid getting bit at all

Think I'll invest in a big grey sheet and a flash, if I light it right I should be able to get it white ir black

Used flashgun here I come


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#28
...

Think I'll invest in a big grey sheet and a flash, if I light it right I should be able to get it white ir black

...
Not with a snake laid on it you can't.
Making a grey background white takes separation and additional lights. Making it black takes separation and careful control of the key light. If you don't understand why that is, then keep your money in your piggy bank and read and watch lighting tutorials until those facts are obvious.

The problem with the internet is that you've been given a lot of advice here, and you've read stuff elsewhere that makes you believe the wrong stuff.

This is all the advice you need to improve your shots.
...
Create an interesting space and choose an interesting angle and the right focal length lens. Those instructions are the same no matter what you're shooting...
Sure you need off camera flash to do this (or controlled natural light), but you also need to be able to 'create' a set which is interesting, you can't do this by throwing down a grey sheet and hoping to be able to play tricks with lighting.

Once you have an understanding of lighting, scour the web for pictures like you want to create, study them, angle, focal length, direction and quality of light(s). Then go and buy the lights, backgrounds and whatever else you need. Then practice without the snake, then with an easy to handle snake, then you can start on the challenging ones.
 
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#29
Think I'll invest in a big grey sheet and a flash, if I light it right I should be able to get it white ir black
What? Suddenly an expert :D:wideyed:

I can imagine a white sheet to go with your black one would make more logical sense ... until a snake pooed on it I guess. Yeah, I saw that "Come dine with me" episode.
 
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#30
Too much info to take in
Gah

Why can't I like an easy hobby. :-/


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No.. it wouldn't. It would be a terrible start.... and one that will lead to disappointing results.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it is my experience that this would make an improvement over the OPs current set up.

I would appreciate you tone down your obvious ignorance, lose the superiority complex and refrain from rubbishing other's suggestions in the future. We are all here to help (well i know i am) regardless of our experience.

I don't belittle others comments and i don't appreciate those that do.
 
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#33
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it is my experience that this would make an improvement over the OPs current set up.
...
If you're referring to this...
...I think the suggestion of a white background is a very good idea. Your on camera flash with something to diffuse it and a couple of large sheets of white paper to bounce and fill shadows will be a great start. Then in PP just up the highlights to really whiten your background. As your snakes are on the darker side, the PP shouldn't affect them and you will retain detail where you need it.
...
I'm afraid, unless you're prepared to share examples that'll prove David wrong, then my opinion is also that this advice is completely wrong.

I'm sorry if you're offended, and I appreciate you feel entitled to an opinion, but the built in flash will not produce interesting light without a very convoluted set of reflectors and diffusers.

It's simple physics, interesting light creates shadows, a light that close to the lens creates shadows which are almost invisible to the lens, even with some botched diffusion, you're going to have difficulty softening the shadows that do occur. It's crap light, for very obvious reasons.
 
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#34
Why can't I like an easy hobby. :-/
I guess this is part of the answer. If this is just a hobby for your own enjoyment, then don't stress overly on the setup. Try the cheaper options that have been recommended, it they work, great, if they don't, you haven't lost a lot. Although Photography is a great hobby, it is also a very expensive one. Phil is right with his suggestions, to get pro looking shots, you need external light sources, separation from the backdrop, and a more interesting 'set'. The angle problem can be solved with a longer lens, as he mentioned, but again, you are talking about spending money.
If this is something you are looking to do more 'professionally' then you have to look into the aspect of investment. If you are looking to do it as a hobby, and because you enjoy it, then just keep playing at it.
In camera flashes will never give great results, as they are designed to be 'snap shot' suitable. The light source is so small, and you can't practically direct or expand it, that it will be tricky to get 'great' results from it. I'm not sure what material you are using, but if it isn't felt, that may be worth a try, as it is fairly low in its reflection value compared to plain black material. And with post editing, if you are not using Lightroom, give that a try. That will be able to give you much simpler adjustments to the Blacks and Shadows than the standard RAW app. You could also save your pre-sets, so it would just be a couple of clicks, and maybe a brief slide to get the look you want.
 
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#35
Everyone is entitled to their opinion,

Sometimes... yes. You can hold the opinion that the sky is pink and made from blancmange if you want; Just prepare to have that opinion challenged.
 
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#36
As an example, this is a straight out of camera shot (other than reducing to 50% size) to show how non-reflective 'black felt' is. There are 2 large flash heads fairly close to the baby, who is surrounded by black felt. Obviously we would then edit it further to hide it, but it shows how little of it shows up, even with that much light.
 

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#37
Sometimes... yes. You can hold the opinion that the sky is pink and made from blancmange if you want; Just prepare to have that opinion challenged.
Quite happy to have opinions challenged.

I stated that a diffused inbuilt flash with something to reflect and reduce shadows would be an improvement. Flash compensation increased and ISO increased would reduce harsh shadows and give a more balanced exposure. The OP seems to be pretty close to the subject, we are not talking large distance here for fall off.

I am not under any illusions that my suggestion would ever compare to a proper set up, (flashes, reflectors, background and whatever else) and whole heartedly agree that onboard flash is crap. But why would I post the same as everyone else before me. This is an alternative suggestion which is simple to try an improve the resulting image without any additional expense or equipment.

Phil V, there are plenty of examples of improving shadows etc with simple techniques including some form of diffused light from the on board flash on the internet. If the OP so wishes he can try his choice of search engine for endless results.

Obviously the experts on here don't see minor improvements as worthy of mention. I'll leave it there.

Good luck to the OP whatever he chooses, and I will look forward to seeing more shots in the future. You have some great subjects and I'm envious of that (but not of the chance of being bitten though!!)
 
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#38
...

Phil V, there are plenty of examples of improving shadows etc with simple techniques including some form of diffused light from the on board flash on the internet. If the OP so wishes he can try his choice of search engine for endless results.

Obviously the experts on here don't see minor improvements as worthy of mention. I'll leave it there.

Good luck to the OP whatever he chooses, and I will look forward to seeing more shots in the future. You have some great subjects and I'm envious of that (but not of the chance of being bitten though!!)
So you haven't done it and can't prove it can be done. So I have no choice but to call b******t! :stop:This is the kind of stuff that gets repeated on the internet so often that people start to believe it. It's not helpful, to the OP or anyone else.

It's simple physics; light travels in straight lines, hardness of shadows is (in simple terms) determined by the relative size of the light source. Add the inverse square law to that and there is no guess work or mythology required, lighting is basically very simple compared to things like composition and perspective. The problem is that too many people give it no thought whatsoever, because when we learn photography the tricky bit is exposure - so we concentrate on quantity of light, quality gets lost.

Lets be straight and honest, I'm not talking about 'professional results' I'm trying to answer the OP's question, and the way to stop your lighting from looking like beginner lighting is to use better tools and techniques than a beginner uses. a simple off camera flash and a PC cable or a pair of wireless triggers is really cheap compared to most photography gear. Fire the flash a foot behind a hung white sheet and you have a soft directional light source. No amount of wrapping the built in flash in bog roll will produce the same thing (yes I have seen that suggested in other threads).

And just a point re attention to detail and reading posts properly, it ought to be obvious that the OP isn't a 'he';)
 
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#39
Quite happy to have opinions challenged.

Good.. because I'm challenging it.


I stated that a diffused inbuilt flash with something to reflect and reduce shadows would be an improvement.
So what would you diffuse it with?


Flash compensation increased and ISO increased would reduce harsh shadows and give a more balanced exposure.
No it wouldn't. Would you care to explain how increasing flash exposure would reduce shadows (or more accurately reduce the contrast between them and ambient) but the shadows will still be ugly? I can only assume you mean LOWER flash exposure compensation... and yes, that would reduce shadows, but you'd need adequate ambient light to give a correct ambient exposure, or it will just be under-exposed, and if you have adequate light for a correct ambient exposure, why not just use ambient light to take the shot.. it will look better.


The OP seems to be pretty close to the subject, we are not talking large distance here for fall off.

Fall off is WORSE when the flash is close to the subject. INVERSE square law... light falls off INVERSELY to the square of the distance.


I am not under any illusions that my suggestion would ever compare to a proper set up, (flashes, reflectors, background and whatever else) and whole heartedly agree that onboard flash is crap. But why would I post the same as everyone else before me.
If you mean why should you post this when others in other forums and sites have written it too? Probably because you just believe everything you read... never actually tried to do this yourself.

Only one other person in this thread has suggested this, and that's by using a piece of card to bounce it uncontrollably upwards... results suck.

This is from the "tutorial" he linked to...



LOL... sorry, but that's ****ing awful. Even if you used a larger piece of card than the one used in that tutorial to get more even lighting (way to go whoever wrote that BTW - LOL), it's flat, overly diffused and offers no modelling or direction to the light... and STILL relies on having white walls and ceiling. If not, reflectors are needed, and as you are reflecting light that's already been bounced, the spill past the reflectors will be awful.

This is an alternative suggestion which is simple to try an improve the resulting image without any additional expense or equipment.

Phil V, there are plenty of examples of improving shadows etc with simple techniques including some form of diffused light from the on board flash on the internet. If the OP so wishes he can try his choice of search engine for endless results.
Yeah.. there are loads... you can even buy them: Things like the Fong attachment. They're sh1t.



Yeah.. massive difference.... well worth doing. :) That diffuser cost £20. For £20 more she could have bought a Yongnuo TTL equipped flash gun with a guide number of 53/ISO100. A few quid more would get a TTL extension cord.


Obviously the experts on here don't see minor improvements as worthy of mention. I'll leave it there.

Ever thought that the experts are actually right?


In reality, there are ways to diffuse onboard flash, yes, but to do it in such a way as to actually result in something good would be such a pain in the ass (especially when you have such a subject to deal with) that they're just not worth it. You'd still need reflectors, mirrors, stands (or assistants) and results would be only marginally improved.

1. Diffuse it with a piece of tracing paper or even a proper diffuser. However, that looks no better (see above)

2. Place a mirror at 45 degrees directly in front of the flash and bounce it upwards. This would modify the light the most, but it's awkward, and offers no control... and as the light is not focused in any way, inefficient. Lighting even a relatively small space will max out the flash most likely resulting in under exposure unless high ISOs are used (which adds noise). Plus.. it assumes you have white walls. If you have red walls, or blue, or green.. you're screwed and you'll have to also use a reflector.. which means you're now running out of hands and need an assistant.... or lighting stands. Even with the reflector and the mirror... so much light will still be leaking past the reflector it won't be working very well... and your inbuilt flash is still only barely powerful enough. Light coverage will probably be patchy at best, and doing all of this while trying to handle snakes makes it massively impractical.

I'm fairly certain the Yongnuo YN510EX is not only TTL when hotshoe mounted, but can be used with Nikon's CLS and Canon's equivalent I think (check this though... I'm working from memory here - Asking in the lighting forums will get a definitive answer)... and it's between £40 and £50 on Ebay... new. Even if the OPs' camera can't use the on board flash as a commander for another flashgun, TTL cords are dirt cheap to enable off camera flash. Then using this with reflectors (A1 white card works wonderfully as a reflector.. around 50p a sheet from art shops) opens up many creative possibilities.

Not only will this solve her immediate problem, she'll now have a means to really start playing with light once she starts to learn how to use it properly.

Always use the right tools for the job - this is true for anything.. not just photography. The reality is... it's just not worth arsing around when you can get good cheap TTL flashguns and TTL cords. The initial investment is more, but it's SO worth it if you use flash a great deal in your photography.

Lighting is the most important thing in photography.. why advise a beginner to fudge it? Surely it's best to give advice that gets them to start treating it seriously from day one? If what you do is a great deal of is flash photography, then you need to know how to use it properly, not find ways to use inappropriate tools to get half-assed results.

Good luck to the OP whatever he chooses,
She
 
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#40
Just to prove the 'experts' don't always agree, I'd go with a purely manual flashgun as the situation is very controlled and it'd take a tiny amount of trial and error to get the exposure nailed. Although the new small Yongnuo ETTL is such a bargain it'd be a shame if you couldn't stretch to one.

But where David and I definitely agree, there is no way that you can make the built in flash produce acceptable light as the key light. It'll produce a useful fill, but it's hardly an answer to the OP's issue
 
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