…you’re using TTL (Thru The Lens metering).

I know, I know, all the flash manufacturers love to talk about TTL in their marketing pieces, and it’s touted as a miracle fix-all for new flash users. But in my honest opinion, I think it’s probably the single biggest reason new flash users struggle with their flash or even hate their flash, and it’s because of TTLs total inconsistency or flat-looking results when it does work.

For example, you’re shooting a wedding; you’re getting decent results for the first few minutes; you turn to shoot a different part of the church/reception/whatever, and all of a sudden it looks horrible. You haven’t touched anything, you haven’t changed everything, but it now it looks awful. Now what?

The concept behind TTL is great — it meters the existing light in the scene, and theoretically it then sends just the right amount of light onto your subject. Sometimes it’s fairly right, but quite often it’s not at all, and you wind up with an image that looks like you were shooting a crime scene for law enforcement.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Joe McNally uses TTL!” That’s true — but you’re not Joe McNally. He’s the magical unicorn of flash, and he could form a flash from a watch battery, a packet of soy sauce, and a can of Crisco and use it to light a portrait using TTL that would make Rembrandt reconsider using natural light.

Yes, there are pros who can tweak TTL to where it works for them — but that’s not who I’m talking about here. I’m not talking about people who have mastered TTL or overcome all the quirks of TTL, and they’ve made it work for what they do. I’m talking about everybody else. I’m talking about the thousands of people I taught during my Shoot Like a Pro seminar tour who were miserable with their flash. Sadly, so many had given up on flash altogether when all they had to do was switch off TTL and switch their flash to manual. Then if the flash doesn’t look bright enough in the shot, you just turn up the power of the flash. If it’s too bright, you turn it down.

Can it really be that simple? Absolutely!

I did something to help all those folks
I wrote a book called ‘The Flash Book,’ and in it, I tell folks to turn off TTL and start loving their flash. Of course, there’s way more in the book than just that (or it would be a 1-page book), but it’s a really great start because I teach a system that I know works from the hundreds of folks who’ve told me that now they finally love their flash.

There are more reasons why folks hate their flash, and I’ll cover some more here maybe next week, but this weekend, dust off your flash; turn off TTL, switch to Manual Mode, and start down the path of finally falling in love with your flash. It can change everything.

Here are the winners of my Flash Book give away:
Congrats to:

Teri Yearkey, Macomb Township, MI
Jose Mario Monia Sanchez, Spain
Gary Phillip, England

Still waiting to hear from the other two winners, but we’ll find ’em. :)

Have a great weekend everybody, and here’s to making better images with your flash!

Best,

-Scott

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About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; KelbyOne.com CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.

12 Comments

  1. “… I teach a system that I know works from the hundreds of folks who’ve told me that now they finally love their flash…”

    Hey! One of them is me! YAY! :)

  2. Scott, not sure why I haven’t gotten your message that I won, but here I am! :)

  3. Scott, do you still recommend manual flash for event photography where the environment changes throughout the night?? It seems that we would have to be constantly having to change flash power while trying to shoot on the run. I have switched to manual for more controlled environments, and I am reading your book right now :)

    • I set my flash to manual anytime I’m doing event photography. You do wind up changing the power of your flash from time to time, but I’d rather take two seconds and get it looking great, then have crappy looking flash all night because I didn’t want to change the power manually. I use a wireless transmitter so I can do it right from on top of my hot shoe mount. It’s easier than you’d think, and the results are so much better. :)

      • That’s exactly what I did when photographing my company’s Christmas Party lat year. I set my camera to manual, my flash to manual and ran all evening only bumping the flash power up or down by 1/3-2/3 of a stop. All worked out great and the adjustments weren’t that troublesome despite shooting “praying mantis” style (with the flash in my left hand stretched out). And it made processing the whole event in Lightroom a breeze (a light breeze – not hurricane though – of course due to known Lightroom’s culling speed ;) ).

  4. Scott, my entry must have been lost with Kevin’s (above). So stop looking, you can ship both of our books out today after lunch! ?
    –John

  5. Scott… my wonderful wife gave me the Flash Book for Christmas… love it. Always loved your style and it is looking well worn already. Sent my recommendations to a number of my friends so that recent uptick in sales was me… yeehaw!

  6. I mostly use it on manual. I hate my flash because it is another piece (or 3) of gear to carry, because I then have to carry batteries for them, and of COURSE the batteries have to be changed middle of a big shoot. Other than that…

  7. Hey Scott, I guess I am now comfortable with Nikon’s TTL these days but requires a lot of thinking and re-thinking every time I take a flash shot. The book’s ordered and I receive it Wednesday. Looking forward to the Kelby …cut to the chase style…

    • Thanks, Peter – I hope you find it helpful. :)

      • It is thanks Scott! I am now using manual camera settings but mixing and matching TTL and manual flash. I can’t bring myself to but another trigger when the Nikon D7000 series have remote flash capability built in. Yes it uses infrared but for the odd occasion I use the flash this seems to work perfectly for me. I just make sure the receiver on the SB700 is pointing towards my camera. In the event that fails to work, I also have a dumb wireless trigger which means I have to go fully manual but that’s okay too for the small amount of flash photography I do. Lots of other great advice in there too, so thanks for putting it on paper!

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