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Using the Built-in Flash

There are going to be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The pop-up flash on the T6s / T6i is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night...or just filling in the shadows.

If you are working in the Creative zone, you will have to turn the flash on for yourself. To do this, just press the pop-up flash button located on the front of the camera (Figure 8.12). Once the flash is up, it is ready to go (Figure 8.13). It’s that simple.

Figure 8.12

Figure 8.12 A quick press of the pop-up flash button will release the built-in flash to its ready position.

Figure 8.13

Figure 8.13 The pop-up flash in its ready position.

Shutter speeds

The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/200 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash in the Basic zone, the camera will typically use a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use the Night Portrait mode, which will fire the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light has time to record in the image.

The real key to using the flash to get great pictures is to control the shutter speed. The goal is to balance the light from the flash with the existing light so that everything in the picture has an even illumination. Let’s take a look at the shutter speeds for the modes in the Creative zone:

  • Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second. You can make changes to the aperture by pressing in the Av button on the back of the camera while turning the Main dial, but you risk over- or underexposing your image.
  • Shutter Priority (Tv): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/200 of a second all the way down to 30 seconds. The lens aperture will adjust accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its largest aperture.
  • Aperture Priority (Av): This mode has three custom settings for adjusting the shutter speed when using the flash, depending on your needs. The whole point of this setting is to allow you to use the aperture of your choice while still getting good flash exposures.

    The default value in AV mode is Auto, which adjusts from 1/200 all the way down to 30 seconds, depending on the available light. As the aperture gets smaller, the shutter speeds will get longer. There are also two speed-limiting settings to choose from. The first is 1/200–1/60 Sec. Auto. This limits the shutter speed to a maximum duration of 1/60 of a second. If you have the aperture open to an f-stop that has a very small opening for a proper exposure, the shutter speed indicator will flash, letting you know that you are risking underexposure. For all other exposures, the camera will moderate the shutter speed to a selection that is within the 1/60–1/200 range. The other setting is 1/200 Sec. (Fixed). This setting maintains a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second no matter what the f-stop is set to. Your flash will try to vary its power output to meet the needs of the setting that you have selected.

  • Manual (M): Manual mode works the same as Tv mode, with a range of 1/200 down to 30 seconds. The difference, of course, is that you must manually set the f-stop.

Setting the sync speed when using flash in Av mode

  1. Press the Menu button and go to the first shooting menu. Highlight Flash Control and then press the Set button (A).

  2. Select Flash Sync. Speed In Av Mode using the Cross keys and press the Set button (B).

  3. Select the Av sync speed that you desire using the Cross keys and press Set once more (C).

Metering modes

The built-in flash uses a technology called E-TTL II (Evaluative Through The Lens) metering to determine the appropriate amount of flash power to output for a good exposure. When you depress the shutter button, the camera quickly adjusts focus while gathering information from the entire scene to measure the amount of ambient light. As you press the shutter button down completely, a pre-flash occurs to meter the light off the subject from the flash, and a determination is made as to how much power is needed to balance the subject with the ambient light. This applies to all of the modes in the Creative zone, with the exception of Manual mode.

The default setting for the flash meter mode is Evaluative. The meter can be set to Average mode but should probably be avoided. Your best results will come from the E-TTL mode.

But if you have special metering needs, such as a background that is very light or dark, you might consider using the Flash Exposure (FE) Lock to meter off your subject and then recompose your image in the viewfinder.

This feature works much like the Automatic Exposure (AE) Lock function that was discussed in Chapter 6, “Say Cheese!”

Using the FE Lock feature

  1. Point the camera at the area that you want to base the flash exposure on. This is normally your subject.
  2. Press the AE/FE Lock button (star.jpg) (near the top right on the back of the camera) to obtain the exposure setting. The flash will fire a small burst to evaluate the exposure and you will see FEL (Flash Exposure Lock) appear briefly in the viewfinder. The AE/FE Lock symbol (star.jpg) will also appear in the viewfinder next to the flash symbol.
  3. Recompose the scene as you like, and press the shutter button completely.

The FE Lock will cancel after each exposure, so you have to repeat these steps each time you need to lock the flash exposure.

Using the Average metering mode might also require that you tweak the flash output by using Flash Exposure Compensation. This is because the camera will be metering the entire scene to set the exposure, so you might have to add or subtract flash power to balance out the scene.

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