A Simple Idea to Improve Flash Photography

This is something that has been bouncing around in my mind for the last six months. It's simple, yet could improve the flash photos of every pro (and serious amateur) shooter.

The beauty is, it even could be done retroactively for pro and prosumer cameras already in circulation via a simple firmware upgrade. And it could help Nikon flash shooters, whether they use SBs, ABs, Profotos or whatever.

How to integrate white balance and flash, inside.

So, Here's the Idea

Both Nikon and Canon (and Sony, Pentax, Olympus, Holga and Lomo, for all I know) do a very good job of manual white balance, based on the ambient environment. If you are shooting available light, you just shoot a white (or grey) card and set a new white balance to match your mystery ambient light. That'll get you pretty darn close.

But with flash you 're screwed if the weird ambient is not daylight, incandescent or "30CC green" fluorescent. Because whatever weird white balance you shift to is gonna leave your flash out in the cold. Or the warm. Or the too cyan-ish magenta. (You get the picture.)

It shouldn't have to be that way. Since the camera can balance in just about any color of light, it knows the exact difference between white light and your ambient environment. Wouldn't that be a handy little piece of info to have at your disposal?

It would be a simple, in-camera calculation to convert that offset into a color-correction (CC) filter pack. Then the light coming from your flash would be color-matched to the weird, ambient environment. Now, your camera's white balance corrects for everything. And Rosco already makes that gel pack. (It's about $45 for enough material to last you forever with speedlights.)

Imagine walking into a mystery-vapor high school gym, doing a quick white balance and being able to gel the strobes to exactly match the ambient color. I'd be all over that. And this would be especially sweet, now that fluorescent light color temperatures have all gone to hell in a handbasket. Adding 30CCs of magenta doesn't correct for jack anymore.

So, Nikon -- you already have the ambient offset color information available in the camera, and it works great. How about you just give us a downstream menu option to know how to CC gel our flashes so we can match the ambient without buying an expensive flash color meter?

I dunno what we would have to do to get this noticed by anyone at Nikon Japan (plus-sized strip-o-gram, maybe?) But if you are onboard for the idea, please leave a comment, tweet it, blog it -- whatever.

Maybe we'll get their attention somehow.


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