Flash Photography in Total Darkness

For some flash photography subjects it is necessary to shoot in the dark with the flashgun as the primary source of light.

The shot of the Fruit Bat below is an example of this.

Fruit Bat
Fruit Bat

For shots like this you’ll need a flashgun that has an AF (Auto Focus) Assist Beam. This allows the camera to focus even in total darkness.

This shot was taken:

Using manual mode so that the Shutter Speed and Aperture could be set independently.

Using an aperture of f/11. When photographing the bats, its very difficult to place the centre focus point over the bat, let alone on its eyes. Using f/11 meant that as long as I get the focus point anywhere on the bat, there is enough depth of field for the eyes to be in focus as well.

When flash is the primary source of light, it is the aperture and the flash duration that determines the exposure. The shutter speed has nothing to do with it (unless using high speed sync) because it simply isn’t fast enough to control it. This is different to ambient light where it is the aperture and shutter speed that always determine exposure.

A shutter speed of 1/250s was used because it’s the cameras maximum flash sync speed. This means that high speed sync mode will not be used and the flash will freeze the motion of the bat. The exact speed of this does vary depending on the camera that you are using.

Further Reading

Buying a Flashgun – Cut through all of the jargon and discover exactly what to look for when purchasing a flashgun.

Extend the Range of Your Flashgun – The range of your flashgun can be extended very cheaply when using long telephoto lenses.

Macro Flash – Discover the miniature world of macro flash.