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Your portrait flash questions from part 2 answered – by Matthew Kees


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These are some answers to questions readers had on part 2 of the flash series – “How to use your flash effectively in portraits.”

1. Denise Olson wrote: Thanks Matthew, just what I was looking for this past week. Would love see some tidbits on the use of flash outdoors…:) Thanks for your wealth of information!!

You’ll want to come back next week. Part 3 covers outdoor flash as a fill.

2. Laura wrote: Matthew, first I want to thank you so much for your generosity in all that you share with us. You are such a great guy. 🙂 My question is…when you say to set the flash to TTL, do you do that within the camera body menu or on the flash itself? I have the Nikon D80 and the SB800. Thanks! This flash stuff so confuses me, although I have managed to stumble on some good shots here and there using it both on and off camera bouncing it.

Set TTL mode on the flash itself. You may need to check your flash manual for the instructions.

With your D80, you can use your flash off camera in remote TTL as well. Then the flash mode is set on the camera.

3. Lauri Hill wrote: Mathew, you are such a great teacher. After reading this, I think I can actually understand my flash. Before I put it to TTL and prayed. Sometimes I got a good shot, but could never figure out how to make it consistent. Of course I was bouncing all over the place but not changing EV. Now I am ready to go to work mastering this flash. After Christmas, when my time is freer, I want to check out your classes. Thanks again.

You’re very welcome and thank you for considering my photography course. It gives you the confidence and skills to become a serious professional photographer, in less time and in more depth than any other online program.

4. Stephanie wrote: This post was just in time for Christmas. Plus its getting cold and dark up in Michigan, so I’m stuck indoors with bad lighting. We put up our tree yesterday and after reading your post I decided to try out the settings with my kids. The pictures actually turned out pretty good. Good exposure, no motion blur. Now I’m excited to get the SB600 or 800. My Dad’s flash from his old Minolta just happend to work with my D60 so I’ve been playing with that. But it doesn’t rotate so I still end up with the dark black shadow on some photos. I would love to see some demo photos in the posts. I’m a DSLR newbie so visuals help.

New flashes are much more advanced than those available just a few years ago. Nikon’s SB series of flashes are the most technologically advanced flash units you can buy. I hope you get one for Christmas (or maybe before 😉 ). Having the extra power and the ability to swivel will allow you to be more creative with your flash lighting.

The way I teach online is to not include images of my own. Instead, I have assignments in my course that encourage you to do things yourself, with a thorough understanding of how and why certain settings work. After reading the material you’ll be excited to put what you’ve learned into practice and be able to see the results in the images you make. I give you the tools for your own creativity to blossom.

5. Jennie wrote: Thank you for this consice post about use of speedlights. You have a great ability to simplify the complicated! I’ve heard of using the foam core to bounce the light and I think I know how I would use the first piece, but you mentioned you could use a second piece. Can you provide an explaination or diagram of how to do this? Thanks so much.

The first one is used to bounce the flash off of. It becomes the key light in your exposure. A second one can be placed on the opposite side as a fill (to lighten the shadows made by the key).

You can actually make beautiful studio style portraits with just one flash and a reflector.

And thank you all for the kind words.


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  1. Wendy on December 12, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Jodi- Just wondering if you got your new mkii. I preordered my in early october and haven’t received it yet! So bummed. Let me know what you think when you get it?Have a great weekend!wendy

  2. admin on December 13, 2008 at 8:24 am

    not yet – hopefully soon….

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