Photo tricks. Part 14.

This article will be useful for those who often shoot in low light conditions.

Photo tricks. Part 14

Photo tricks. Part 14

I usually use an external flash in low light conditions. I love Nikon's native flash units, they have simple controls and powerful functionality. One of the useful functions is focus assist light with the red lamp on the flash, about which I already wrote in first tricks section.

True, the flash lamp only works in AF-S and AF-A and does not work in mode AF-C. This is not very convenient, as in AF-C usually available shutter priority, and in AF-S mode is available focus priority... You can read about focusing priorities in the 'Focusing on Nikon Cameras'. I mean, in AF-S mode and AF-A you have to wait until the camera is 100% sure of correct focusing - this is not always convenient.

It turns out like this:

  • in AF-S mode, you can get focus assist lighting with external flashbut the camera does not respond to the shutter button until it is 'confident' in focusing. This way the focus is more accurate, but you can miss a bunch of points due to the lock of the shutter button when focusing.
  • in mode AF-C the camera instantly responds to the shutter button without paying attention to accuracy, but in this mode there is no auxiliary backlight with the flash lamp. Thus, you can get efficiency, but abandon the useful backlight.

The way out of this situation is very simple: in the camera menu rearrange AF-S focus mode on shutter priority. Thus, the backlight with the spotlight will be available external flash and instant response to the shutter button. I usually do this when shooting a wedding. Many cameras do not have AF-S priority settings, AF-Cbecause such a focus is only available on some advanced and professional Nikon cameras. For amateur cameras, such a cunning manipulation of the reordering of focus priorities does not exist.

There are situations where the red illuminator on the flash cannot be used. For example, recently I accidentally illuminated a scripture with a red 'ominous' light while filming a wedding, after which the priest looked at me very ambiguously. Then I shot without illumination. In this case, you can cheat even more. Should cancel infrared in flash menu, while the backlight will be activated using the usual spotlights on the camera.

But the trouble is that the spotlight lamp focusing on the camera:

  • only works in auto focus mode AF-A, AF-S and, just like the backlight on external flashdoes not work in AF-C mode
  • in single-point focus mode, the backlight only works when focusing on a center point and does not work when focusing on other focus points

In Live View modes, the focus backlight is not available at all.


As you can see, there are a lot of nuances of the focusing illumination system. With frequent intensive shooting, skillful adjustment can increase the success rate. I advise you to 'experiment' with a backlit lamp on your external flash, or with a backlight on the camera for different focus modes.

Help to the project. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 29, on the topic: Photo tricks. Part 14.

  • Flash

    The question is unlikely to the author, but someone can help (-: There is a Chinese flash Cobra, it works fine in manual mode and I have enough for my tasks, but sometimes I would like the same AF illumination. There is a lamp on the flash, but its camera Can't turn it on Or I can't ... Can I do it?

    • anonym

      I looked at these flashes. a weak parody, although it costs and looks like the original.

  • Gene jb

    As I already wrote, I usually photograph on a manual, albeit with an external flash. It doesn’t work out very well, but each time it’s getting better and better, it comes to intuition. On AF, I tried a whale, it's hard even with a red backlight from the flash, but still better than without it. Even better with the built-in flash strobe light. I have a canon 400d, so there is no built-in AF backlight. We have to get out.

  • Maksim

    Arkady, please tell me how to distinguish a SLR lens from a rangefinder?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Threaded fasteners, usually M39. Sometimes it’s very difficult to distinguish.

    • Sergei

      In Kiev - 4th bayonet Contacx. Rangefinder camera.

    • d.martyn

      Indeed, in rangefinder cameras, there is often a threaded connection to the M39 lens. Another main and no-brainer distinguishing feature is the presence of a floating (when the focus ring is rotated) skirt next to the mounting thread, this skirt serves to kinematically connect the lens with the tongue of the camera rangefinder.

  • Jury

    What I noticed - when you shoot with flash backlight - focusing is almost instantaneous, rather than when you illuminate with a lamp on the camera (Nikon D3000 camera, kit 18-55 or 35 mm portrait lens, SB-700 flash). And the spotlight on the puff shines much farther than the native lamp on the camera. I don’t know how on other cameras - on mine so.

    • d.martyn

      With system flashes, things are very good in terms of autofocus illumination, the power and accuracy of positioning the illumination spot at a height, but the Chinese brothers sin in this moment - it shines not at all where the lens is directed and the "quality" of light is like flashlights for keys from door locks, in this case I recommend using chamber lighting.

  • Triggerer

    Good afternoon, Arkady. Please advise the camera and flash settings (Nikon D90 + KIT camera, SB-700 flash.) For taking pictures in the temple. Usually I shoot in M ​​mode, shutter speed 1 \ 160, aperture in different ways. Flash in TTL-BL mode. ISO 600-800. But the pictures of people are too illuminated by the flash, the atmosphere of heat from the candles and lamps of the temple is not transmitted. He directed the flash head up with a white card, but didn’t beat him in the forehead.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1/160 is too much, try 1/30, ISO 800, 18mm f / 3.5. In this case, the flash should illuminate people, and the atmosphere of the temple will manifest itself due to the greater exposure.

  • Triggerer

    thank you very much!

  • Ruslan

    I would take something for myself, so that (when the flash is not needed or working in a studio with low light) for accurate aiming. Only focus highlighting in any mode and nothing else ... simple and effective ... but something I haven't seen such a feature on sale ...

  • Frank

    Why are there only 1, 2 and 14 parts of "photo tricks"? Where are 3 to 13?

  • Oleg

    having bought a nikon sb-700 list to the nikon d7000 camera in auto focus mode, the message box is horizontal and horizontal in the usa solution, I want to vertically. Why so? How can I manually adjust the horizontal and horizontal position?

  • anonym

    Recently I noticed one more “minus” of flash autofocus illumination. When shooting a cat at home - the red grating emitted by my YN-565, the cat really likes and she tries to play with her;)
    I have to disconnect. However, the camera spotlight also responds. I'm leaving for AF-C, which still reduces the chances of a sharp frame. Especially on a motor lens. It is quite difficult to get into the eye of a black cat on a gray sofa in the evening illumination of the apartment.

  • Alexander

    I'm sorry, I forgot to introduce myself in a previous post.
    And at the same time - to say another huge thank you for the detailed articles and reviews presented in simple human language!

    And how happy I was last year when I learned how to get around the 1 / 60th second limit when shooting in A mode - and words cannot convey it. How many daughters' matinees were saved;)

    • Dmitry

      And how to get around this limitation?

  • Arman

    zdrastvuyte Arkady pomagite pojalusta kamera Nikon D300s vspishka Sb700, v ploxom osveshenii krasnaya setka fokusirovki na spishke ne rabotayet, osveshayet obyek joltaya lampa na fotoaparate a tak ocakastastlenno ?? shto srabatival krasnaya setka vspishki, zaranie spasibo

    • BB

      When the flash is mounted on the camera and turned on, the 'built-in' AF illuminator should not turn on. Does your machine even 'see' the flash?

      PS if you write in Russian, then write in Cyrillic. If there is no Cyrillic alphabet on the device, use online transliteration.

      • Arman

        Thank you, the flash works fine,

    • KalekseyG

      “The flash lamp works only in modes
      focusing AF-S and AF-A and does not work in AF-C mode ”checked?

  • Andrey Popov

    Thank you

  • Alexander

    Hello. Who happened that when working with an external flash, the focus got confused when illuminated i.e. back, front focus. You have to turn it off, or cover it with your hand, or make an amendment in the settings.

  • NE

    Interestingly, the autofocus backlight of the Nissin Air radio synchronizer installed on the d800 does not only work at the center point. The backlight is also activated when using all the vertical center points; extreme horizontal in the center, as well as horizontal central, third in a row from the extreme (verses are obtained), i.e. total of 9 points. I personally don’t understand the logic; I wonder how the backlighting of other triggers works.

  • Stepan

    I photograph on the ancient D3100 and manual glass. In the dark, it’s inconvenient to catch focus, because no bags are visible through the viewfinder in the dark. I want to ask if anyone knows a way how to turn on the autofocus (bullshit) backlight on the manual?

    • anonym

      Probably only a dandelion will help.

    • Dmitry

      Yes, backlight will work with dandelion.
      Although, at the cost of a dandelion, isn’t it easier to buy a separate flashlight for lighting?

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