Photography: Flash with Natural and Synthetic Materials

This is a series of experiments with on camera, pop-up style flash. On the Fujifilm XT2 a small flash comes supplied with the camera, but it’s not part of the actual camera itself. I wanted to find out what the supplied flash could do, and what the effects of this flash  are on various subjects. Most of these images are as shot, they’ve not had post-production work yet.

There is limited control with this supplied flash.* It meters through-the-lens but it is only adjustable by 2 stops +/- from the camera menu, so to control the amount of flash beyond 2 stops I had to change the distance, change the aperture, or change the ISO.


I used window light as my key light for these flowers, and experimented with using the flash to add some fill. I set the camera to manual and exposed to keep the background paper as dark as possible. These first two images are natural light, no flash, and have been lightened in Photos on an iMac because I was underexposing to keep the background dark! I really like this low-key look though.

No flash. ISO 200; f6.4; 1/60s Boosted exposure in Photos
No flash. ISO 200; f6.4; 1/60s Boosted exposure in Photos

This is the version using the flash. Yuk. I tried exposure compensation for the flash when the images were like this, going down 2 stops, but I wished I could have gone to 3 stops and taken the flash off camera for a better result.

With flash. ISO 200; f6.4; 1/60s

Some flash images were more successful. Here, close up, it has really helped bring out details without loosing the effects of the colours.

Natural light
Natural light


Synthetic Wig

Next I tried a man-made object. This is a synthetic wig and this first shot is in natural light. The underexposure really helps bring out the colours here.

ISO 200; f2.8; 1/60s Using ‘Juno’ Instagram filter to brighten
Natural Light – ISO 800; f5.6; 1/30s No edits
Flash – ISO 800; f5.6; 1/30s

These wigs were horrible with flash, it didn’t matter what I did as soon as the flash was used the synthetic nature of them became obvious.

Natural light – ISO 800; f5.6; 1/30s
Flash – ISO 800; f5.6; 1/30s

So, as far as these experiments went, I didn’t fall in love with flash. I do appreciate that I’m shooting still subjects using a tripod here and also that I had very limited control. In this set-up these subjects clearly don’t need flash and in fact overall they suffer from the use of it. The flowers were helped along by it when shooting close up, but it really needed to come off the camera or I needed to use a reflector as a fill to help with the shadows. I have learnt to work with this low-key look though and I really like it. I also used some of the different film settings on the Fuji XT2 and the results were beautiful.


*UPDATE 13/2/19 I got this wrong. There is a manual setting where you can go down to 1/64 on the supplied flash.

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