If you feel intimidated by flash, let me tell you that you are not alone. The reality is, it is a lot of trial and error. Working with flash is making a lot of educated guesses about how much light you need for a subject that is x feet away from you. As far as your settings on your flash-even the most talented photographers I know don’t really have a set system. They setup the flash and take photos at different power levels. Just take the time to try out different things! Here are some helpful tips to get started-
Diffuse- This means “spreading out your light”. Making your light source bigger, makes it softer. You can literally use a tissue, coffee filter, notecard, piece of a milk carton over your flash and it will be “softer” which is more flattering for portraits.
Bounce- If you can twist your flash bounce it off the ceiling (if the ceiling is not too far, like 15-20 feet away otherwise it won’t be powerful enough to bounce) or wall next to you if it is white or neutral color. This will also produce softer light. This image was shot with the bridal party next to a window and I bounced my flash off the ceiling.
Shutter Speed for Ambient Light-Shutter speed has to be under 1/200th or your image will have a black rectangle. I usually shoot in manual with my shutter speed at 1/10th-1/30th of a second and my flash on ETTL and adjust the exposure compensation on the flash as needed. This prevents a spotlight on the subject with a black background. The flash captures the subject in motion with their environment lit as well unless there is no ambient light at all. This image was shot at ISO 200, f 3.2, Shutter Speed 1/15th of a second to take advantage of those cute string lights! Since the flash illuminates the subject (the couple here) so quick they do not blur.
Focus- With my flash, I increase my aperture around 5.6 depending on what kind of portrait scene I am shooting. I use back button focus to lock in my focus then try to shoot at the same distance from my subjects. It is much harder to focus in the dark! Much easier to set it beforehand than to miss a moment.
Turn off lights- If you are taking detail shots or portraits in a room turn off the ceiling light(s) first they are usually really yellow whereas your flash is white. The mixing of color and directions of light is not as pretty as just using flash.
I hope that helps! Please share your flash tips below or let me know if any of these helped you!