The great thing about having nephews who are shy around you is you get to practice your candid photography skills: Pull out the camera, and they deliberately avoid all eye contact. Believe me, these kids are not shrinking violets, but it seems to take a couple days around me before they start warming up. (Around Carol, however, they are full-throttle from the get-go. But she has that effect on people.)

So I took the opportunity of a visit last weekend both to practice taking candids and to play around with using only flash as a light source. (I typically try to shoot with only natural/available light, but sometimes flash is the best choice for the situation. Like when you’re indoors on a rainy day and your darling little subjects won’t cooperate with you by moving near the window where there’s perfectly good light because they’d rather pretend you don’t exist at all and will go away if they just ignore you.)

For these photos I went as simple as I could, and was just using a single on-camera flash with a light modifier that helped direct the light. The flash head was pointed up and towards the wall on the left, bouncing the flash and creating light that’s soft and even, and not all “flashy looking.” There’s no ambient light contributing to the exposure here: it’s all flash.

Ethan was feeling a little under the weather, and chose to hang out quietly.

Chase, however, set about industriously creating a Lego tower that defied the laws of physics. He glanced up a few times to see if I had gone away yet, and then just kept adding bricks. Not sure how far he would have gone if I hadn’t finally left him alone.

Being able to create beautiful, soft, even light with just a single flash is liberating because it greatly increases your options, especially when photographing indoors. I still prefer natural light when I can find it, but I don’t hesitate to pull out a flash (or two) if I can’t.

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