Understanding Flash with The Exposure Diamond

by | Dec 11, 2022 | Tips and Tutorials


I’m excited to share with you some insights on balancing ambient light with flash for more creative possibilities in photography. This topic was a challenge for me when I first started using flash, so I hope this guide will be helpful, especially if you’re just starting out with flash photography.

The Exposure Triangle and Its Limitations

As photographers, we’re all familiar with the exposure triangle – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These elements are the foundation of photography, allowing a myriad of creative possibilities. However, when I started using flash, I realized that the exposure triangle had its limitations, particularly in scenarios where ambient light played a significant role.

The Exposure Diamond: A New Perspective

The exposure diamond adds a crucial fourth element to the traditional triangle: flash power. This concept revolutionized my approach to photography, especially in situations where I needed to balance flash with ambient light. The diamond consists of:

  1. Aperture: Controls depth of field and affects both flash and ambient light.
  2. ISO: Affects the overall exposure, impacting both flash and ambient light.
  3. Shutter Speed: Primarily affects the exposure of ambient light.
  4. Flash Power: Controls the exposure of the subject illuminated by the flash.

Practical Application: Balancing Flash with Ambient Light

To effectively use the exposure diamond, start by setting your camera to capture the ambient light as desired. This might mean adjusting your ISO and aperture, and setting your shutter speed within the sync speed of your camera (for Sony, it’s 1/250th of a second). Remember, the shutter speed affects the ambient light, not the flash.

Once you’re happy with the ambient light, introduce the flash. Adjust the flash power to get the right exposure on your subject. This method allows you to maintain control over both the subject and the background, creating a balanced and harmonious image.

Demonstrating the Concept

I set up a simple scene to demonstrate this concept. Using a standard flash setup, I initially got a well-lit subject but a dark background. By adjusting the shutter speed (while keeping the aperture and ISO constant), I was able to bring in the ambient light, creating a more balanced exposure. This technique is particularly useful in various scenarios, from product photography to capturing ambient-lit environments like wedding venues.


The exposure diamond is a powerful tool for photographers looking to balance flash with ambient light. It offers a new level of control and creativity, allowing you to capture images that truly represent the scene as you see it. If you found this guide helpful, give it a thumbs up, and don’t forget to subscribe for more photography and filmmaking insights. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

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