So let’s start off first of all with the built-in D3400 flash options. It is easier to split what you can do with a flash into what you can do in the AUTO SETTINGS and then what you can do in the SEMI AUTOMATIC SETTINGS. Looking at the AUTO SETTINGS first, which are the settings from the green auto with flash down to night portrait. Here you are, in fact, quite restricted because you only have a few options. For example, in portrait option, if we go into the i button in portrait option and to flash mode, then you will see that there are three options – or rather two, because the third option is to switch off the flash – and the two options here are AUTO and AUTO WITH RED-EYE REDUCTION. Auto means that the flash will communicate with the camera and it will get the information from the camera – such as the ambient light and also the distance the subject is away from the camera – and so set the flash accordingly, so that you get the best possible exposure. Auto with redeye reduction is very useful, particularly for portraiture, because when you are taking a picture of a subject, firing a very powerful flash of light at them, and in particular into their eyes, it can cause redeye which is essentially the light bouncing from the retina and back out again towards the camera and because the retina is full of blood then it bounces back as red light. You do not want that, and so if you set it on Auto with redeye reduction then the illuminator will pre-flash and it flashes a quite bright light at the subject which will cause the subject’s pupils to contract and thus when the picture is taken and the full flash is used there is less light getting into the back of the eye. Of course it is a very useful option when you are in portrait mode because you are very likely to be taking a picture of somebody who is looking directly to the camera. If we go through the other D3400 flash options in automatic mode you will see that some of them do not allow you to use the flash at all. For example – and perhaps obviously – auto without flash will not give you the option of changing anything on the flash. You will not even be allowed to go and see it because there is no option to use flash. Likewise with SPORT and LANDSCAPE with all the other D3400 flash options, then the options I have just described in portrait mode are the ones you are offered, with the exception of NIGHT PORTRAITURE mode which is the one right at the bottom. When you are in this mode you are supposed to be taking portraits of people at night and so those are very specific circumstances. The D3400 flash option we have here – again there are only two – are AUTO SLOW and AUTO SLOW WITH RED-EYE REDUCTION. Now what does that mean? Well if you are taking a picture on AUTO then the Nikon D3400 will try to have a shutter speed which is reasonably quick. However when you are shooting at night you might want to slow that shutter speed down, because with a fast shutter speed you are less likely to get the ambient background onto the sensor and so into your picture, and if you did an ordinary auto picture with flash at night time, then your subject will be well exposed but will be in almost complete blackness because the shutter speed was not slow enough to allow in the ambient light of the background. So the slow shutter means that there is more chance of that ambient light to come in and this option slows down the shutter speed so that the ambient background comes in to give context to your portrait, and then the flash will fire so that the subject is well exposed in the foreground and that is a real improvement on the way that you can shoot portraits than for example shooting it in auto where you get no background whatsoever because it will be flashed out.
So those are the Nikon D3400 flash options that you get in AUTO and now let’s take a look at the options you get in the semi-automatic mode. So if we go into the P MODE first and then go into the flash options we will see that we have got far more choice here but in fact we have seen most of them before. The first two are the auto settings which here are called FILL FLASH and then RED-EYE REDUCTION FLASH, then SLOW WITH RED-EYE REDUCTION and SLOW WITHOUT RED-EYE REDUCTION. Then the final one is SLOW REAR and this is quite interesting. So let’s have a look at how this D3400 flash option works. In most cases you will have a shutter speed – let’s say for example it is 1/60th – and so when you fire the shutter you will open the shutter the flash will go off and for the remaining split-second of that 1/60th of a second the shutter will remain open and then it will close. Now what that does in most cases is have no effect whatsoever because very many things do not move within that 1/60th of a second. However if you are photographing something that is moving very quickly, then if you shoot in that way what will happen is the shutter will open then the flash will fire fixing the subject onto the picture and then for the remaining split second the subject will move and there will be motion blur in the picture and if the person or subject that you are photographing is moving in a specific way for a specific reason – they are running for example – then it will appear that they are running backwards because the blur will give the motion effect of it looking like is actually going backwards rather than forwards. So this option here which is the SLOW REAR means that the flash fires at the rear curtain at the end of the frame. So in this instance the shutter will open, your subject will move and then just before the shutter closes again, the flash will fire and so fixing the subject into the picture so the blur then is, if you like, him moving in the right direction. It is very useful D3400 flash option. You may not use it very often, but sometimes when you want motion blur you want the motion to be in the right direction. This is why you would use that option.
Let’s go on to the next D3400 flash option which is SHUTTER SPEED priority. Here you do not get so many options because you are, in fact, controlling the shutter and that minimizes the number of options you have. In this D3400 flash option you have the normal fill-in flash and normal fill-in flash with redeye reduction. You also get the option of the rear curtain sync which as I have just said is very useful for motion and motion blur, but they are the only three options you get for flash when you are in shutter priority. If we go into APERTURE PRIORITY then we are back pretty much to what we have in the program mode – the P mode – which is fill-in flash with redeye, slow and slow with redeye, and slow rear. Finally, if we get on to MANUAL MODE then we have fewer options again. We have either fill-in flash or fill-in flash with redeye reduction and the rear curtain sync mode.
Those are the automatic D3400 flash options that you get when you use the mode dial options here to see what you can use in terms of using your flash and their the AUTO options. If we want to see the MANUAL D3400 flash options, then we need to go into the MENU. If we go into the menu and into SHOOTING MENU, then at the bottom of page two you have the option of FLASH CONTROL FOR BUILT-IN FLASH. Here you have two options. The first is TTL which is the Through The Lens automatic option which is essentially what we have been discussing so far. Then below that you have the manual option and all this does really is control the power of the flash. So when you click on here you will see that you can either set the flash for full power and then by fractions 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 1/16 and 1/32. There is not a great deal of option here. In fact, I would say that when you are using the internal flash, the built-in flash, here you are going to be using it nearly every time on the auto D3400 flash option.
So if you want to be more creative with your photography and use flash photography more creatively, you are going to want to use a flash gun or off-camera flash. Let’s take a look at a generic flash gun or off-camera flash. Nikon, of course, make their own flash guns and they are very good indeed. However, they are quite expensive and generic models are cheaper and also tend to be reasonably reliable. I would suggest that you get a generic model first time round because it means that you do not invest as much money as you could do into a flash gun and it gives you the opportunity to experiment to be creative before you decide whether you want to pursue flash photography further. If you are buying a flash gun the thing to look for initially is that it has TTL – Through The Lens – setting for flash which means that the flash will flash automatically and get the best exposure possible according to the information given to it by the camera. The important reason why it should have TTL for your first flash gun is that it means that you can put it onto the top of your camera and start taking well exposed pictures straight away, and that is a great confidence booster. You also need to make sure if you are buying a generic flash gun that you buy it for a Nikon DSLR camera. You cannot put a Canon dedicated flash onto a Nikon camera. The electronics on the footplate, which goes on to the hot shoe, are different and you will damage your camera. So always get a Nikon dedicated generic flash. It is not too difficult – nearly all the major generic flash manufacturers produce for both Canon and Nikon and other camera manufacturers but make sure that yours is a NIKON.
So, having established those few rules, let’s have a look and switch this generic one on. Well it takes a few seconds to switch on so that you can not switch it on accidentally. It runs on four AA batteries so you do not want it left on or accidentally switched on, because it will eat through those batteries quite quickly. The first thing to look at is the light, which signifies that the flash is ready to fire and when that light is illuminated it means that the flash is ready to go. If you press that you will see that the flash goes off. The next button is the light button which lights up the back screen, which can actually be quite useful and is very useful for seeing what you are doing. The next one here is the zoom button. Now if you have this functioning in the TTL function then the camera and the flash will speak to each other and the flash will know what the zoom setting is whether it’s 55mm 28mm or 18mm it will know that and set the flash accordingly. However if you want to over-ride that then you can manually set the zoom setting and you do that by pressing the zoom button and then by using the multi-selector to move the zoom setting up and down and what you will hear when you are doing that is the internal workings of the zoom changing, so that it changes the flash in order to set itself to the zoom setting that you are making. If you do not want that you can just leave it on AUTO and it will sit on probably about 35mm unless it goes onto the camera and changes accordingly.
Next to the flash button we have the MODE BUTTON and this gives you the three mode options that you have with most generic flash guns. The first one is TTL which of course is effectively the automatic function and when this is attached to the camera it will get its information from the camera and set the exposure accordingly. The second one is manual and that allows you to, amongst other things, change the power of the flash so you can have it on full or you can reduce it by fractions down to one 1/128th power. Then the third one is MULTI which allows you to have multiple flashes in the same frame and so it can give you a strobe effect. Let’s take a look at these in more detail. If we go into TTL there is not a great deal more that we can do. However we can use some FLASH BRACKETING here, by using the multi-selector panel here by going up or down and that allows us to bracket our photography. In other words you can fire three frames and depending on what we want to set it on here is one stop for example we can have the first frame fired with one stop overexposed the second frame fired at roughly what the camera expects to it should be the correct exposure and then the third frame will be one stop underexposed. That allows you a little flexibility particularly if you are not entirely happy with the way that the picture looks with auto exposure and it allows you to just be a little more flexible. Likewise, when you are in this mode you can use the multi-selector left and right to have some FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION so if you decide that you want a little more or a little less light in auto mode you can set the flash auto compensation here so that you will always get just that little bit extra or a little bit less light when you are shooting. Those are pretty much the options that you get in TTL.
Now if we go into MANUAL you do not get the bracketing option but you do get the option of flash exposure compensation. Then finally on MULTI FLASH you get three options. You have three options and if you press the center button in the multi selector then the first option flashes and that is HERTZ. Now Hertz refers to the number of flashes per second and you are likely to want to that set to say 10 so that you will get 10 flashes per second, but you can often set it much higher. The next thing you need to think about is either how many flashes you are going to want or for how many seconds you want it to operate. With this flash gun it talks about the number of flashes so in this instance for example I might want 20 flashes and I use the multi-selector to get up to 20. Of course if I have 20 flashes at 10 flashes per second I am talking of having my shutter open for 2 seconds to get the full impact of these options. So that is the option I have chosen and so when I set the camera, which will be on shutter speed priority, I will set that onto the shutter being open for 2 seconds. On some flash guns you do not get the number of flashes as the option you get the number of seconds as the option and so it works in the same way but the equation is slightly different, but essentially we are talking about the same thing. Hertz is the number of flashes per second and then the second option is either how many flashes in total or how many seconds in total and so in this instance here we will have 10 flashes per second, 20 flashes in total, over a period of two seconds. I would recommend that you have a try at multi flash photography because it is great fun.
So far we have been looking at this as using it as a flash gun in other words having it on top of the camera. But you can also use this as an off-camera flash and that means that you can set it on a foot like this, which has an option to set it onto a tripod, and you can actually have the flash away from the camera but still controlled by the camera and let me show you how that can work. First of all you go into manual mode and then you press this function button here. Again it may be slightly different on another generic flash gun, but they are essentially the same, and you get the off-camera flash options. There will be a symbol, probably, representing radio connectivity and that means that you would have to have a radio trigger which means that you have to have a transmitter and receivers for your flash guns. That means that you would have to invest in those things. They are accessories for the camera, so I am not going to discuss that at the moment. I am going to look at the free option.
If you look at the front of the Flash, you will see a red pane. In here there is a detector which will detect the flash of this camera here or the camera that you are using and when it detects that flash it will flash the flash gun itself. That suddenly opens you up to a whole new way of shooting pictures because you have control over the light and you can also position the light where you want it to be, and that is fantastic. So this is a great option here in this mode. In this flash gun you have two S modes – S1 is a straight flash which means that when it sees the flash on the camera it will flash. S2 is for when the camera is in RED-EYE REDUCTION MODE, because as we know when we shoot in redeye reduction mode the pre-flash will go off. What you do not want is for this flash to go off when the pre flash goes off because it will miss the moment when the actual flash goes off. So in S2 it will ignore the first flash and then fire at the second. It is important knowing the two options here between S1 and S2 because I am sure I am not the only photographer not to have remembered that and been pulling his hair out in a shoot wondering why my flash gun will not fire. It will not fire because I have got the camera on redeye reduction and so it will not fire when it is on the wrong S setting. Remember that.
So those are the D3400 flash options that you have got with a generic flash gun. You can control it automatically with TTL, you can control it manually which means that you can control it on the camera manually or more likely off the camera manually and you can control it remotely by having the flash sensor here, so that it will flash when the flash on the camera goes and then you have multi flash options which is usually set on the camera and fires at the same time as the shutter is open, and bear in mind that the shutter can be open for any time really but it could be seconds rather than split seconds which is the normal shutter speed for normal photography.