Why haven't we needed Sticky Filters before?


It seems that most all new products and ideas come into existence when they are needed the most.  Sticky Filters are no different.


Certainly, there is nothing new about using filters over your flash.  This has been done since cameras have been using color film.  What was needed was a quick and easy way to use the filters on a variety of cameras and flashes, and one that didn�t require any complicated or homemade looking attachment methods.  Nikon made an attempt at it with their color filters for the upper end SB series flashes.  But Nikon's filters have a bad habit of falling off of the flash, not to mention the fact that they will not fit any other brand of flash.


Today's digital cameras, both point-&-shoot and D-SLRs, have evolved to the point where ambient light in the background of an image scene has become more prevalent and troublesome.


In the 1970s manual focus lenses and slow film speeds dictated that small apertures and powerful flashes be employed to successfully capture a candid photo.  As a wedding photographer, you couldn't let a shot get away from you because of a focusing problem.  And 35mm film wasn't very good if you used anything faster that ASA (ISO) 100.  The resulting dark background of flash images usually showed no signs of artificial light color casting.


The 1980s introduced auto focus lenses and decent high speed films.  Couple that with under powered SLR pop-up flashes and advanced computerized auto exposure systems of the 1990s (Canon's EOS system for example) and photographers everywhere were getting more balanced fill flash exposures, unfortunately showing more ambient light color casts in their images.


In order to overcome the color cast, the photographer would have to somehow filter their flash and then filter their lens to compensate for the color they just put over their flash.  This not only took way too much time, it also reduced the exposure hitting the film by 2 to 3 stops.  Therefore it was almost never done.


A new century arrives and brings with it the digital camera.  Of which, one of the most fascinating features is a thing called selectable white balance (totally fabulous).  Another feature of these new cameras was the non-existence of a thing called "grain."   With minimum ISO values of 320 and CCD image sensors about the size of 35mm film, focus problems were almost unheard of.  Our outdoor photos looked fabulous with the new digital cameras.  But, God help us with those flash exposures!  Never the less, the pop-up flash on the SLR camera was here to stay.


Of course, things got better as technology improved.  Redesigned dedicated flashes and exposure software let us trust our flashes once again.  Medium format film camera users quickly abandoned their trusty tanks for the new 6 and 8 megapixel marvels.  High ISO digital noise suppression began to surpass the quality of 1600 ISO film and the "photojournalistic style" was born.


A problem still exists - professional photography 101 states that you should always use a fill flash.


Former medium format film shooters who have converted to digital started to notice that their indoor shots no longer have the traditional dark background behind the subject.  All of the sudden they are getting brightly illuminated, off-color, background scenes.  This mixed color temperature illumination causes all sorts of color abnormalities, even at the subject.  As a photo lab operator, I've seen many photographers fix this problem by just switching the poor color image to black & white.  That is great if your customer didn't want that shot to be in color anyway.


The solution:  Color convert your flash to match the color of the ambient room lights, then pre-set the digital camera's white balance to match the same.  It is that simple!


Not so fast!  How are you going to attach a filter to your flash?  Rubber bands, masking tape, Velcro?  The attachment method needs to be quick and secure and have the ability to adapt to all of your cameras and flashes.


The answer:  Sticky Filters.  These self-adhering, easy-to-remove color filter gel stickers are simply pressed into place over the flash reflector.  They have a built-in wide-angle diffusion design so any interference with wide-angle reflector devices is not an issue.


The future looks bright for users of Sticky Filters.  With new advanced RAW image post-production software being introduced, white balance pre-setting will become totally unnecessary.  Point-&-shoot digital cameras will improve in the areas of high ISO noise and white balance choices.  More and more cameras will auto white balance taking in consideration a color converted flash.  Printing software will be able to accept and convert RAW format images with ease, and more point-&-shoot cameras will be able to shoot RAW images.


It sounds like Sticky Filters require the use of RAW format.  Not so by any means!  I despise shooting in RAW!  Who has the time to sit at the computer that long?  I shoot in jpeg and use a custom white balance, or I choose one of the camera's white balance pre-sets.


I like using Sticky Filters with a high ISO setting like 400 - 800.  The lower settings will let your subject stand out against a slightly darker background.  Higher ISOs tend to record the scene more like what the human eye sees it.  Sometimes I will use 1600. The new CMOS sensors are great at high ISOs.  Experiment with the filters.  Try them with different cameras, both point-&-shoots and D-SLRs.  Try them with the pro-sumer cameras with the pop-up flashes.  Fuji's S-9100 has a new balanced fill flash feature and boasts of improved high ISO noise reduction, and with a flash sync speed of 1/1000 second, fill flash is a no-brainer.  Be careful not to cover any exposure sensors with the Sticky Filters.





An added bonus of using Sticky Filters with higher than normal ISOs is the fact that you will not need as much flash power as you did before.  The main exposure of the image will be from the ambient light and the flash will only act as a fill light.  This means you can save a ton of money by not having to buy the most powerful flash on the market.  That savings alone will way more than pay for the Sticky Filters.  Also your batteries will last much longer in your flash.


Besides the correction of ambient light color temperature, I notice that almost all shots taken with Sticky Filters gives a much nicer flash exposure on my subjects faces.  Even when my dedicated TTL flashes are used, the exposures on people's faces is very controlled and pleasing - not to mention being the correct color.


Something else I have noticed is that shooting with fill flash at a high ISOs helps reduce red-eye. (Of course this would have nothing to do with Sticky Filters - but if by using Sticky filters, you are more likely to shoot at high ISOs, this might be a factor in the reduction of red-eye!)  The idea here being that the main exposure would be from the ambient light, not from the flash.


Light loss when using Sticky Filters is between 1 and 1.3 f/stops depending on which filter is used.  Light loss of such a small amount is of little concern when the filters are used as suggested.  I strongly suggest not using an aftermarker diffuser like the Stofen, Fong or other dome type device.  Sticky filters and high ISOs make those things obsolete.



The way you shoot flash pictures is about to change forever!