50 : Using Flash

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When You Need More Light…

In the northern hemisphere, shorter daylight hours are upon us. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, we are envious! With less daylight, there is no need to stop capturing your family inside. Now is a great time to get to grips with different flash techniques!

Most parents freeze up at the idea of using a flash. Or worse, they resign themselves to having below par images by relying on the automatic pop-up settings. To start, put aside any apprehensions you have about using your flash, whether it is a pop-up flash or one that is attached in the hot shoe (the metal plate on top of your camera body). After almost a year of learning about your camera during Shoot Along, you DO have the skills to control your camera and lighting!

You will see from the examples below that the trick to using a flash inside is to bounce the light from the flash off of a ceiling or wall. Do not aim the flash directly at your subject.  All images were taken with these settings: 1/125 sec; f/5.6; ISO 400

flash - 1.jpeg

Too dark! There is a little light coming from a nearby window but it is not enough to illuminate the scene.

Raising the ISO would make the picture too grainy.

flash - 2.jpeg

Using the pop-up flash gives the scene enough light, but also brings unwanted harsh shadows and too much contrast. The direct lighting from a pop-up flash is unflattering.

flash - 3.jpeg

Using a piece of white paper or cardboard about the size of a business card, angle the light from your flash onto the ceiling. The light will bounce off the ceiling, spreading evenly across your subject. Harsh shadows and blown-out highlights are avoided! It make take a few tries to get this right.

flash - 4.jpeg

Using an external flash at close range aimed directly at the subject results in an overexposed picture with too much contrast and harsh shadows, just like the pop-up flash.

flash - 5.jpeg

Angling the flash head toward the ceiling creates even, diffuse light with good contrast and accurate colors but the overall effect is somewhat flat.

flash - 6.jpeg

Angling the flash head at the nearby wall (to subject's left) makes the most pleasing image. The features of her face are given depth and shape without creating strong shadows or too much contrast.


Creative Prompts

  • Find a location that is definitely too dark to take a picture without using a flash so that you are sure that your settings are not skewed by existing natural light.

  • Practice aiming the flash, either pop-up or external, in different directions to see what effect that has on your image.

  • Be sure to change your white balance setting to "Flash" to avoid strange colors.

  • Bounce your light off white surfaces if possible. Luckily, most ceilings are white! If you bounce your flash off a colored wall or ceiling, the resulting light will have that color cast.

If you are enjoying the way you can shape and control light, we recommend trying these inexpensive modifiers. (Really, they are super inexpensive!) Click the images below for more info:


Share your images!

As always, we look forward to seeing your images in the Facebook group! If you have never posted a picture, it's fine to start any time. The Facebook group is a positive, no-judgement zone. We also hope that reach out for advice or help if you need it!