There’s one thing we’re all familiar with as a result of taking a photograph using the cameras pop up flash, and that’s ‘red eye’ and completly black backgrounds behind your subject. The reason this happens is because the pop-up flash sits close to and right above the camera lens. The light from a pop-up flash can also be harsh, creating dark shadows behind your subject, so why bother using it?
But there are several things we can do to get better shots with our pop-up flash, the first is by using the setting on your camera called rear sync, it’s a setting that changes when the flash actually fires. Normally, your flash fires the moment you press the button, which is why we get a black background. By changing the cameras setting to rear sync the camera fires at the end of the exposure which allows the camera to expose for the background light in the room first and then, right at the end of the exposure the flash fires, so now you don’t have a black background but a background with detail and colour. You’ll find that rear sync is not the default setting on your camera, if you’re unsure where to find it then look in your cameras manual.
Pop-up flash diffuser
To help keep that harsh light from your subject, you could use a pop-up flash diffuser. This is a small soft screen that fits over the pop-up flash to help spread and diffuse the light, they’re quite inexpensive, or you can use others that fit around the pop-up flash and come in different colours.There are also warming gels that can be taped to the flash to make the cold light of the flash look warmer; ideal for skin tones.
Flash exposure compensation
You can also adjust the amount of light that your flash emits by setting the flash exposure compensation.This is a handy function, particularly when you’re standing close to your subject and the light from your flash is too bright, giving your subject a harsh, unflattering appearance. Just go under settings and look for flash exp.comp, then just move the dial to minus (-) if your flash is too bright or move to plus (+) if you want a brighter, more powerful flash.
If you really like using flash in your photography, then you’ll want a dedicated (external) flash. These have many advantages over the pop-up flash such as:
- You get a more powerful flash with a better quality light;
- Because it’s mounted higher on your camera you get less red eye;
- You can aim the flash in different directions;
- You can angle the flash upwards (and bounce the light off a ceiling) to get a softer, more diffused light;
- You can take the flash off the camera (using a sync chord) to get directional light.
Just by using a sync chord, you can hold the flash well away from the camera allowing you to get directional light which will make a big difference to how your images will look. Some dslr’s will allow you to use a wireless flash so when you press the shutter it fires the flash wirelessly. Another way of getting a softer diffused light is to use a diffusion dome cap on the end of your flash; these also come in different colours and they work pretty well.
There are soft boxes on the market that attach directly on to your external flash. It’s a great way to make the apparent size of your external flash seem much bigger, which in turn softens the light and shadows
Ring Light adapters
A ring light is a special light through which you insert your camera lens. It provides a soft light with some highlights and is used often in fashion photography. Different ring lights vary on how they attach to the external flash.
Flash is not just for using indoors, some outdoor shots will benefit from using one.If the person your photographing is standing with the sun behind them for example, a flash can be used to bring back more detail and lighten the subject. If you want your flash to reach further but it just hasn’t got the power, then try setting the ISO a little higher; this will make the camera more sensitive to light allowing you to stand further back.
So, now you know how versatile your flash can be, those solid black backgrounds and red eye can now be a thing of the past.
Featured image by Jayson Ignacio.