Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Photography Tip #3

Tips for flash photography

Photo Credit: equinoxefr from Flickr

The onboard flash that comes on most cameras today is probably the most misunderstood and misused part of any camera. Do you ever wonder why your pictures that you take at night make it look like you are in a coal mine? The peoples faces are brightly lit and the background it completely black. Here are some tricks to eliminate the black hole look when there are no other ambient light sources to take advantage of.

Use a tripod
If you have a tripod available, you can use a preset on your camera called night portrait or night landscape depnding on what you are taking a picture of. This mode tells your camera to keep your shutter open longer which allows for more light to enter your camera. The downfall to this is that if you have shaky hands your pictures will turn out blurry. That is where the tripod becomes useful.

Back away from the subject
The intensity from the light of your flash decreases as the light travels further distances. If you are like me and need to know why this would make the background brighter in comparison to the subject you can google "inverse square law". This trick will only work if the background isnt a long distance away from the subject. In the example below the photo on the left was taken with the flash further away from the subject. The photo on the right was taken with the flash closer the the subject giving it the black hole look.

Photo Credit: Krypto from Flickr

Get an external flash unit
If your camera is equipped with a hotshoe, one of the best investments you can make for your camera is an external flash unit with a swivel head like the 430ex shown at the top of this post. The main advantage of an external speedlight besides the power of the flash is the ability to swivel and bounce the flash off different surfaces. If you have a white cieling you can bounce the flash off from it and it will create a much softer and more natural looking picture. See the image below for a comparison of direct flash and bounce flash.

Photo Credit: aho_1987 from Flickr

Use flash in bright sunlight outdoors
Sunny days can be one of the toughest times to get a good picture. People are squinting and the sun created harsh dark shadows under your eyes. If you can, try to find a spot in the shade to take the pictures but if that is not an option you will want to turn your flash on and use "fill flash". Unlike using flash in dark areas, you will want to be closer to the subject for the flash to fill in the shadows properly.

These tips are just scratching the surface of lighting with electronic flash. For a more complete guide on how to use your flash see this website. (link) it will tell you everything you need to know about flash photography.

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