The flash unit of a camera can really come in handy, but it can also destroy an image too. It really pays off to understand the times when the flash will help the final photograph or when it can pose some threats to it. Additionally, it also helps to note that the flash can be tinkered with a bit to create some interesting results.
First, let’s take a look at when to use the flash and when to avoid it. One of the most obvious examples of when to use a flash is in a low-light environment, BUT that is only if it will cast a natural and beneficial light over the scene. The flash can often give the entire photograph a washed out or unnatural look because of the nature of the light it emits.
Before just trusting in any auto settings on a built-in flash it is best to consider if the camera settings can help to get the picture desired without it. For example, if you want to take a photo of your family sitting around a dinner table you should first turn on as many lamps as possible to create a brighter setting. The next thing to do is consider adjusting three primary areas of the camera’s controls – the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
If you have a modern digital camera you should be able to go fully manual and the camera’s small LCD screen will let you easily navigate between the settings to make the adjustments. Remember that the ISO translates to the sensitivity that the camera’s sensor has to light; the shutter speed also allows light into the camera and the faster the speed the more the action is frozen in time; and the aperture determines how much light enters through the lens. Experimenting with these settings can really show anyone how to be able to take a good photograph without resorting to flash photography.
When should the flash be used? There are some surprising examples of when the flash saves the day. For example, when a subject has too much light behind it – such as someone standing on a white sandy beach, the sensor is not going to cue the camera to automatically illuminate the subject to balance the light. Forcing this to happen is called “flash fill” and can allow a much finer result.
Lastly, if flash is needed, but an indirect amount would be best the photographer can simply carry a small pad of “sticky notes” with them. One of these can be folded into a “U” shape and stuck to the camera just beneath the flash unit. This allows the light to bounce off of the paper and fill the entire space rather than just flooding the subject. Often this is a wonderful way to get subdued lighting and great effects.