In theory, using the flash on your camera is pretty simple: you use it to take a picture when there isn’t enough natural light. And if your camera has an automatic flash, taking low-light photos is a walk in the park. However, as easy as this may sound, it actually isn’t. The way you use flash can make or break your photos!
But if you learn to use it correctly, you will most certainly get extraordinary images every single time. The flash is there to help you shoot in low-light situations, so you shouldn’t feel intimidated to use it. If you are a beginner, knowing the following four things will help you use flash perfectly:
1. Knowing When to Use Flash
Some amateur photographers leave their flash on all the time, which causes it to fire when it isn’t necessary. Others never use it and turn it off completely. Both these approaches are wrong! While you should keep your flash off most of the time, you should switch it on when it’s needed. The best way to know when is by taking a look at your camera as it warns you (by displaying a specific icon) when the light is too low to take a photo without flash. Make sure you go through the user guide of your camera to understand how to interpret such messages.
2. Understanding Camera Flash Modes
A majority of the cameras available today come with a range of settings for flash beyond just on and off, which are incredibly useful. It’s important you use your camera’s flash modes according to the situation you are shooting in. For example, if you are taking pictures in direct sunlight, switching to fill flash can prevent harsh shadows in your images. Or if you are shooting pictures of people in low light, using red eye reduction can prove useful.
3. Using an External Flash
The built-in flash of your camera obviously has a limited range. As a matter of fact, most cameras can illuminate subjects only 10 feet away from your camera. For anything further, you have to use an external flash with your camera. This can be accommodated on the camera’s hot shoe attachment and will extend your range up to 50 feet, allowing you to easily shoot across longer distances, such as an auditorium. You can also do a lot of things with an external flash, such as bouncing the light, which we discuss next.
4. Bouncing the Light
When using an external flash, bouncing the light can humanize and soften your photos. Allowing your flash to illuminate directly will only cause cold and harsh images. So, with the help of a bounce card or by bouncing the light off the ceiling, redirect or diffuse the light coming from your flash. While you can purchase a bounce card, there are plenty of tutorials online which will help you create your own for free. So, why bother? All you have to do is print the bounce card, cut it out, and use a rubber band to attach it to your flash. It works well every time!
There are also a range of other techniques you can use for taking images using flash. The key here is to know when you should use flash, understanding how your camera flash modes work, learning to use an external flash and experimenting with different techniques till you are comfortable with using them. Remember, practice makes perfect, and once you are familiar with all these basics, taking amazing photos in low light won’t be a problem for you.