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I Just Bought A Flash For My Camera…Now What?

by | | Advice, digital photography, flash photography, camera flash illustrationThe next logical step after buying a digital camera is buying a flash for that camera. Since the invention of DSLRs, digital photography has indeed come a long way to become what it is today. Among all the fancy add-ons that come along with these cameras, one of the accessories accompanying the state-of-the-art gadgets is the camera flash. Given the dramatic manner in which a camera flash can light up a shot accentuating its beauty, it will only be justified to say that it is one of the most useful features facilitating photography enthusiasts. However, the sad truth is that flash photography is the most dreaded genre of digital photography inspiring fear among amateurs and professionals alike. Claims that flash photography delivers unnatural results giving the photos a washed out look have been there all along, discouraging photographers from trying it. Flash photography is not as easy as it may seem. It takes more than just a camera to have any brilliant turnouts. The problem actually lies with the technique that most photographers fail to master. It is, therefore, imperative to understand that a camera flash is meant to artificially fill a scene with light achieving the perfect balance between overexposed and dimly-lit shots. In present day and age, most of the cameras we come across are equipped with flash. Regardless of the flash being external or built-in, every photographer can work with the myriad of flash modes that are available. The following can be thought of as a photo tutorial introducing readers to the basic flash modes, de-mystifying the effective and creative use of camera flash.

Camera Flash Modes

  • Auto Flash Mode - The Auto Flash mode gives the camera the power to decide whether or not additional light is needed to capture a photo that inspire all those envious glances from fellow photographers. While a lot of photographers prefer using this mode, things may get quite nasty as the sudden burst of light can hurt the quality of the photo, hurting its natural colors, creating undesired shadows.
  • Fill In Flash Mode - When daytime shoots are desired or when you are taking shots outdoors, the most recommended flash mode is the Fill in Flash. As the name implies, it is primarily used when the subject is greatly backlit. Often the ambient light is so overpowering that the subject appears darker. At other times, the subject seems to be engulfed in the shadows and the camera fails to respond to the bright background. In such cases, fill in flash is the safest bet as it balances the exposure between the ambient light and subject.
  • Slow Sync Flash Mode - Slow sync flash is used for dimly lit scenes when it is desired to retain the sharpness and vibrancy of colors. The camera will work with a slower shutter speed and the burst of flash will take place at the start of the shot for illumination. While this is most likely to freeze your subject, the background lighting will not only be balanced, the true colors of the scene will also be captured. In short, using slow sync flash mode is a good idea when it is desired to preserve the life and character of situations in low light.
  • Red Eye Reduction Mode - The red eye effect is a nuisance for most photographers and the red eye reduction mode promises to completely eliminate it. What actually happens is that the camera prepares the subject’s eyes with a quick flash before the shot and uses a normal flash during the shot.

Tips to Use Flash Effectively

When it comes to using flash creatively, there is much more than meets the eye. Only by pushing against the boundaries, technically and creatively, will you be able to use most of what a camera flash has to offer. Flash is more than just about illuminating your scene and some tips to help you use it effectively are listed below.
  • Use flash to light up the shadows. The best time to use flash is when the natural light is sufficient but is casting harsh shadows on your subject. Using flash in such a scenario will ensure well-balanced shots.
  • Use flash to sparkle your subject’s eyes but do not overdo it. Just make sure that the natural light is enough and with a flash, you can make your subject appear livelier.
  • Use a slow shutter speed for capturing a night scene with flash. With a faster shutter speed, your photo will be overexposed so make sure the subject is sufficiently illuminated.
  • Use flash to improve the color and contrast as low lit photos appear dull without flash. Flash can also be used improve the color saturation of the picture rendering beautifully captured professional-looking snaps.
On a final note, let there be light and capture brilliant shots that never fail to stir that feeling of inner satisfaction. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead! Flash it! One more final note: To learn all about how to use your brand new flash check out the #1 resource on the web - David Hobby has excellent lighting 101 that will help you get started using your flash creatively. Oh, and you can download that awesome drawing of the camera flash over at david hobby, flash tutorial, off camera lighting