A lot of beginning photographers are intimidated by their flash and with good reason. The flash can overexpose the shot, create very heavy, ugly shadows and sometimes not go off at all when you need it. So, I’ve put together some flash photography tips for you to keep in mind while you’re getting used to using your flash.
Your first tip – take a class. There are a few classes that talk about light and photography and one such class is “What The Flash | The Evolution of Light.” This is an online flash photography course taught by Bob Davis and it is available right here on this website.
Know Your Range
All flashes have a range where there are effective. You need to know the range of the flash you have. If the range on your built-in flash is 10 feet, then you need be around ten feet away from your subject. If you go too close, then your subject will be washed out and if you are too far away then the light won’t reach. By knowing the range of your flash you know approximately where you need to be in order to get a good photo with your camera.
The Flash Recycle Time
If you have a compact camera the flash will recharge after use, which is sometimes called the recycle time. If your batteries are freshly recharged in the camera then recycle time can be pretty short. If you have low battery life in your camera then the flash recycle can be long.
Another factor in your flash recycle time is how much of the flash went off the last time you used it. If your camera didn’t need much light then it did a half strength flash and will recharge faster. Keep flash recycle time in mind when you are shooting. You might not get another shot of your subject until the flash is ready to go once again.
It is Daytime but Use the Flash
You might want to use the flash even during the daytime while taking photos on a perfectly sunny day. Why? Because it’ll get rid of shadows that you don’t want and it’ll make a much nicer photo. So, tinker with your camera and find the setting that overrides the flash when there is adequate light. Change that setting so it will allow the flash to work when you want to use it. There are times you are going to want the flash on nice, sunny days!
Avoid Windows and Mirrors
When you are setting up your shot, be aware of what is behind your subject. If there is something reflective there then it is going to interfere with your shot. You are going to have a big white spot behind them and it is also going to throw light around where you didn’t expect it. So, always look to see if something is highly polished, glass or reflective behind what you are shooting before you shoot.
Another thing that you’ll need to watch out for is eyewear. If you are taking a photo of someone who wears glasses, it is best if they remove them. If they don’t want to then you can try tilting your camera about 30 degrees in order to avoid the flash glare on their glasses.
The Wall is Not Your Friend
Avoid taking photos within five feet of a wall. That wall is going to create big shadows and it is going to ruin the look of your photograph. If you are working only with the flash that is built into your camera, take photos that are more than five feet away from a wall for the best shot.
Learn the Why of Lighting in Photography
If you take a class to understand what lighting does for the photo and how it does it then it is much easier to make on the spot decisions when you’re shooting. There is a class taught by Mark Behrens that explains the five most important things about flash photography. His online course is called “Lighting Asylum.” It would probably be a good idea to look into this course and other more general photography courses like Bernie Raffe’s “Become a Better Photographer” online course. You can pick up a lot of new and interesting tips and tricks with every class you take. It is well worth the money spent. You might find you don’t even want to use a flash. Maybe by manipulating the ISO and other settings your specialty will be natural light only. By taking classes, you can find where your spot is in photography.
Buy the Best Flash Shoe Your Can Afford
The flash that came with your camera really doesn’t do a whole lot. It will light some, but never as much as you’re going to need. A real flash shoe will give you a lot of options. You can direct it right at your subject or you can have it at an angle. There are usually many other settings on the flash shoe itself that allows you to tinker with the speed and amount of flash you are going to get. If you want to create professional photographs then you really should invest in a quality flash shoe.
Bounce the Light from the Flash
If you need to take a photo of an object and you are not getting enough light from your flash, you can bounce another source of light around to amplify it. For instance, if you need to photograph a cup but no matter what you do with your camera it just isn’t enough light, you can surround your cup with white poster board. You make sort of a light box that will bounce that light around in there and put a lot more light on your cup. You need to play around with your poster board, move one piece at a time closer in and farther out and you will see how that changes the light.
Building a flexible type of light box with white poster board also allows you to manipulate shadows. As you may have noticed, when you use a flash directly on your subject then you will get very heavy shadows. That’s pretty unattractive. The poster board helps move the light where you want it to be to avoid those heavy shadows. When you use your flash at an angle and manipulate your other light source with the boards then you end up with a nicely lit subject without the heavy shadows.
Another bouncing technique involves white flash cards. These are little pieces of white plastic that you can attach to your flash. It reflects the light forward. If your flash didn’t come with that, you can use a rubber band to attach a piece of white card or white plastic to your flash and accomplish the same thing.
When you’re bouncing light like this it is important to keep in mind that you need to bounce the light off of something white. If you use something with color then it is going to add color to your subject that you probably do not want. Be careful when using walls or ceilings to bounce light because they do add color and usually it isn’t the color you want.
Use a Flash that is Off the Camera
That’s right! You can get different effects by using your flash shoe off of the camera. There is a little wire you need in order to use your flash this way. Here is a link to a blog that explains off camera flash. By using your camera separate from your flash you’ll get to seek out and destroy shadows much easier and you can also soften the light or bring it up more. Some people will use the flash on the camera and also a handheld flash to get the lighting done exactly the way they want it done.
Take a Class from a Professional
Probably the best favor you can do for yourself is to take a class on flash photography from a professional photographer. Charlie Borland has worked for some of the top product brands in the world and is currently teaching “Mastering Flash Photography” which is an affordable online course for using a flash camera. There is nothing like getting instruction from a top photographer and I highly recommend that you take that class. You will get so much more out of your photography after you have increased your skill set with some good, practical photography classes.