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Flash Basics

Light is basic to photography, obviously. When the light isn’t at its best, it’s a serious challenge. Poor light consistently makes potentially good photos go bad. One strategy for success is to use flash. Yet, using flash can be challenging, as well. It can be bold and beautiful, but also harsh and unappealing.

There are some things you can do to make your flash work more in your favor, so you get pictures more often on the bold and beautiful side than the other. This article will explore some tips that can point you in the right direction to do exactly that.

Turn On Your Built-In Flash During the Day

When the sun is out, and the shadows are harsh, turn on that flash! When the light is dull from heavy clouds (and even rain), turn on that flash!

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While your camera’s flash isn’t very strong, it does work well as long as you’re not too far from your subject. Most cameras have a setting that will allow your camera to balance the flash with the existing light. On many cameras, this is in aperture priority (check your manual). You can tell when the camera is doing this if you notice the shutter speed changing as the light changes, even with the flash on—otherwise, your camera automatically will set a fast flash-sync speed only.

With harsh sunlight, this daylight fill-flash brightens shadows and makes dark shadows, such as those under hat brims, come to life. If the flash is too strong, try using the flash exposure compensation to reduce the flash output.

When the light is dull, use the flash to brighten colors and make your subject stand out from the background. The effect will vary depending on how strong the flash is compared to the light of the day. A quick way to get some drama is to go to manual exposure, set the camera to slightly underexpose based on your meter reading, then use the flash normally. This will give properly exposed flash light on your subject while the surroundings are darker.

Use the Ceiling for More Natural Flash

One of the challenges that flash has is that it can look harsh indoors. This is because the light is small in size (which makes for contrasty shadows) and is close to the camera lens when the flash is on the camera (which can make the light less than flattering).

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