Photography is mainly concerned with light and using a flash is an inevitable part of being a photographer. But there are some right and wrong ways of using a flash, and to gain more confidence in using the built-in flash or external flash, you must first understand how to use it well and have knowledge about some techniques.
If you have a concept that flash is only used to brighten the nearby scene of your subject then it is not quite the case. Appropriate usage of flash can also set the mood, create special effects, add emphasis to image elements, and much more.
If you want to become a professional photographer, you need to be able to shoot in virtually any kind of lighting situation. In this article, we have put together a list of some tips and techniques that if practiced well, can make you the best in flash photography.
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1. Bounce The Light
Any beginner photographer will point the flash directly towards the subject, which is a big no-no in flash photography. Being a photographer, you need to learn that by doing this you will be just creating hard, flat lighting and unsightly shadows in your picture that no one wants to see.
The key point here is to bounce the flash against another surface, for instance, a neutral-colored wall, reflective card on your flash, or a ceiling. It will create a bigger light source and soften the light that won’t destroy your overall image.
2. Play with Colored Flash Gels
Colored flash gels are a great way of adding interest and color to your photo. They do not just add a touch of creativity in your photos but can also be used to match the color of flash with the room light. Room lights usually have a different color temperature to flashes. Colored flash gels easily attach to your flash and work great in making your images look natural. You can also tweak the settings on your camera to “Auto” or according to the light of your room and then add an appropriate filter over the flash lens to correct the foreground color.
3. Diffuse your flash
Just like bouncing your flash, diffusing it also works great in enhancing the overall look and quality of your photo. Using a diffuser enlarges the size of the flash area, creating smoother and softer light.
You can also use reflectors to appropriately distribute the light for more details on the subject.
4. Use TTL Technology
If you are shooting under ambient lighting conditions, using TTL technology (Through-the-Lens) makes your photography a whole lot easier. In a Canon camera, the mode is known as “eTTL” and in a Nikon camera, it is labeled as “iTTL”. It enables the flash to quickly communicate with the camera to check the current distance between the flash and the subject and determine the amount of light needed. This technology makes it perfect to shoot in virtually any lighting condition.
5. Use An External Flash
The built-in flash of your camera isn’t powerful enough and has a very limited range. It can only brighten up your subject up to about 10 feet away. But if you want to shoot a wide area like a hall or a group of people at a distance, you should consider using an external flash that can be attached to your camera with a hot shoe mount. A normal external flash can extend your range up to about 40 to 50 feet.
Another plus point of having an external flash is it can help in bouncing the light well, which isn’t quite possible with the built-in flash.
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6. Use More Than One Flash
If you want more like a 3D light effect in your photo, you can use more than one flash to illuminate the foreground and your subject well. However, using multiple flashes require significant knowledge and a wireless transmitter or slave to sync them all with a single click of a button. Multiple lights can be used to create shadows and highlights on your subject.
Recommended flash trigger transmitters and receivers:
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7. Learn Your Camera’s Flash Modes
Your camera probably has more settings than just turning it on and off. To be better in flash photography, you should first master your camera’s flash modes. Here are some common flash modes that are available in most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras:
It is best for general-purpose photography. In this mode, your camera’s flash will automatically determine that if it needs to fire, based on the amount of light available.
It goes by 2 names: Fill flash and Forced flash. When your flash is switched to this mode, your camera will force the flash to fire regardless of how much light is available. It is the most useful mode in outdoor photography where it helps in eliminating shadows that appear because of the way the sun hits your subject. You should definitely switch to this mode when shooting outdoor portraits.
Red-eye reduction mode should be selected when you are shooting indoors, especially where the light is low and your subject is right in front of the flash. It flashes the subject several times before taking a picture that forces your subject’s pupil to close down to a smaller size, which decreases the chances that their retinas will reflect the light of the flash.
One thing to remember when using this mode is to never pull the camera away as soon as you click the shutter because, in this mode, the camera will take a fraction of the second longer to take the picture. If you take the camera away, you will get a blurred picture.
There are also many other advanced flash modes that you can learn, for instance, low-power mode, slow sync, and 2nd curtain. But for starters, mastering only the basic modes will be more than enough to be able to click great photos with the flash on.
8. Don’t Use Flash at All
The best thing you can do in some situations is not to use a flash at all. As you master using it the right way, you will know when and how to use it. However, you shouldn’t be dependent on it because there is plenty of good light available in most of the situations that you can use in your favor. But following all the tips and techniques mentioned above will make you confident enough to slap on that flash anytime and click some amazing photos on demand.
Using flash is critical for your photos – it can either enhance your image or destroy it. Make sure you follow all the tips and use the recommended gear we have mentioned above, for better flash photography.To enhance your photography, you can read our article on Tips to Improve Your Photography Skills.