Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Effective use of Flash Photography

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Did you ever put your flash unit in manual mode? Did you ever manually turn on the flash when taking a day time outdoor photo? For many the answer to both questions is “no”. For most amateur photographers flash is just a solution for taking photos when there is not enough natural light. Although a legitimate use of flash photography there is much more ways to efficiently use flash. In this article we will cover the various types of flash units available, the different scenarios under which they can be used, the advantages of using flash to achieve better photos and the common mistakes people do when using flash photography.

As with any other technology knowing how it works behind the scenes and what your options are can help in better utilizing it for your advantage. Flash photography has been around for more than a hundred years. It started with a dangerous and manually controlled technology that used a powder that was lit by either fire or electrical current. These flash solutions were both dangerous and hard to use since the flash was not automatically synchronized to the camera’s shutter. Modern flash units use an electronic flash tube that is synchronized with the camera’s shutter. When turning the flash on the photographer does not need to worry about flash timing – the camera takes care of it automatically.

There are two types of flash units: Internal and External. The internal flash unit is built-in to your camera. It can be controlled through the camera’s menus. Some low end cameras only allow the use of their built-in units. Some low end cameras and all high end cameras also allow the attachment of an external flash unit. External flash units are either attached to the camera’s body through a dedicated slide-in slot or are connected to the camera using a cable. They vary in strength – how much light can they generate for how long – and in mechanical characteristics – can they be tilted or skewed or are they fixed in relation to the camera’s body. Regardless of the connection type external flash units are electronically connected to the camera and are synchronized with the shutter.

When setting your flash unit to automatic mode the camera fires the flash in scenarios where not enough light is available. Many times the camera will make a wrong judgment and will either fire or not fire the flash when the opposite was needed. Also in some scenarios the camera will not be able to tell that firing the flash will actually result in a better photo. One problem when using a flash is washed out photos. When the flash is too strong or the object is too close to the camera the result is a washed out photo there are not enough details and the object appears to be too white or too bright. Another problem is a photo with too many details: in some scenarios the flash can create artificial shadows and lights which result in a photo that includes details that are exaggerated relative to their appearance in real life. For example when taking a photo of an older person skin wrinkles and imperfections can look much worse than they really are in real life.

It is important to know the limitations of the flash unit. Any flash unit has a certain amount of light that it can generate. Usually this amount can be translated to an effective range for using the flash. When trying to take a photo with the object too far – more than the flash unit range – the object will appear dark. When trying to take a photo with the object too close to the camera the object will be washed out or too white. It is important to know your flash range and make sure that your object is within that range.

If you need to take a photo with your objects not within your flash unit range it is better to turn off the flash completely and use a tripod with long exposure. Using the flash in such scenarios can fool the camera into setting a high shutter speed which results in a photo darker than a photo taken without using the flash at all.

In some scenarios the camera will not automatically fire the flash although using the flash would have resulted in a much better photo. One such scenario is taking a photo during day time when the object is shadowed. For example if the object is wearing a hat the hat can block the light from the object’s face or when the object is lit from the side the object’s nose can block the light creating a shadow. In such scenarios the flash unit can be set to “fill in” mode. The flash will be fired to fill-in those shadowed areas but it will not be fired strong enough to wash out the photo.

Another scenario is when the sun is behind the object. One example is taking a photo on the beach against a sunset. If taken without a fill-in flash the result will most likely be a silhouette of the object. If taken with a fill-in flash and the object in range the result will be a clear photo of the object against a sunset.

In conclusion your flash unit can be a great tool. Although for many using the flash in automatic mode is enough for the more sophisticated photographer who wants to achieve higher quality photos understanding and experimenting with the flash unit can yield great results. Following some simple rules such as making sure objects are within the flash unit range and using fill-in flash when shadows can appear on the objects is easy and significantly improves your photos.


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Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29:18

The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
Psalm 104:10-13

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number living things both large and small.
Psalm 104:24-25

Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
Ansel Adams

When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!
Ted Grant

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.
Dorothea Lange

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
Ansel Adams

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
Ansel Adams

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.
Matt Hardy

Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.
Elliott Erwitt

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
Imogen Cunningham

You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.
William Albert Allard

If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.
Garry Winogrand

I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.
Anonymous

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
Ansel Adams

It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.
Timothy Allen

 


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