September 14, 2011

#36 – Turn your onboard flash back on (in these four situations).

Outside - no flash.
Outside - yes flash. 

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You did turn it off, didn't you?

Back in March, I broke up with the awful little light source on my camera. The punch of light the on board flash added to most scenes fried just about everything in its path and I was sick of it.

So, I turned it off.

I used natural light instead. I played around with ISO, aperture and shutter speed to get more light into the camera. I lit using external flashes (cheating, I know, I know).  I was totally winning that breakup.

Then, on Saturday, I came up against a situation where I was forced to crawl back on my hands and knees, begging the flash for forgiveness. We were at an amusement park,laying beneath the blinding sun. The kids found a statue of Snoopy and posed for a photo. One side of the shot looked great. Bright. Shiny. Fab.

The other side? Notsomuch. One of our kids was lost in the hard shadows that come with sunny days. I hung my head in the realization that the only way to get out of this one was to apologize to my flash and turn it on. That's right, the best time to use that onboard flash is in full sunlight. It acts as a sort of eraser on shadows, evening out the light and making things look better.

I begrudgingly admit that there are three other situations in which you might want to keep using that onboard flash:

When you want to freeze motion.
Flashes are like strobe lights – they have the ability to freeze whatever is in front of them in perfect sharpness and stillness. We’ll talk about this one a bit more in an upcoming post.

When you run out of light.
You’re at a restaurant and you want to take a picture of your friends. You’ve maxed out your ISO, aperture and shutter speed – and you still don’t have enough light.

Sigh. Turn on your flash – but do one other thing first. When you usually take a picture of a few people in a dark room, you typically get a nice burst of light on your friends and a dark, dark background. The reason for that? You’re close to your friends and light tends to fade quickly (photographers call it “fall off”). Instead of getting in close and shooting, back up a few feet and use your zoom – then take the photo. It should give you a little more light to work with.

When you want to try something cool.
Feeling funky? Feeling experimental? You can make that little flash do some nifty stuff. Much of it is advanced work, but here’s one anybody can try – bounce the flash. See, the light that comes off your flash is bright and harsh, but it doesn’t have to be. You need to bounce it off of something to make it soft and pleasing. 

I recently read a story about someone who wanted to take a photo of the dinner they were eating. They put a small white plate in front of the flash and directed it over to the side. Now the light that came off the flash was softer – and not directed at the pretty food. Then the photographer took a second plate and placed it in the way of the redirected light and bounced it over to the plate. To review: plate a few inches in front of the flash and directed to the side, theeeen a second plate off to the side, aimed at the dinner. The resulting photo was gorgeous and you’ve got a reason for a second honeymoon with your flash.

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