Lessons, Photography, This Week In Photography

This Week in Photography – Built-In Flash [Train Wrecked]

Hello folks,Well, seems like the wheels have fallen of this cart and we’ve derailed – no longer on track. My apologies, something came up.This Week in Photography
The aim this week was to look at making better use of you Camera’s built in flash. Now there are a number of tutorials around on this but, I don’t really like them. Part of the problem is, is that most people are approaching this from the perspective that built in flash is bad.

It’s Not!

But, it’s not that good either. The thing to get here is how do we make the most of what we’ve got?

Here’s a couple of links to whet the appetite:

STsite’s Guide to Still Photography Camera
Dan Knight’s Pros and Cons of Built-in Flash; and
Peter Bargh from ePhotozine in Make the most of your cameras built-in flash

So, we’re back and now you’ve got a rough idea of some of the issues. The take home point here is that the built-in flash can be very useful for providing fill flash on sunny days, improving foreground illumination in strongly back-it scenes and in small to medium sized rooms.

However, it’s possessed by “devils’ eyes” when shooting people straight on and up close. Red-Eye Reduction helps but it’s not perfect, and if you’re shooting a lot indoors with flash, you can rapidly drain your camera’s battery.

Even with “off-camera” flash, many photographers go to great lengths to modify the light from the flash, built in flash is no different and a quick search will produce a number of sites with suggestions on how to go about that – from placing tissue or paper in front of the flash through to using exposed, developed film to create an Infrared Light Source. If you have a pop up flash, then many of the mods aim at adding some type of flash bounce or diffuser to the camera. (Follow these links to some of the mods I’ve made from time to time: Business Card Bounce for built-in, pop-up flash; and Off Camera Flash Bracket with Stofen type diffuser.)

One of the simplest flash diffusers for pop-up flash is to take a frosted plastic 35mm film canister, remove the lid and cut the bottom off it, then split it down the length. This will then clip over your pop-up flash and stay in place kinda like a weak clip spring. Works a treat! But you have to bear in mind that diffusers reduce and soften the light – on one point a good thing, on another you may need to use flash exposure compensation, if you camera has that feature. Most of the time, however the built-in flash overpowers subject photographed at about 2-5m, thus using a diffuser can be highly beneficial.

The point to all of this is that like with other things when using your camera, you need to have a considered eye for the lighting situation and the scene and evaluate if you need to add more light to the scene and how best to do that. The built-in flash, when used intelligently and skilfully can be of great benefit.

All the shots at this event were shot using the business card diffuser, built-in camera flash, and my standard kit lenses. [Canon 400D; EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS; EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS; ISO 1600]

In Practice
This week I’d like to see you try out your camera’s built-in flash.
First, make sure your batteries are fully charged.

Next, Pick a person or a subject that is strongly backlit, and take two shots, one with the built-in flash switched off and one with the built-in flash switched on. If you can change the way the flash works, by selecting “fill” or Flash Exposure compensation, then take some shots with that as well.

After this, set up a still life arrangement (flowers in a vase, fruit in a bowl, etc.) and experiment again with no flash, some flash, full flash, and Diffused flash – yes, hunt around for ideas and ways to diffuse your flash and see what that does.

Once you’ve got comfortable with this, try taking some indoor night shots of the family and adjust the flash to get a shot that you’re happy with, and that you think is better than most of what you’ve done before, then come back here and shre a selected “best of” sample with the rest of us.

Reference Material
From the Flash Photography with Canon EOS Cameras FAQ, a bunch of useful links on the topic of Flash Photography.

Best of luck this week, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and fielding your questions.

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