Flash Softly And Carry A Big Source


I am not a studio photographer. I hate flash photography. When you have no control over the position and movement of your subject and limited control of the number and sources of illumination then flash photography can (and usually does) result in harsh shadows, uneven exposure, artificially red-eyed subjects, and a terrible exaggeration of the intrinsic two-dimensionality of photography. Almost as bad, with a flash sticking out of your camera you might as well be wearing a trilby on your head sporting a card printed with the word “paparazzo”. No one within a ten-metre radius of you is going to act naturally even if you use the best cameras: https://skylum.com/blog/best-mirrorless-cameras.

But there are times when using a flash just can’t be avoided: photographing people in low light indoors or after dark anywhere—and, of course when filling in. The subject of artificial lighting for photography is a huge one. Still, I’m going to begin, as I usually do with such huge subjects, by giving a few basic rules-of-thumb that will, I hope, offer the maximum improvement in your photographs for the minimum effort.

Save Up To Buy And Try To Use An Off-Camera Flash: The further the light source is from your camera lens the less two-dimensional the result in general and the less likely you are to give the people in your photos red-eye. (If you buy a smart off-camera flash then you can take advantage of other features that will improve your flash photography, but this sort of clever-dickery is for later posts.)

If You Have Built-In Red-Eye Reduction Then Use It: Red eye is caused by light from the flash bouncing off the dense network of blood vessels at the back of your subjects’ eyeballs, hence the colour. Normally red-eye reduction works by firing your flash a few times to get your subjects’ pupils to contract so that less light gets into their heads and comes back at your film.

Diffuse Your Flash Somehow: The more the light from it is scattered, the softer the shadows it casts and the more even the exposure. You can buy overpriced but reliable diffusers that clip over the head of your flash gun; you can make cheap but flimsier ones yourself; and, if your flash tilts and there’s a low enough and reflective enough ceiling nearby, you can bounce the light off that.