Use Your Flash – (More often than you do now)
Take advantage of your camera’s flash to provide the extra light you need – even outdoors. Mastering this very powerful feature of your camera will improve your family photography to a greater degree than anything else we can think of.
Most outdoor portraits suffer from excessive shadows. The background is bright, the faces are dark – not good.
Here’s the simple solution: Your camera’s flash can supply “fill flash”. Here my lovely wife Rebecca was a (not so) willing model during lunch in Long Beach, CA. I took one shot with the flash off and another with the flash on. Quite a difference.
Here’s another example with our grandson Benjamin. Which photo would you prefer to show off to friends and family? Trust us …. YOU can do this. Read on for tips and details.
First off – keep your subject within the “flash range” of your camera – typically less than 12 feet. Then let the camera and flash work their magic.
Before you, or your subjects, can blink an eye your camera and flash are busy. Here’s the “metering dance” they perform BEFORE the photo is taken:
1) Your camera tells your flash to “pre-fire” (this is NOT the flash you will see in the photo),
2) your camera analyzes the amount of light it sees from the flash and then ..
3) your camera’s computer adjusts the flash power and finally
4) your camera pops the flash and opens the shutter to give you a “perfectly exposed” photo of your grandchild.
Pretty cool – did you know your camera has a computer that “dances” with it’s flash? You know now – so let’s learn some simple steps that will put you in control. Here are some examples of photos of a few of my favorite ladies (Rebecca, granddaughters Destiny and Daisy). They were taken using the simple step we’ll explain.
The “metering dance” makes assumptions about who/what you are photographing and what the major subject is. Sometimes those assumptions are incorrect and the flash is either over or under exposed. That’s where YOU take control.
There will be a feature on your camera called (something like) Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC). Don’t be intimidated – FEC is simple. It allows YOU to take control – you can “season to taste”. The camera/flash will still do the flash metering dance but it will then add or subtract an amount of flash that YOU decide.
Here’s how you use FEC. Take a peek at your first shot then dial down (usually) or up (maybe …. if it’s a really bright day) the flash power as needed (“season to taste”). YOU have the control. Practice makes perfect and you’ll soon find that you get the right amount of FEC on the first shot.
Because using flash is such a powerful technique we will have several posts covering it. Hopefully this post will get you started using this very powerful feature. Use it and you will become recognized as “the photographer” in your family!!
Here are some basic flash considerations that will improve your flash exposures and bring you to that “next-level” in your photography and have you taking family photos like these.
1) Flash only works on objects within 10 – 12 feet from the camera. We mention this (again) because – well, because it’s kind of important (see item 2).
2) In dark scenes where the flash is the only significant source of light (e.g. dark rooms, outdoor at night) only nearby objects (less than 12 feet!!) will be lit. You may end up with that “shot in a cave” look – not real impressive. In a future post we’ll offer an advanced flash technique to solve this.
3) If you have someone or something significantly closer to the camera than other people or objects that someone/something is going to be overexposed. Here’s an example – Aunt Martha is the closest and way overexposed. There’s no “in camera” solution to this. Be aware of it and have all your “subjects” approximately the same distance from the flash.
4) Flash can be used to “stop action”. We’ll write more about this in a future post but here’s an example. In the first photo you can see the off camera flash I’m holding while Rebecca takes a photo of Ben whisking across the scene at a local playground. In the second photo I’ve “stopped the action” with an on-camera flash.
For now, here’s another example of shots with and without fill flash. In this instance the silhouette with motion blur was done purposefully. Which of these two shots do you prefer?
Feel free to comment or show off some of your own compositions that illustrate this guideline. More Tuesday Tips are right around the corner … stay tuned. Better yet – be updated automatically by “friending” our Facebook site.
This is one of ten tips that are covered in our resource article “Ten Tips to Better Photographs“. There are other resource articles on our site you may enjoy covering basic and more advanced photography topics. There are also tips covering topics such as preparing for family or infant/child portrait sessions. If you would like a topic covered just jot it down in a comment or send us a note.