Whether you're using a compact camera with a built in flash, a DSLR's integrated pop-up flash, or a dedicated speedlight on your DSLR camera, there are tips that you can use to make sure your flash photography is as good as it can be.
Now read on for my top flash photography tips.
- Recharging and batteries. Using a flash of any kind can really drain the batteries, so it's always a good idea to carry spares and to keep them fully charged. Different flashes take a different amount of time to recharge. This is called the recycle time. It's dependent on several factors -- such as, how good the batteries are and how much of the flash was discharged in the previous shot (for instance, if you are only shooting at a quarter power, the flash will recycle far more quickly). It's useful to know how quickly your flash recharges so that you'll know how quickly you can take another photograph.
- Reflective surfaces. It sounds simple, but avoiding reflective surfaces when using flash can sometimes be a challenge! It needs to be done because, if you shoot the flash into anything reflective, you'll end up with a big blob of light on the image where the flash has reflected back to the camera. So avoid the obvious culprits such as mirrors! People wearing glasses can be a real challenge with a flash but, if you ask them to push the glasses down their nose a little bit, and to tilt them downwards, there will no longer be a direct surface for the flash to reflect into. (This is presuming that they won't take them off in the first place!)
- Falloff. Compact camera flashes and pop-up flashes on DSLRs suffer from "falloff," which is where the flash is strongest in the middle of the image, but falls off as it gets to the corners. In addition, many flashes get weaker the farther away they are from the camera. (This occurs because of the flash's guide number, which relates to the number of feet or meters that it can cover). The solution is to always try to keep people in the center of the image and to photograph groups in a straight line, so as to keep the light as even as possible over all subjects.
- Use ambient light. Sometimes you need flash, and there's no choice about it! But, if there's any ambient light available, try to use that in conjunction with the flash to add depth and warmth to an image and to cut down on harsh shadows. Position your subject in whatever ambient light there is, and then use the flash to add extra light.
- Bounce. Unfortunately, this only applies if you are using an independent speedlight on your DSLR. One of the most compelling reasons to invest in a flashgun is the ability to bounce your flash. This means that you can move away from harsh direct flash, and angle your flashgun so that the light is "bounced" onto the subject. This is usually done by angling the flashgun head so that it hits the ceiling and the light is then directed down onto the subject.