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Pale skin tone, red eyes, greenish light... Flash photography doesn’t always deliver the desired results. However, your camera’s flash can be a precious ally, as long as you use it properly and at the right time.
All cameras and cell phones have a built-in flash. But an external flash is a very handy accessory to have. It’s designed for cameras that have a hot shoe, like reflex, prosumer and hybrid cameras. External flashes have much more power than built-in flashes—whatever the situation, an external flash outperforms a built-in flash.
The flash, which is identified in your camera’s menu by a lightning bolt icon, may be automatic. If so, the camera determines whether it is needed or not. However, in automatic flash mode, the camera has a tendency to slip up. Thus, it’s better if you decide whether you want the flash on or not, depending on the circumstances.
Its limited range and power won’t do you any favours when shooting in the dark: red eyes, overexposed faces and underexposed backdrops are likely to happen if you use a built-in flash at night, for example. However, a built-in flash will come in very handy when you need extra lighting when shooting in broad daylight, or to make the subject stand out from his or her surroundings. Fire the flash when you’re shooting into the light, otherwise your subject will be lost in shadows. If the sun is too powerful, concentrate the light measurement on the subject (by activating spot metering) rather than on the whole shot.
Your flash’s range is the distance that it is capable of lighting. A subject that is outside of its range will not be lit. This means it's pointless to use your flash at a concert if you’re over 65 feet from the stage, for example. You’ll only shed light on the spectators in front of you. To make sure the flash lights your subject, here’s an easy way to tell how far away you should be:
As long as you respect these distances, the flash will be able to calculate the amount of light needed to properly light the subject: not too little, not too much. When using an external flash, just activate the TTL mode.
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