Basic Flash Photography

May 13, 2010

Photography is all about light. Sometimes, using the light that you already have is not quite enough. This is why professional photographers spend so much time with flash units, strobes, reflector units, and other gadgets that help to enhance or supplement the natural light.

Almost every digital camera manufactured today comes with a built-in flash unit of some kind. The flash is a way to bring extra light with you and brighten many kinds of pictures. On the other hand, if you don’t really know how to take advantage of the flash unit that is built into the camera, then it won’t be of much use to you.

Flash units are designed to fire for a very short period of time and illuminate your scene in one of two ways:

  1. As the main source of light indoors or in the dark;
  2. Or, as a secondary source of light to fill in shadows when you’re shooting your pictures in bright light or outdoors.

Generally speaking, your flash will probably know when to fire and will take most pictures without your direct intervention. When your camera is set to the fully automatic exposure mode, the flash will probably come on as needed and not fire when it is not needed. On the other hand, you can probably figure out when you need a flash more effectively than your camera can. There will be situations when you may want your flash to fire when it would probably stay off, and vice versa. That’s why your camera has several flash modes to choose from.

One of the things you need to know is how far the light from your flash unit will travel. The flash built into most digital cameras today is not extremely powerful, and at best you can expect to get a range of about 20 feet. To find the range of your camera’s flash, refer to the owner’s manual that came with your camera. You will normally find the flash range listed in the specification section of your manual. If you can’t find the range of your flash, assume it is no more than 15 feet.

The range of your flash unit also depends upon two other factors: the current ISO setting on your camera, and the focal length setting of the lens. If the image you want to take is of a subject far away, then you’re going to need a much more powerful flash than the small flash unit built into your digital camera.

On the other hand, if you get too close to your subject the cameras flash unit may overexpose the subject. Normally you cannot shoot closer than about 3 feet.

Most cameras today have different flash mode settings which are available to you. Be sure and read through your manual and learn exactly what the settings are and what they do.

Tomorrow we will discuss the different kinds of flash units.

Remember, keep taking lots and lots of photographs of your kids. You will be glad you did!

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

Betty Muscott, Child Photographer

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One Response to “Basic Flash Photography”

  1. Tweets that mention Basic Flash Photography - How Important Is Your Flash Unit? | Real Kids Photography -- on May 13th, 2010 5:44 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Betty A. Muscott. Betty A. Muscott said: Basic Flash Photography: Photography is all about light. Sometimes, using the light that you already have is not … [...]

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