Cameras: Flash Photography Tips

Cameras: Flash Photography Tips

Using a flash can substantially improve your photography when there is not enough light. However, you should be careful not to use the flash when it isn’t appropriate, and to use the correct techniques when it is necessary.

Some cameras, such as the Minolta F10BF, have an automatic flash feature which cannot be shut off. This feature lets the camera determine whether the flash should be used or not, depending upon how much light is available. While this is convenient when it works correctly, sometimes cameras have poorer judgement than skilled photographers as to whether or not a flash is necessary. One way to remedy this is to remove the batteries when you don’t want to use the flash, although this won’t work if you are using a motorized camera. Some external units (sometimes called a “computer flash”) have an automatic setting like this, but it can usually be switched off. A few cameras, mostly disposables, have flashes which always fire regardless of the light. These cameras should be avoided unless you only conduct dim indoor or nighttime photography.

Using a flash is often necessary indoors, but not always. Photography in a room with rather bright lighting or large windows may not require a flash, especially if your camera can be set to a lower aperture (f-stop) setting. If you are using a digital camera, even at night, try taking a photo with all of the room’s lights on first. If it is still too dark, then use a flash. Light provided by windows or ceiling lights may be preferable, as it is less likely to produce washed out, red-eye, or shadowed images.

Some units (both built-in and external) will hold their charge and fire on the next shot even if you turn them off beforehand. This can cause the unit to fire when you take a photograph you don’t want it for, right after a photo in which you did need to use it. Try to turn the built-in or external flash off immediately after the shot you need a flash for. If the unit has a fast “recycling time” (becomes ready to fire again very quickly), you may not be able to turn it off before it is ready to flash again. In this case, on external units, press the test button before your next shot (after turning it off) to discharge the flash without taking a photo. Test buttons usually aren’t marked and are often red or transparent plastic, sometimes with the ready light inside them. The test button is usually located on the hot shoe mount (handle-mount unit) or on the back (top-mounted unit). For a built-in flash which holds the extra charge in this manner, the charge will eventually be lost if you wait long enough.

If you want to try using an adjustable-angle flash unit, this needn’t be very expensive. Units of this type, such as the Weston W-18 (a.k.a. Cortland C-18) and some Rokinon models can occasionally be purchased for less than $20 online, especially at Try searching for “variable angle flash” or “adjustable flash”. In addition to some top-mounted units, handle-mount flashes may also have an adjustable angle, but some only point straight ahead. However, adjustable units are usually larger than those which aren’t adjustable, making them less likely to be used for unexpected photography.

Keeping these tips in mind should help you improve your flash photography.