Normally, I am pretty anti-flash. This week, I’m stepping outside of my own comfort zone and telling you to turn your flash on! Because you can take great photographs with a flash. And I’m going to teach you how to get better lighting from your in-camera flash. This will be important to know as the days start getting darker and Halloween blows into town.

If you are shooting in any mode other than Auto {Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, etc}, you will need to manually pop up your flash. On the side of your camera, you will find a Flash Mode Button. Just push the button to pop up the flash. When shooting in these manual modes, the key is to recognize when there isn’t enough light and when you will need your flash since the camera won’t tell you! One thing to keep in mind is that when you use your flash, your shutter speed will be limited. Your camera will prevent you from going beyond your camera’s maximum flash synchronization speed.

While I primarily use an external flash,  your in-camera flash can work well if you follow these simple tips.

Flash Tip #1: Get in Close

Compared to an external flash, your in-camera flash does not have enough strength to light a subject that is far away. Because of this, you want to get close to your subject. A good rule is to try to be within 5 to 15 feet of your subject. But don’t get too close! You don’t want to blind them. If you can’t get in close to your subject, your best bet is to up your ISO.

Flash Tip #2: Diffuse Your Flash

One problem with the in-camera flash is that it’s a small, directional point of light, aiming directly at the subject. This results in harsh shadows behind the subject and makes the photo generally unflattering. You can fix this by diffusing your flash. When you diffuse your flash, you are making the point of light larger. You don’t have to buy anything fancy {although a Light Scoop works wonders on a pop-up}. There are some simple do-it-yourself diffusers you can make with things around the house.  You can put some semi-opaque tape over your flash. I have also heard about people using a white film container as a creative alternative for a flash diffuser. Simply cut a slit on the side of the container and slip it over the flash. Make sure you leave the cap on! Another option is using a white plastic cup. Clip the open end of the up cup over the flash and you’ve got an instant do-it-your self diffuser!

Flash Tip #3: Bounce Your Flash

Normally, you only hear about bouncing your flash when you talk about an external flash. An external flash has the ability to be set at different angles so you can bounce off walls or ceilings. However, it is possible to bounce a pop-up flash if you get a little creative. Take a white index card and put it in front of your flash to bounce the light up or sideways. When bouncing your flash, you want to keep a few things in mind. If the walls or ceiling of the room you are in are not white, you can get a color cast on your picture. You may want to put up some white paper on the wall where your flash will be bouncing so that you don’t get any strange colors.

do it yourself flash bounce

Flash Tip #4: Fill Flash 

Did you know there are reasons to use your flash when it’s light out? Sometimes when you are shooting outdoors you can use your flash to fill in harsh shadows. This is extremely helpful when you are shooting a back-lit subject.  To use fill flash, the aperture and shutter speed are adjusted to correctly expose the background. The flash is fired to lighten the foreground. Look at the differences below. See how the photo with fill flash appears more accurate and detailed? (Try this for me this week. I want to see your side by side results.)

fill flash comparison

Flash Tip #5: Avoid Red Eye

There are a few things you can do to avoid getting those nasty red-eye photos. Start by asking your subject not to look directly at the camera. Also, if you are shooting indoors, turn on as many lights as you can. This will provide more lighting, which makes the in-camera flash less harsh. Also, make sure you use the camera’s red-eye-reduction flash setting. The icon usually looks like a little eye. The setting may also be a separate function in the camera’s menu that you can turn off or on.

Your challenge this week is to get to know your flash. Play around with fill flash. Make some do it yourself diffusers or bouncers. And by all means, have fun!

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