"How do you do?": How to conquer flash (for beginners)

Good evening my friends! Today we will be talking a little bit about how to use a little flash, and use it well. We will be trying to avoid what I call


Digital cameras now-a-days are getting quite good with low light situations. But let's face it, when you you force the flash off because you hate the way flash looks, your camera's only choice will be to crank up your ISO. For the most part, ISO 6400 isn't looking too good on your point and shoot, (or the little SLR that you still use on auto...tisk tisk...)    ;)

If you are unfamiliar with "noise" the image above should help. Noise lurks in the shadows of the underexposed image. It is the byproduct of shooting at a High ISO (except for that example on the left, that is something different we can talk about later).

*still not sure what ISO means?

Here's the short answer! The ISO is the light sensitivity setting on your camera. Use a high ISO (800-6400) for very low light situations (because the sensor needs more sensitivity). Use a low ISO (50-400)  whenever there is enough light to do so (because you avoid NOISE!)


When we have a low light situation, we want to avoid noise, and we don't have a tripod, we've got to use flash.

But using a flash doesn't have to look harsh and give you demon eyes and make you look uber sweaty. Those are only the characteristics of "on camera flash" or in my universe "


This is what we call flash that is coming from the same direction as the camera, and it's not really the most flattering light for portraits. The trick to getting your flash to look better is to either:

1. Diffuse it!

When light passes through a translucent object it scatters in all different directions. That's why on a cloudy day, you don't see hard edged shadows. The light is bouncing all over the place because it's been scattered by the clouds!

If you are using the flash built into your camera you can put something translucent over it like.....a grocery bag! (BE NOT AFRAID OF LOW BUDGET IF IT WORKS.) If you are using an external flash, you can buy little light modifiers made for flashes to do just that, modify the light!

"Maybe my camera likes wearing a shower cap! Have you ever thought to ask your camera how it felt on the matter? Ah HA! Got you there didn't I?"

2. Bounce it!

Another great way to soften a flash is to bounce it off of something. When you are inside using a flash be looking for white walls and/or ceilings, if you point your flash at the wall behind you, the whole white wall becomes a light source. Having a large light source softens the light.

If you only have an on camera flash, you can make a bounce card. This handy little device just bounces the light up so it can hit the ceiling, and then come back down to your subject. I made this one with an index card and some packing tape. BE AMAZED.

"Take that Gary Fong!"

For these photos, I turned my flash (I was using a flash connected to the hotshoe on my camera with a cord) towards the angled ceiling above me. This is the kind of light that bouncing your flash can make.


So, now you too can take better photos of your little brother and his friends going to the Prom!

Happy shooting!

P.s. Have questions? E-mail me via the contact link above! I'd love to blog about it and help others that are probably wondering the same thing.