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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

[Lesson 10] Taking Flash Photos

Also referred to as the "second sun", light from the flash matches well with digital SLR cameras. In this article, let's take a look at the different functions of the flash along with brightening the subject. (Reported by: Ryosuke Takahashi)

Using the flash in a brightly-lit environment

If you are photographing in a low-light condition, a way to capture the subject more clearly is to raise the ISO speed. Here, I would like to recommend another technique with the use of the flash unit. Flash produces light that is close to that from the sun. Besides illuminating the subject with a strong beam of light, the pure and pristine quality also allows the subject to be reproduced in the right colours. As the duration of the flash is extremely short, this also enables you to "freeze" the movement of the subject. When taking indoor shots, the photo often turns out dark even though the surroundings appear bright to our eyes, and it is also difficult to adjust the indoor lighting to the appropriate tone. With the use of a flash, however, not only can you brighten the subject easily, there is no need for complicated colour adjustments. By mastering the characteristics and functions of the flash, your indoor photography experience will be even much more enjoyable.

Flash used
Using a flash not only brightens the subject, but at the same time reduces subject blur for a sharper quality.

Flash not used
Indoor scenes often turn out darker than expected, though they appear bright to our eyes. Subject blur occurs as a result of the slow shutter speed.

Steps for Taking Flash Photos

[1] Select a shooting mode

If you want to fire the flash as desired, select a shooting mode in the Creative zone.

[2] Press the Flash button

Upon selecting a Creative zone mode, press the Flash button to pop up the built-in flash.

[3] You are ready to use the flash

After the flash has popped up, flash light will be emitted when you take a shot.

[4] Retract the flash

After you have finished using, press the flash down to retract it.

[Tip] White balance setting when using the flash

When photographing using the flash, it is common to select the Auto white balance setting. However, this setting may not reproduce colours correctly depending on factors such as the light source of the location. If the resulting image is unnatural, obtain the right colour by changing the white balance setting to [Daylight] or [Flash] accordingly.

Using the flash in a backlit scene (by the window, etc.)

In addition to using the flash as the main light source in indoor photography, it can also be effectively employed as an assist light such as when you are shooting in a backlit scene or by the window. When there is backlight, exposure tends to increase due to the bright background, causing the subject to turn out dark. Of course, you can make use of exposure compensation to brighten the subject, but doing so may lead to a significant drop in the shutter speed. In such cases, rather than brightening the subject forcibly with exposure compensation, the best way is to illuminate the subject with a light (the flash) as strong as the background light.

This technique is also useful for shooting in a backlit scene outdoors, as it helps to capture a clear view of the subject in front while maintaining the brightness of the background. You can apply it such as while taking a commemorative shot at a sightseeing spot.

Flash used
When the subject is seated by a window, firing the flash from the front helps to avoid the subject from turning out dark. The flash automatically calculates the intensity based on the balance with the light in the background.

Flash not used
The subject turns out dark due to the backlight. While you can make use of exposure compensation to brighten the subject in this case, doing so may cause the background to appear blown out when the difference in brightness is huge, such as in this example.

Adjusting the flash light intensity

When you are taking a shot with the flash as the main light source, its light intensity will determine how bright the subject appears in the resulting photo. Play back the image you have captured, and if it looks too dark (or too bright), adjust the amount of light falling on the subject using flash exposure compensation instead of adjusting the brightness with the camera's exposure compensation function.

Steps for Flash Exposure Compensation

[1] Display the "Flash control" screen

Select "Flash control".

[2] Display the [Built-in flash setting] screen

On the "Flash control" screen, select "Built-in flash setting".

[3] Display the "exposure compensation" screen

On the "Built-in flash setting" screen, select [exposure compensation].

[4] Perform flash exposure compensation

Use the left/right cross keys to adjust the flash exposure compensation level, and press the SET button to confirm the setting.

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Flash Exposure Compensation Effects

The brightness during flash photography can be corrected using the flash exposure compensation feature. Select a compensation level according to conditions such as the amount of light reflection from the background and the brightness of the subject.

(Flash light intensity: low)

(Flash light intensity: low)

No flash exposure compensation

(Flash light intensity: high)

(Flash light intensity: high)

Ryosuke Takahashi

Born in Aichi in 1960, Takahashi started his freelance career in 1987 after working with an advertising photo studio and a publishing house. Photographing for major magazines, he has travelled to many parts of the world from his bases in Japan and China. Takahashi is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS).