Creative flash effects at night
When should I use flash?
Flash shots can often prove disappointing because the flash itself tends to kill the atmosphere, making the subject too bright and the background too dark. For this reason, it’s often best to switch the ISO setting to a higher value.
However, when increasing the ISO still doesn’t give you a fast enough shutter speed or a narrow enough aperture to capture the subject sharply, your camera’s flash can come in handy.
Flash is often essential for low-light portraits, for instance, because a live subject can’t be captured sharply with an exposure measured in whole seconds.
The secret is to try to make the fact that you’ve used flash less obvious. A great way of doing this is to combine a burst of flash with a long shutter speed.
The advantage of this so-called ‘slow-sync’ flash technique is that it’s easy to set up on your DSLR and it works remarkably well with the camera’s built-in flash unit.
When should I use a bounce flash technique?
Bounce flash is another great way of getting natural looking pictures in low light. It works particularly well with portraits, giving a soft-lit approach that disguises the fact that you’ve even used a flashgun.
The flash is diffused and weakened as it bounces off a nearby wall or low ceiling, so you lose the harsh shadows caused by direct flash.
Unfortunately, you can’t use the camera’s built-in flash, so you’ll need an accessory gun with a tiltable head that fits on to your camera’s hotshoe.
How do I set my camera’s slow-sync flash function?
With slow-sync flash, the camera sets a long enough exposure for the background to be fully exposed while simultaneously firing the flash to light up the subject in the foreground.
The subject is caught sharply thanks to the short burst of flash, while the background is not the under-exposed black expanse of a normal flash shot.
To activate slow-sync flash on a Nikon DSLR, you set the flash mode to Slow. On Canon SLRs, all you have to do is set the main mode dial to Av and flip up the flash. For other brands, check your manual.
Unless you’re using a tripod, you’ll need to use the thumbwheel behind the shutter-release button to set an aperture so that the accompanying shutter speed isn’t so slow the background becomes blurred.
PAGE 1: Overview
PAGE 2: Choosing the right aperture
PAGE 3: Choosing the right shutter speed
PAGE 4: Choosing the right ISO settings
PAGE 5: Choosing the right White Balance
PAGE 6: Using flash in your night photography
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