6 clever ways to get better lighting from your camera’s pop-up flash

Built-in flash

Built in flash techniques: 04. Use red-eye reduction

Built in flash techniques: 04. Use red-eye reduction

One of the problems with using on-camera flash is that the light is very close to the lens and this means that there’s a high probability of light bouncing off the back of the eye and into the camera, creating the well-known red-eye effect.

However, most cameras have a red-eye reduction mode to help tackle this problem.

This works by firing a pre-flash before the exposure so that the subject’s pupils close down to reduce the amount of light that can enter them.

In many cases this will significantly reduce the problem, however, if you have an image that still exhibits the phenomenon it can be dealt with quickly and easily in most image editing software packages.

Diffusing or bouncing the flash will also help reduce the likelihood of red-eye.


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Built-in flash techniques: 05 Slow-sync

Built in flash techniques: 05. Slow-sync

Although a burst of light from your camera’s pop-up flash will illuminate your near-by main subject, it’s power falls off quickly and the background will not receive a significant amount of light.

This means that you can wind up with a brightly lit subject in front of a dark background.

However, if you extend the exposure time the brightness of the background will increase without over-brightening the subject – although you may find that you need to adjust the flash exposure compensation a little.

This technique of using a slower shutter speed with flash is known as slow-sync. It’s useful for injecting life into the subject and separating it from the background.

Although the subject will be frozen by the flash, the long exposure for the background may mean that the camera needs to be on a tripod to prevent it from being blurred.

However, if you pan with the subject it can be rendered sharp by the flash while the background is blurred.


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Built in flash techniques: 06. Second curtain flash

Built in flash techniques: 06. Second curtain flash

In its default set-up a flash will fire at the beginning of the exposure.

On many occasions this is fine, but if you are shooting a moving subject and using a shutter speed that doesn’t freeze it, there will be a ghostly image of the subject visible where it moved after the flash fired. It can look as if the subject is moving backwards.

However, if the flash is set to second-curtain mode, it will fire at the end of the exposure and the blurred movement will be seen behind the subject giving a greater sense of speed and a more natural looking result.

Second-curtain flash is often combined with slow-sync to accentuate movement and create dynamic images.


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