Better Pop-up Flash Photos
If you use a DSLR with a pop-up flash, you’ll find the tips in this tutorial helpful in getting better flash photos. (Most of the tips will also work with the built-in flash on compact point-and-shoot cameras).
In all honesty, the pop-up flash on your DSLR camera is convenient, but it’s never going to give you the control you need to get those great photos you seen that are taken with a large hot shoe flash.
Pros And Cons of Pop-up Flashes
It doesn’t add any bulk or additional weight to your camera, it doesn’t cost anything extra; and it’s always available – switch to flash mode and it’s ready to use.
Cons - Red-eye.
The position of pop-up flashes (directly above the viewfinder) can cause your subjects to have red-eye. Red-eye occurs when light from the flash reflects directly from the rear of your subject’s eyes back into the camera lens. The blood-filled capillaries in the eyes make the color of the pupils look red. To help prevent this, some cameras emit a ‘pre-flash’ before the actual flash. This causes the pupil to contract before the main flash fires and the photo is taken, thus minimizing red-eye.
Cons - Harsh Shadows/Blown-out Highlights.
Another disadvantage of a pop-up flash is that it can’t be pointed in any direction other than straight ahead. Pop-up flashes tend to create harsh shadows (dark shadows with distinctive edges) on your subjects, as well as small overexposed highlights. Both of these effects are quite unflattering for portraits.
Cons - Limited Power = Limited Distance
Due to its small size, pop-up flash is limited in terms of power. That means anything beyond 3-5 meters (depending on your camera’s specifications) won’t be affected very much by the flash. If you are already using a large lens aperture, you can only extend the effective distance of the flash by increasing your ISO. That of course, can degrade the quality of your photo by introducing noise. So, you have to be close to the subjects you are shooting.
Some Tips to Get Better Pop-up Flash Photos
Overcoming Harsh Shadows/Blown-out Highlights
Larger light sources always produce brighter shadows with softer edges. They also diffuse highlights more than small light sources. One way to ‘increase’ a pop-up flash’s small light source is to use a third-party Flash Diffuser (which can be purchased quite inexpensively). Another method is to create your own temporary diffuser by wrapping a tissue around the pop-up flash!
Here are three tips for avoiding the red-eyed effect when using your pop-up flash:
Using Fill-in Flash
Have you ever taken a photo of someone outdoors, but ended up with an image where their face is in deep shadow? Sunlight can cast a deep shadows on subjects. Next time, try using your pop-up flash. It can easily correct the problem of shadows on a close-up portrait shots taken outdoors during the day. The combination of the ambient light with the flash will produce an evenly balanced shot with the face nicely lit and a minimum of deep shadows.
None of these tips will beat using an external flash. But, if used properly, they’ll help you create much better looking photos with your pop-up flash!
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