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Learn Photography

Beecher's Handouts >

3 – An Advanced Light Topic

Beginners should come back to this section later.

Dark Backgrounds with Flash

When we photograph a group at a dining room table, with a pop-up flash, the exposure is uneven.

People close to the flash are overexposed.

People at the other end of the table are underexposed.

Yet, if we were to photograph the same group, outside, sitting at a picnic table, everyone would be exposed properly.


The distance of the light from the subject determines the evenness light.

When photographing the group at the picnic table, the light sources, the sun and sky, are far away.

So, there's no difference in the brightness of the light.

Indoors, with a light source that's very close to the people at the table, there's a huge difference in brightness.

How can this knowledge make for better photographs?

Groups of People

When photographing a group of people indoors with direct flash from your camera, the front row will be too bright, and the back row, too dark.

If you have a separate flash that can be aimed at the ceiling, bounce the light off of the ceiling.

The front and back rows will receive about the same amount of light.

The light source is now a more equal distance from everyone, making the lighting more even.


If you're photographing an interior, the light from the windows will not illuminate the entire space.

The amount of light diminishes quickly as it spreads out from the windows.

If you were to set your exposure for the light near the windows, the area of the room furthest from the windows will be very dark.

Or, if you were to set your exposure for the darkest part of the room, the area near the windows would be too bright.

Supplement the window light with bounce flash or other lighting.