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Photo Tips > Flash Bigots


Some photographers don't use flash because the light is ugly.

Yes, direct flash can be ugly.

But, flash can be beautiful light.

There's nothing intrinsically bad about any light source, except a nuclear bomb.

The only bad may be a photographer who isn't informed about light.

Get informed.

Direct Sun = Ugly Light

Direct sun may be ugly light.

Direct sun has:

• Glare.

• Dark shadows with sharply defined edges.

Direct Flash = Ugly Light

Direct flash may be ugly light.

Direct flash has:

• Glare.

• Dark shadows with sharply defined edges.

We Deal with Direct Sun

We make the ugly light into good light.


• Move the subject into the shade.

• Look for sunlight reflecting off of a wall to brighten the shadows.

• Have an assistant hold a reflector or use fill flash.


Some of Us

Don't Deal with Direct Flash

Some photographers point their noses in the air, and smugly say, "I don't use flash."

They don't know how to make ugly light into good light.

Direct flash is ugly light.

There are three ugly reasons—and three beautiful solutions.

Three Ugly Reasons & Solutions

Ugly Reason #1 - Small Light Source

Pop-up flash is a small light source.

Small light sources, such as direct sun and pop-up flash, produce:

• Small highlights (glare).

• Dark shadows with sharply defined edges.

Beautiful Solution #1 -

Make the Flash Bigger

There are two devices that can be attached to your camera's pop-up flash.

They make the flash bigger, thereby lowering the contrast.

The devices don't improve the light dramatically.

But, this writer will spend a few bucks to carry around a compact device that improves the light by 33%.

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Go to Better Pop-up Flash.

If you're using a separate flash, get a plastic white dome that fits on the flash.

Ugly Reason #2 - Located on the Camera

Because the pop-up flash is located on the camera, the light is largely shadowless.

There may be a shadow ringing the subject that's not very noticeable.

Without shadows, our visual systems don't perceive shape and texture as readily.

The subjects look flat and smooth.

Beautiful Solution #2 -

Get the Flash Off the Camera

If you're using a separate flash, get the extension cord for the flash.

You can hold the flash in one hand, and the camera, in the other.

If you can't, get to the gym!

When photographing a person with lots of wrinkles, move the flash closer to the camera.

The wrinkles won't show as much, because their shadows are minimized.

When photographing the bride and groom, move the flash up and to the left.

They'll look more human, as the shadows on their faces will show shape.

The flash will light their hair and shoulders, as well.

The bride's expensive coiffure will be highlighted.

The groom's dark-suit shoulders will stand out from a dark background.

Ugly Reason #3 - Light Fall Off

When using direct flash, whether its the pop-up flash or a separate flash, the light decreases quickly.

When photographing a Thanksgiving dinner, the tofu turkey  in the middle of the table will be well exposed.

Uncle Elmo, near the camera, will be too bright.

Aunt Delmoi, at the far end of the table, will be too dark.

Beautiful Solution #3 -

Bounce the Flash

If you're using the pop-up flash, get a Lightscoop.

If you're using a separate flash, bounce the flash off of the ceiling.

The entire room will be illuminated.

The ceiling can't be:

• Too high.

• Too dark.

• Colored.