Flash: Number One Enemy of Good Photos

Most accurately, direct flash is the enemy of good photographs. If there is one thing I have learned about photography, it is that it is all about light. If you have bad light, you have a bad photo. Flash can make things look unnatural or cast horrible shadows. This topic comes up because I was just browsing Flickr and discovered that there were a lot of images of guys taken at night that were really bad. A lot of otherwise really cute guys looked sickly or drunk, all because of bad lighting. The issue comes from the fact that at the end of the day a lot of guys get this really unique glow to their skin, flash will make that glow look like the guys are just dropping wet, and not in a good way, however, natural light, especially near sunset, gives these guys a warm, appealing glow, almost angelic, except in a whole different way. The problem is that in general, the proper lighting is not enough light for the camera.

There are several ways to solve the direct flash issue,

  1. Extend shutter time – this often causes blurry images, however, it does give the best chance for natural light to enter. Often not an option of compact cameras.
  2. Increase sensitivity – this puts grain into the image, but keeps a lot of color and isn’t as likely to blur as a shutter time extension. Often not an option on compact cameras (they already do this for the puny sensors)
  3. External bounce flash – this puts you in control of the light source, but if not used carefully, you are back to square one. Can often be bounced from any number of places, or diffused as needed. Almost no compact cameras have a hot shoe for the external unit.
  4. Diffusion – if you have flash, you have this option. Using a combination of paper plates, aluminum foil, clear plastic cups and anything else you can find that will diffuse light but not block it, you can bounce light around just enough to let it bounce around before hitting your subject, taking the light off your subject and adding to the ambient light level. Takes practice, but anybody can do it (although, having an assistant to hold the diffusion object in front of the flash is a good idea). Also, a safety note, do not put anything flammable or a human body part closer than about 3 inches from a flash bulb that will fire.

Its nearly 11am and I have not been to bed yet, so if this is TMI or in any way incoherent, I apologize, but then again, this is my blog, what did you expect?