Flashing should be illegal

Flashing should be illegalFlashing should be illegal

I am not talking about studio lighting, I have made extensive use of it, and it is a great tool for photographers, but the vast majority of people will not invest in a studio system. I am referring specifically to the flash on your camera, it is evil.

Convinced? No?

When I thought of writing this post I spent a lot of time combing through my files looking for a picture where I had used my on-camera flash. I found one, and since I had used it before I was hesitant to use it again. But I really couldn’t find any other without spending hours looking, this tells you how little I use the flash on my camera.

I read something a photographer once wrote on his website. He hates on-camera flash so much that he crazy-glued shut the one on his camera. I am not entirely sure he wasn’t exaggerating, and I would never do something like that to my camera, but I share the sentiment.

Flashing should be illegal

Ok, I guess you need more proof. The flash in your camera can be used for good,:  the picture above was taken in broad daylight, but the flash gave the look of “cornered person” I was going for.

In some other cases, if you learn how to use it correctly (assuming your camera has a setting to control the intensity and timing of your flash), it makes some outdoor photography a whole lot better. If you shoot somebody against a bright background (like the sunset), and you want your subjects to be exposed correctly, your on-camera flash might be your only choice.

If it is an absolutely must-have, spur-of-the-moment shot, then yes, by all means fire up that flash. But if you are shooting for your food, craft or design blog, or perhaps your Etsy store, please, I beg you, don’t use it.

Flashing should be illegal

Take these pictures for example. If you made, say, little hand-painted angels, which picture do you think will entice readers to buy them, or visit your blog again? Which one is more likely to be featured in another blog or site?

These two are basically the same picture (different shutter speeds, same aperture), yet they could hardly be any more different. Harsh shadows, flat lighting and distorted colors vs soft backlighting and open shadows.

Flashing should be illegal

Look at the windows in this shot, the picture below looks a bit ominous with the dark windows, the cold cast doesn’t make it inviting either.  It looks cold and clinical.

Flashing should be illegal

Can you see the difference?

Lighting is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to good photography, it is also the most complicated subject. Small libraries can be filled with the amount of published work on lighting in photography.  This is not the post where I talk about it, this is just to convince that if you want to improve your photography skills you must absolutely learn more about light, and get past the flash, there’s no two ways about it. Light makes the picture.

Ok, so if you can’t use the flash on your camera, then what? I will show you some simple techniques to squeeze every pixel out of your camera, but this will take several other posts. Check next week for the first one.

Aunt Clara
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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • s November 29, 2010, 8:11 PM

    i'll be waiting with bated breath…we're going on a trip soon and i want to take "the best" (well, for me anyway) pictures!

  • Aunt_Clara November 29, 2010, 2:10 PM

    I might have misunderstood your question.Yes, the less-attractive picture was shot with the flash.

  • Aunt_Clara November 29, 2010, 2:06 PM

    All photos require light (says Clara, Queen of the Obvious), what light source you use will determine the quality of your picture. I think that the last light source anyone should consider is camera flash: it almost never looks good.In the third and fourth pictures I compare the same shot, one made with camera flash, the other with ambient light. I could have also thrown in some studio lights too for comparison, but since most people don't use studio lights it would not be a useful comparison. For most people the choice is between camera flash and ambient light.

  • Kim November 29, 2010, 1:38 PM

    I LOVE your photography posts, Clara! I almost never use my flash. It killed me to turn it on during a night parade last week, but I cared more about getting a pic of my daughter in the parade so I turned it on. It was painful to do it though. Felt like "failing." Question…are you saying the less pretty angel and dining table shots are taken WITH a flash on and that's why they're not as nice? Or are you saying the LIGHT is what's making the nicer versions nice? Does that make sense?

  • Maria Dermengiu November 28, 2010, 5:07 PM

    Dear Clara, thank you for the post,it's very helpful and I'm waiting to see the next one on this subject. I use flash a lot because I can't seem to get the light I want….so,I'll try to do different next time ;)

  • Jo November 26, 2010, 10:15 PM

    Every now and then.. in desperate circumstances I use the flash on my camera. But you're quite right the photos NEVER look good… and I NEVER end up using them. It totally bleeds out all the colour, and lovely glowing warm interiors simply do not exist in 'flashland'.Can't wait for some advice on doing it betterJo xx

  • Ms C November 26, 2010, 2:24 PM

    Very interesting, thank you. Will call back to read the rest

  • Caroline @ Atelier Caroline November 26, 2010, 5:16 PM

    Hehehe I love this post. Ever since I've started blogging, I have been trying to wean from the auto mode and the built in flash. It's not always been successful but I'm persistent, I'm building myself a lightbox for small items. I also hinted that Santa should bring me a tripod :) Please, pretty please, I've been a good girl this year.

  • AP November 26, 2010, 5:11 PM

    So glad to see this post! I read a previous one about blogs needing good photography… I'm about to embark on selling some craft items and very nervous about making sure I have attractive, enticing photos that make things look as good as possible. My goal (since I just have a point-and-shoot camera right now) is to set up a little photo booth area where I can take shots. I'll be paying VERY close attention to what you write!! Thanks!

  • Anji* November 26, 2010, 3:36 PM

    Oh no, I do know this Clara! Unfortunately lack of knowledge, time and situation demand that I use my flash a lot. I have done some experimentation using lamps to light some of my shots esp. for my etsy products, but I find it a bit hit-and-miss, ie some product shots work when I do this, and some just look better (in my eyes) with flash. It's because I don't really know what I'm doing ;) I am really looking forward to hearing your lighting tips and techniques :)

  • SusieR November 26, 2010, 2:08 PM

    couldn't agree more!!!