The flash of a digital camera is something that most of us take for granted. It just works and that’s that! Well, I’m here to tell you that there are some additional things that one can do to make better use of the flash, then to just use it on the “auto” setting. The automatic setting that most of us rely upon, is good for a lot of things, but it does tend to leave something to be desired once you learn about the other things you can do.
Automatic is NOT for good for everything
The automatic setting of current digital cameras is not perfect for every situation. In fact, it really isn’t perfect at all! However, it does a good job, and as the technology continues to improve, it does tend to be a relatively simple and basic fix for when one needs a flash. The first thing to consider here is that when the camera senses a bright light situation, that it will not be using the flash at all. Digital cameras are getting to the point where they are smart about knowing that one is photographing people, but it still isn’t quite there yet in terms of knowing the ideal times to use a flash.
For example, if the scene is brightly lit, the flash will not fire. So, in a situation where you have people in the picture with the Sun at their backs, you might get darkly lit faces, or even silhouettes, of the people’s faces. You know the pictures I’m talking about! Where the scene is all properly exposed, but the people’s faces are all dark and washed out, because of the brightness behind them.
The Fill Flash
One use of the flash is where it is on for every shot. Not just on for the dark shots, but on for every shot. In instances like the situation mentioned above, where your subject is lit from behind, this would be the perfect remedy. You will still get the effects of the sunny shot, but now you’ll be able to see the people’s faces much more clearly. So, how do you set this? Well, a majority of the digital cameras have a flash setting of always being on. The auto setting will usually have a “A,” or other method to indicate that it is automatic, but the always on setting is often just a flash symbol all by itself with no other distinguishing symbols.
Note: one should consult one’s camera manual for the correct setting, because as new features are added, there may well be some additional flash modes being added. Such as a full flash, a partial flash, or even some brains behind the setting that allow the camera to better judge portrait or scene flash settings.
You will find that bright scenes in general, might need more light on the lights in the foreground in order to make them really show up, so don’t be afraid to use your flash…even in bright sunlight!
Pets and Babies
One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that pets and babies somehow seem to have faster eyelids than the average person does. Of course, there are always the few human adults that seem to get caught with their eyes closed when the flash goes off. I’m sure you know the pictures I’m talking about where someone invariably has their eyes sealed tightly shut, and smiling broadly. Whenever I see a cute pet picture forming, or a cute baby picture forming, I then scramble to take the picture, and when I look at the finished picture- everybody’s eyes are closed! This is simply caused by the reaction of the eye to a very bright light. Some people, and pets, react quicker than others do.
The opposite effect of eyes that are closed in pictures, are eyes that show glowing retinas. Humans have reddish retinas. Glowing human retinas in a picture are more commonly referred to as “red eyes.” The same concept applies to animals, but amazingly enough they don’t have red retinas. Animals have greenish retinas. We still refer to it as “red eye” in terms of photography, but animals just don’t have red eyes. This is caused by the pupil being wide open when the picture is taken, and the reflected light is from the back or the eye, or retina.
The Solution to Red Eye and Closed Eyes
The solution to red eye, and closed eyes, is not a 100% solution, but it does fix the problem most of the time. A majority of the newer cameras have a “red eye” setting. The red eye setting causes the flash to give a quick blink before the real flash goes off and the actual picture is taken. This quick blink-flash causes the iris to react and contract. This usually eliminates the red eye effect. This same feature can be used to get the people, and animals, with quick eyelids to keep their eyes open for the actual picture.
A special note for people with a moveable flash: The red eye, or closed eye, problems are mostly caused by the flash shining directly into the eyes from the cameras point of view. Moving the flash, so that it bounces off the ceiling, or otherwise out of the direct alignment with the subject’s eyes, will achieve the same effect. This way, the light does not shine directly off of the subjects retinas. Also, a different angle will usually allow the subject to keep his/her eyes open longer too.
Many of us tend to take the flash on our cameras for granted. It’s just there, and it works, that kind of thing. However, with just a work and understanding, one can get so much more value out of it! The flash can be used to add a little contrast, or to fill in, in dark scenes. Better use of the flash can also help eliminate closed eyes, or even “red eye” in pictures. No matter which method you chose, using your flash better can be the difference between a good shot and a great shot!