Mother and baby at sunset

Should You Use Flash?

Photography is all about light, composition and, most importantly, emotion. – Larry Wilder

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question many times. My advice? Absolutely, go for it. Okay, read on before you get too upset. Until a few months ago I was avoiding flash at all costs. I did use the built-in flash occasionally, but only outdoors as fill light. Sometimes flash is necessary when you shoot a portrait like the one in this post. When upgrading to a Canon 5D, which doesn’t have a flash built in, I kept wondering what I was going to do without one. So I bought a Canon Speedlite and a couple of books to learn how to use it properly. Believe me, they changed the way I think about flash photography forever.

Flash has a pretty bad reputation and you’ve probably heard this many times. It does help when used outdoors, but when used inside it can easily ruin your pictures. The bright light creating hard shadows behind your subject doesn’t create the most flattering shots. That is not the case when the flash is used correctly.

Here is my suggestion for using flash and creating amazing shots: take the flash off the camera! No, I am not talking about the pop-up flash. Go buy a real flash if you don’t have one. They are not that expensive these days and I assure you, it will be a good investment.

Why is the flash on top of the camera not recommended indoors? Pretty simple. Light alone has no depth. It allows us to see objects but we need shadows to create depth. The light on top of the camera creates a shadow virtually invisible behind the subject. You will end up with flat, uninteresting images.

As a rule of thumb, positioning your flash about 45 degrees to the right or left can make a world of difference. You will add shadows, therefore depth. How can you take the flash off the camera? The easiest and least expensive way is buying a TTL Cord.

The same holds true with natural light. Photograph a subject with the sun behind you, and then try with the sun to your right or left. Much better, isn’t it?  And don’t forget to share your best shots with the Balcony!

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3 Responses to “Should You Use Flash?”

  1. Julie E | November 7, 2012 at 11:04 PM #

    Hi Andrei,

    Which books did you buy for helping to use the flash correctly? Would you recommend them?


    • Andrei | November 10, 2012 at 10:51 PM #

      Hi Julie,

      My favorite book is “Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites” by Syl Arena. I highly recommend it.


  2. carol maurin | December 22, 2012 at 3:38 PM #

    Hi Andrei,
    I totally agree. Another good reason to use flash on portraits is to get the catch light in eyes. It gives the eyes spark. Changes the whole look for the better. But it, of course, should not be used directly, but bounced which is another great reason to buy the off camera flash. Great advise. Look forward to more of your thoughtful ideas.

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