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-   -   Is it bad to use a flash? (https://forums.steves-digicams.com/general-discussion-11/bad-use-flash-177064/)

dj76 Sep 16, 2010 11:58 AM

Is it bad to use a flash?
 
Since some cameras have great low light performance, and just from some reading I have done online, I get the impression that using a flash is not a good thing. Now I know it works great for fill in, like if you are shooting someone outside in the shadows so their faces aren't dark, but for indoor shooting when it is not very light in the room, is it better to not use a flash? Sometimes it seems like the colors in the non flash pictures do not look very true (but this could be the white balance issue I mentioned in a different post) while the flash pictures seem pretty decent. I know in some cases it can reflect and maybe look too bright, but if that is not the case, is it good to use the camera's flash (on the T1i in this case) for just indoor pictures of people? Is that the only disadvantage to the flash is blown out highlights or reflection? Or is there more to it than that?

jWest Sep 16, 2010 12:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dj76 (Post 1142263)
Since some cameras have great low light performance, and just from some reading I have done online, I get the impression that using a flash is not a good thing. Now I know it works great for fill in, like if you are shooting someone outside in the shadows so their faces aren't dark, but for indoor shooting when it is not very light in the room, is it better to not use a flash? Sometimes it seems like the colors in the non flash pictures do not look very true (but this could be the white balance issue I mentioned in a different post) while the flash pictures seem pretty decent. I know in some cases it can reflect and maybe look too bright, but if that is not the case, is it good to use the camera's flash (on the T1i in this case) for just indoor pictures of people? Is that the only disadvantage to the flash is blown out highlights or reflection? Or is there more to it than that?

There is no right answer, it depends fully on the setting. There are many times where the on-camera flash is appropriate in an indoor setting. However, in addition to what you mentioned (blown out highlights, reflection), it can give the subject a very "flat" look, by eliminating all the natural shadows that tell you something is 3-dimensional. In large rooms, the flash often will not carry, so your subject is over-lit, while your background is completely dark. There some situation where this works well, artistically, but that's usually not the case.

Have you considered an external flash? With an external flash, you can "bounce" the light off the ceiling by pointing it upward, or off a nearby wall by pointing it sideways. Also, the mere fact that the flash isn't on nearly the exact same axis as the lens helps with blown-out highlights and eliminated shadows.

dj76 Sep 16, 2010 12:16 PM

Yeah I have considered it. People on here mentioned that would be one of the best first things to get along with my new camera. Even though I know nothing about external flashes yet, I imagine the photos would come out better than without. Maybe I will get one soon.

TCav Sep 16, 2010 1:12 PM

You need to remember that, if you rely on flash, you don't know what the photo will look like until after you've taken it. If you use available light, what you see in the viewfinder is what will be in the photo. (And, yes, some cameras have trouble getting the white balance right when shooting using incandescent light sources, so everything looks yellow.) There are many people here that can work wonders with one or more flash units, but that comes with experience, and even they will come up with a 'Velvet Elvis' once in a while. It's up to you. I prefer available light, but I think I'm in the minority here.

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 2:15 PM

Yes - using flash works much better in most cases. The reason there is an impression flash is bad is because people don't take time to learn how to use it properly. They use a built-in flash and don't learn how to use it and end up with photos with stark subjects, red-eye and bad shadows. They then conclude flash stinks and spend the rest of their photographic careers dreading situations when they have to pop it up. I started out much the same way. Then I discovered the high ISO / wide aperture / slow shutter speed shots were really just as bad for different reasons. And I kept seeing photos in same situations that looked good. So, like any other aspect of photography - I ignored the people who weren't showing good photos in the environments I was interested in and started paying attention to the people who did have good photos. That's how I learned what a valuable tool flash was. I have several f2.8 and f1.8 lenses - I'm used to using ISO 3200/6400 for sports in low light. But I don't hesitate for a second to use flash now - because 90% of the time it produces better looking photos.. If I want shallow DOF I can still have it with flash. I get better colors, better sharpness, better skin tones, enough dof when I need it, frozen subjects without motion blur. In other words I can capture the shot I know I couldn't capture without it - and I've had a lot of experience capturing shots in low light/ available light situations.

So no - flash is a good thing, not a bad thing. That does not mean available light has no place - of course it does. But this is no different than 75mm lens vs. 300mm lens. Neither is a bad tool. But there are situations where the 75mm lens is the right choice and situations where the 300mm is the right choice. When you try to use one instead of the other in the wrong situation you get poor results.

BUT, there is a learning curve. To me though, it was worth learning. Now I can do both and don't have to choose 1 because I'm afraid of the other.

dj76 Sep 16, 2010 2:26 PM

John,

You are referring to an external flash in your post, not the built in one, right?

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 2:30 PM

Yes. To maximize results you need an external flash. But, in many cases the built in is still better than available light. It's a matter of the lesser of two evils.

dj76 Sep 16, 2010 2:33 PM

And I can always reduce the flash intensity too of the built in if it looks too washed out, right? Maybe I will look into getting an external since right now 90% of the pictures I am taking are of my baby indoors.

JohnG Sep 16, 2010 2:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dj76 (Post 1142337)
And I can always reduce the flash intensity too of the built in if it looks too washed out, right? Maybe I will look into getting an external since right now 90% of the pictures I am taking are of my baby indoors.

Here is my suggestion:
When your baby is sleeping that's a perfect opportunity for available light shots. Even feeding if it's done near a window. Of course you need a wide aperture lens (like a 50mm 1.8). Those are the opportunities where available light makes sense. You can decide to use that approach any time you've got plenty of sunlight too - provided the sunlight is in front of and not behind your subject. So those are great opportunities for available light. But for other stuff - where you're not by a window or in the evenings - yep, external flash is the way to go. Bounce that flash off the ceiling and you are golden. The sooner you get it and learn to use it the better your photos will be.

dj76 Sep 16, 2010 2:48 PM

Ok, I'll check into that. I don't have that 50mm 1.8 lens either yet. I'll see if I can afford to put out an extra couple hundred on a flash right now, but that does make sense the sooner the better.

VTphotog Sep 16, 2010 8:18 PM

Using a diffuser on your built-in flash will help a lot, also. There are several commercially available units, as well as some that can be home-made. They serve to soften the harsh effect of flash, but at the cost of limiting the range.

brian

BillDrew Sep 16, 2010 8:31 PM

I dislike flash - it is hard to figure out and often produces ugly results - but then so do many other techniques.
Quote:

Originally Posted by JohnG (Post 1142334)
Yes. To maximize results you need an external flash. But, in many cases the built in is still better than available light. It's a matter of the lesser of two evils.

John's comments are spot on. Esp about the built in flash. Using that isn't so much a choice of the lesser of two evils, but an act of pure desperation.

Sometimes things do get desperate.

peripatetic Sep 17, 2010 1:57 AM

Photography is painting with light.

If the light is poor and you cannot change location, well then artificial lighting is your only choice.

The problem is that it's very easy to make horrible looking photos with flash. The learning curve for using artificial lighting properly is quite steep.

Last year I did a course which specialised in studio lighting. It teaches you to think about lighting in a different way. It teaches you to look at a scene and think first about how you would like to light it to get the picture you are looking for. Once you have got that figured out then sometimes you realise you don't actually need flash; you can move the subject, or use a reflector, or indeed use a room lamp, or one or multiple flashes.

The point is that if you don't know how to use flash, then your options are very limited.

I don't use flash much at all, but I'd rather do it from choice than ignorance, and when flash is needed I don't hesitate.

Eetu Sep 17, 2010 2:24 AM

Hiya! I am a little late in this discussion, but if I may put my two cents in. Obviously, there times and places that one will not want or can use a flash. That said, there are endless opportunities for using a flash, even outdoors. Just this summer, I have read articles of professional photographers who have made wise use of the flash outdoors. Light is everything in photography, so why not learn / experiement how to use it properly, yes, even a flash. On my camera, I can determine how much light my flash will throw out or not, the opportunities about. It is also important to soften the light from a flash so that it is diffused properly... main thing is, try, experiement, but use the flash often... not always, of course, but look for possiblitilities and experiement. And, even though you have your exif data recorded in a photo, it is not a bad idea when you have a nice subject to use a pad of paper and pencil and write down what you are doing, info about the subject, lighting or the lack therein...

Hope this helps.

Ned in Finland

JustinThyme Sep 17, 2010 6:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by peripatetic (Post 1142565)
Photography is painting with light.

If the light is poor and you cannot change location, well then artificial lighting is your only choice.

The problem is that it's very easy to make horrible looking photos with flash. The learning curve for using artificial lighting properly is quite steep.

Last year I did a course which specialised in studio lighting. It teaches you to think about lighting in a different way. It teaches you to look at a scene and think first about how you would like to light it to get the picture you are looking for. Once you have got that figured out then sometimes you realise you don't actually need flash; you can move the subject, or use a reflector, or indeed use a room lamp, or one or multiple flashes.

The point is that if you don't know how to use flash, then your options are very limited.

I don't use flash much at all, but I'd rather do it from choice than ignorance, and when flash is needed I don't hesitate.

+1, great analogy.

There is nothing wrong with using a flash.
As mentioned you cant always control what light you are going to get.
As John also said its about technique and the flash you use. I am a big opponent to using on camera flash as you dont have much control over it and end up with one portion of your photo being flooded with others falling off into the abyss, their faces get washed and eys get red. I use an external flash both on and off camera. For the most part what you want to avoid is beaming a flash right at the subject at close distances. When buying an external falsh make sure you get one that you can control the intensity and just as importantly the angle. If indoors its preferential to bounce the light, this is simple geometry, much like using a bank shot playing pool. There are so many other things you can do by using gobos (an oject placed between your light source and your subject) with your flash. Then there are multile flash scenarios where you use one flash to paint the background and another to paint the subject. Then we get into studio strobes. Oh this subject can go on forever! The possibilites are almost endless and just when you thought you went through all 10 million different ways you find another. Its not whether or not to use one, its using it correctly and becoming a master of light. A good flash is an important part of any serious photographers kit! :cool_shades:

dj76 Sep 28, 2010 12:59 PM

I have been taking more pictures with the flash and they look a lot better than without. I guess I just thought high ISO would work miracles and take pictures in very low light, but maybe my idea of low light is different than what it should be. The room is poorly lit and its at night, and not even very light to the eye, and without the flash everything was a slow shutter speed and the lighting didnt look right, looked dingy. So I guess the flash is right in these cases.

mtclimber Sep 28, 2010 6:24 PM

What is nice about an external flash, when you learn how to use it, is that it is, generally speaking, a very dependable source of lighting that you can always depend upon.

Here is an example of fill flash used with a P+S camera to brighten the subject and to improve detail. Just click on the link below to display the photo:

http://anchorse.smugmug.com/Other/Ca...3_AmHcE-X3.jpg

Here is an example of a Slave Flash in operation. This photo was taken at a distance of 30 feet, using the additional light provided by the Slave Flash:

http://anchorse.smugmug.com/Other/Sl...0_RCQqv-X3.jpg

And here is an example of "Bounced Flash." The ligh from the external flash was bounced off the ceiling. Note that there is no harshness to the lighting. The lighting is soft and diffussed.

http://anchorse.smugmug.com/Other/Sl...9_et75Z-X3.jpg

Sarah Joyce

wave01 Sep 29, 2010 8:31 AM

Dont be frightened of flash it is a tool to be used yes you can up iso but then you can end up with noise. I prefer to get the flash out external and use that either bounce or diffuser or off camera.

JustinThyme Sep 30, 2010 7:25 PM

Here is another example of a bounced flash, first one I could dig up. Canon 580ex II angled 60 degrees with catch light panel extended. You not only get a well exposed image but the catch light in the eyes gives them depth and orientation instead of being flat. My Daughter after a Sky Blue game with a Puma painted in her hair. Ambient light with recessed fixtures in the Kitchen would have been horrible. Just remember its best practice to keep the catch light at the 11 or 1 oclock position in the eyes. You dont want straight on or under or far left or right.
MKIII with 85 1.8 @ 1.8 1/300 ISO 100.


http://www.rnmphotography.com/photos...7_gJRv7-XL.jpg


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