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Old Sep 16, 2010, 11:58 AM   #1
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Default 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?
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 12:11 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj76 View Post
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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 12:16 PM   #3
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 1:12 PM   #4
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:15 PM   #5
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:26 PM   #6
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John,

You are referring to an external flash in your post, not the built in one, right?
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:30 PM   #7
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:33 PM   #8
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:38 PM   #9
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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.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 2:48 PM   #10
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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.
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