The Pros And Cons
Without a doubt, lighting is the most important factor in photography so, it's important that you consider this when shooting to capture high quality images. Lighting is essentially the only thing that a picture is truly made of. And it’s the quality and type of light that really sets a picture apart from the masses of imagery out there, or on the other hand, limits a photo’s ability to really captivate an audience. One convenient means of using flash photography is when you're shooting in low-light/ indoor situations, or maybe you want to add some fill light to an outdoor location shoot? It's completely up you how you use it, but as well as the pros there are cons to using the flash setting on your camera. In this article, we will cover some of the pros and cons of using flash as well as the unquestionable limitations of using this type of photography.
If you're taking photographs at a wedding, party or in a darkened interior, you're going to need to supplement the existing lighting conditions in order to illuminate your subjects and get sharp, crisp pictures. Using flash could mean the difference between capturing the shot or missing it, so there are some advantages even though flash photography has a lot of stigma in the wedding photography industry. Most compact cameras will have some kind of built-in flash. This provides a standard lighting, although this is fairly basic and the light output is fairly limited, so professional photographers usually stay away from this when shooting at a gig. If you own an SLR though, rather than using the camera's integral flash, the better option is to attach a separate flashgun. However, in order to avoid some of the common problems associated with flash photography which are listed below, you will need to modify the light in some way.
Problem #1: Red-Eye - If your flashgun is positioned on top of the camera, the flash is directly in line with the lens. This means that the light coming from it will hit the back of your subject's eyes, and illuminate the blood vessels of the retina, causing that familiar ghoulish appearance. That's definitely not what you want when taking photographs, especially if you've been hired to capture and edit wedding images. Red eye is a tricky problem to fix, so avoid it in the first place as best as you can.
Problem #2: Harsh Shadows - The quality of light coming from a flash gun is hard and directional. This means that it will cast hard and clearly defined shadows; these will be particularly evident if your subject is placed close to a wall, for example, whilst nose and chin shadows can also be very pronounced.
Problem #3: Uneven Illumination - Once the light leaves the flash, its power to illuminate diminishes the further it has to travel, meaning that subjects further away from the camera will be darker than those nearest to it.
So, the real question is, how can you improve your flash photography? One of the best things that you can do is move the flashgun away from the top of the camera. This will make a big difference to the way in which you can light your subject. For a start, it will eliminate red-eye, since the light is no longer bouncing directly off the back of the subject's eyes. Secondly, by altering the position of the flash in this way, you can also determine where any shadows will fall. Depending on the type of flash unit you use, you should be able to buy either an extension cord which attaches to your camera's hot shoe or a special adaptor, both of which will enable you to use your flash "off-camera", either by
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attaching it to a separate flash bracket or holding it in your hand and positioning it accordingly for the best results.
Solution #1: Diffusing The Light - There are a number of tools available for modifying the quality of flash light. These include small diffusing domes which clip onto the flash unit and also soft-boxes, which are made of a white material and again attach to the front of the flash. Both of these helps to scatter the light, turning a hard-light source into a soft one. The results are softer shadows and less contrast when using flash photography.
Solution #2: Bouncing Flash - Another useful technique is to bounce the flash off a white surface such as a wall or a ceiling. This again has the effect of scattering the light, reducing shadows and contrast. Take care, though, that the surface you choose to bounce your flash off is white, otherwise you could end up with some strange colour casts on your photographs. Shooting in a confined space, with nowhere to plug in a powerful studio light, a flashgun was bounced off a nearby white surface, in order to scatter and soften the light.
Solution #3: Subject placement - If you're photographing a group of people with flash, try not to have them at widely differing distances from the camera, since those who are furthest away will be less well-lit than those who are nearest the camera. Spread everyone out evenly for a crisp image. For more tips on how to adapt your camera settings for a wedding, check out our blog post!
Photo + editing credit: All images in this blog post edited by the team here at Weddit and photographed by Lukas Griffin. To get started with our wedding photo editing service, you can create an account here.