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Monday, January 21, 2013

Time to Click: Flash Functions

Did you know you can do more then just command your flash on and off!? Yes! It's true! Every camera has several different flash options that work great in different situations!

Just like knowing what P S A M and all those other icons are on your camera, it's important to understand all the icons in your flash menu as well!

So first, find your built in flash menu options!

Almost all cameras have a "flash command" button. It will have this icon on it (or something very similar) The lighting bolt, or a lighting bolt with a arrow on the bottom.

This is typically found on your camera body. Depending on your camera... take a moment and find it now. Anyone who doesn't see it should feel free to give me a shout with your make and model and I will be happy to tell you where you can find it (or look it up in that silly manual you have!)

Can you spot the Flash button?

(As a reminder you will need to be in your P mode to command your flash. A / Auto / or the green square mode won't always let you control your flash! For more info about the difference between Program and Auto check this out!)

Now, like with the other function buttons, typically you cycle through the different options by
1. Hitting the flash button over and over changing (or cycling through) the icon on your user display.
2. Using the arrows on your camera back (Cross keys) to select the icon from a menu display
3. Hold the button and spin a command dial (for Bridge or DSLRS)

Did you try it and see some different icons pop up!?

Here are are the ones you should be seeing as you cycle through. You may have all of these... you may have a few other combinations... but these are the core functions.

Auto Flash:

This means it will fire if it thinks it needs more light for the image. SOme cameras will show you this image on your display screen, others will simply fire the flash if you are in program mode and it thinks it needs it.
Auto Flash DID NOT fire due to outdoor light, causing subject to be in shadow.

This is like the difference between auto and program. There are simply times when your best judgement will be much better then your camera's. Your camera can be tricked because it doesn't really know what it is looking at. Like in in cases like this where the camera sees all the light from outside, but your subject is in the shadow.

Flash On:

Will always fire the flash... it works great indoors or outside! Sometimes this can be called "fill flash" like if you are using it outside to "fill" in the shadow from under a hat or "fill" the shadow from a tree. It commands your flash regardless of the light your camera sees.

With Flash, you see the subject.. not out the window.

Flash Off:

Some camera's don't have a symbol for flash off, sometimes you simply push the flash down to close it and that's the "off". It might even be silly to some to have a flash off mode... but there are times when you wouldn't want the flash to fire... say, when doing any sort of night photography... fireworks, stars, sunsets.... or if you want to show action like dancing blur etc. Times when your camera might "auto flash" but you want something different. Knowing that you can command your flash of is just as important as knowing when to turn it on!

Slow shutter speed, no flash.

Red eye:  (as shown here as Flash with red eye)

Sometimes you have the red eye symbol separately, and it can be toggled on and off. There are many ways to address a red eye issue, but with small point and shoots this is a "good" option. Basically it does a pre-flash like a strobe to dilate eyes prior to the flash going off. This helps prevent the reflection back from the eye. The draw back is, many people complain about it, and often think that it is the flash and move, or start to move away by the time the real flash fires. If you are going to use this I suggest you warn your subjects not to move before you tell them! (More about Red Eye!)

Yes, even light eyed animals can have red eye (or green reflections called "pet eye")

Also, you could have the word "SLOW" next to your flash symbol.

This option is called "slow sync flash":

This function is really a lot of fun to play with! How it works is the shutter opens, exposing for a background like holiday lights, sunsets, or city nightscapes, and then the flash fires exposing for the foreground (like a person) before the shutter closes.

Where if you just used a flash you would see this image like...

Tip: Remember if you are using a "slow" function you need to keep your camera on a tripod so you don't get camera shake from the shutter staying open for a long time!

Now occasionally you will find combinations like...
Flash / Slow / Red eye: And if you understand what they mean together you can figure out the combinations as well! Now, it's up to you to take some images and test out your new knowledge before we tackle our more advanced flash technique classes!


  1. Hi there!!! I'm Hanna. I found you from the blog hop and I love making new friends and meeting new bloggers:) I am your newest follower:) You can me any old time over here at


    I'd love to see you:) xoxoxoxo Hanna

    1. Thanks for joining us Hanna! I hope you enjoy!