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Monday, January 7, 2013

Time to Click: Your Flash

If you received a camera as a gift for the holidays, or your looking at purchasing a new one, or possibly returning what you have...  I thought it would be a great idea to expand a little on the differences between camera types and what to look, and things understand about your camera.

I mentioned several things in our first post: Time to Click: Camera Types and promised we would expand on those details for you! I don't want to keep you waiting too long since these are all VERY important things to know about your camera! So I picked out the first one to cover for you today and the rest will get filled in later!

1. Not all flashes are created equal.

Yes, all cameras have some sort of flash as you see in the sample images of our three different camera types...

 The point and shoot camera's are "built in" and typically part of the camera body. Like this one that is slightly up and over from the lens.

On these two, it is called a "pop" up flash, and is directly above the lens.

When your Flash is commanded on it "pops" up to fire. This places it higher and farther away from your lens - which is a really good thing for reducing red-eye. In fact, the farther your flash is from your lens the less you need to worry about red-eyes... since red-eyes is a direct reflection of the flash off the back of someones eye literally, its a reflection of the light into the camera lens that is the cause so if you move where the light is coming from it changes the reflection angle.
Point and shoot style camera

Angle change - reducing red eye with a "pop up" style flash

If you own a point and shoot and shoot a lot of people images, make sure you learn more about your camera's red eye reduction options!

Now, for the most part your flash is pretty much the same as a flash light. The smaller it is the less distance and spread it has. Here all of these cameras are on similar ground regardless of where the flash is placed on the camera. You will need to play with YOUR camera, but typically you will find the "best" exposure with you being around 5-7 feet from your subject. Too far away and your flash wont reach, leaving them underexposed and too dark. Too close and they are overexposed and too light.

Which is why when you shoot an angled image where people are at different distances you can see the different exposures.

Tip: Be sure to arrange your self, or your subjects on an even line when shooting so they are ALL on the sweet spot. OR if you have darker completions put them on the closer side! This will allow for a better overall image!

The best distance you can hope for with a on board camera flash is roughly 7-10 feet. But keep in mind it is the most powerful in the middle and fades the farther out you go... just like a flashlight. So if your shooting several subjects, you may need to walk in closer (no zoom doesn't help you here, in fact it HURTS you.. but more on that later) in order to get the best effect.

On the bridge cameras, check and see if you can add an additional flash! Many have a "hot shoe" on the top of where a flash would pop up (like you can see from the DSLR image shown above) This allows you to add in flash like this....

Or, you can look into an additional "slave" flash... like this... and we will talk more about these this month as well!
By using the bracket it will mount to the side of your camera and add additional light to your image

If your looking at getting a bridge camera I HIGHLY recommend one of the ones that work with an additional flash. This is a HUGE option and gives you a TON of control over your images. If you have been following me for any amount of time you know that I believe strongly that LIGHT control is the best thing you can do to improve your photography.
Now ALL DSLR camera's have this ability (at least I have never seen a true DSLR that didn't)

The big differences to adding in your own flash...

1. Overall control.
2. Distance and spread covered. Bigger groups, and more even coverage. Again... look at the size compared to the little tiny pop up flash... just like a flash light... it is going to cover a larger area just based on that!
3. The ability to bounce, tip, and filter light.... all advanced techniques, but really good ones to learn!

If you have the ability, and its in your budget I would really recommend going with or upgrading to a camera with this as an option. IF you plan on shooting products, single people or group portraits.

Now... that's not to say that you can't do product photography (or other photography) with a point and shoot or even Bridge cameras without the additional hot shoe. It's just that it is that much easier with it!

If your just joining and you want to learn more about flash photography be sure to check out some of the previous posts!
Light 101
White Balance
Back Lighting

And a reminder to everyone be sure to read up on this one as well...
The difference between Auto and Program

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