Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Synch: When is using flash a really bad idea?

So you've procured the seat to the right and decide to take a few snaps of the stadium.  It doesn't matter whether you're using a point and shoot, iPhone or DSLR.  Turning on the flash is a really bad idea.  Yea, it may make for some cool bokeh lights for other photographers amongst the crowd.  All it's going to do for your shot is light up those heads in front of you taking the viewers eye away from the actual subject...the field.  Even the most powerful hot shoe flash will only light sufficiently for 20-30 feet without some magnifier such as the Better Beamer.  The same holds true for any shot of any distance.  Your on camera flash won't light up a building, a person two blocks away or a basketball player on the court when your more then a few rows back.  If you don't understand, study the Inverse Square Law to see how quickly light starts to drop off over distance, especially with the low power of an on camera flash.

The second situation where flash is a really bad idea is when there is a large mirror or multiple mirrors in the room.  I have seen a portrait where the photographer used an off camera flash and turned a large mirror behind a bar into a wonderful softbox.  In most cases, however you will create an unpredictable hard light hitting everything but your subject.

The third situation is shooting through glass.  I can't believe how many times I've seen someone walk up to a window and shoot and have the flash go off to give them a nice white frame.  If you have the lens right up against the glass and the flash going through a different plate of glass, you might be able to light something up on the other side.  Generally speaking, as with mirrors, it's good to try to avoid flash with lots of glass around unless you have plenty of time to experiment and set up the shot.