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Devon VP
Photographer
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Why you should NEVER use your Pop Up Flash

July 16, 2014

 

So you buy you just bought your first, $1000, brand new Digital SLR camera and I want to show it off to your friends at a party (or something). You switch to auto mode, pop the flash, and shoot the night away! The next morning, export the photos and to your disappointment, notice there’s something off in the photos. None of them have that superb quality you’d expect to get out of $1000 yet you just can’t put your finger on the issue. 9 times out of ten, if you used your pop up flash, that’s your problem.



You’ll see/hear me say this very often, but don’t take this as something purely theoretical that’s constantly repeated by your professor. This is the most important thing to know in photography.

"Light is Everything in Photography"

 

It is at the core of everything there is to know about Photography and how to create a good photo. Not just the amount of light, but the direction, the size, the color, the bounce, the distance from the subject, I can go on about how many ways you can manipulate nothing but a single light source to create completely different photos.

Moving back to the topic, If you are using your pop up flash as your most powerful light source, (or if it’s the only flash you’re using) this would mean that it is your Main Light. The main light is what makes the image pretty much. (If you were to keep the same setting from the shutter speed to ISO but removed the Main Light, it would be a very dark image, that’s one way of knowing it’s your Main light.) So lets put what we know so far together

Light = Most Important Thing

If your Main Light is your only light source,

Main Light = Most Important Thing

 

So the pop up flash, in this scenario (and most where the pop up flash is actually being used), is the Main Light/ Most Important Thing, you can imagine how important it would be to have control over it. Unfortunately it is built into the camera and, very likely, offers no control over it’s power. This is where I finally begin to reveal the the reason you should never use your built-in flash in this overly complicated blog.
 

The only flat lit photo I managed to find in my computer

A Built-in flash offers little to no control over your photo. It is stuck in a single position, directly in front of the subject, causing whats know as, Flat Lighting. This is when there is little to no shadow on the subject, losing depth and definition. In many of the photos where a pop up flash is used, you may notice that there is little definition in your friend’s face, maybe even no nose, just 2 small holes above their lips. Also, The light source is very small so the shadows you do see are very harsh. This is why getting yourself a speedlite or any external flash becomes a good investment. The more control you have over your photos, the better they’ll become.


 


<<Used a Cheap Speedlite in this photo. Still technically flat lighting but I managed to diffuse the light to make it more even and the light source was further from the camera so there is still definition in their faces



Conclusion
So in case you didn’t feel like reading all that, here it is in a nut shell. Built-in/Pop up flashes should never be used as your main light because it’ll cast little to no shadows, creating Flat Lighting, losing depth and definition in your photos. Get a super cheap $40 Speedlite instead


Thanks for Reading!

 

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