“It is the flash which appears, the thunderbolt will follow.”—Voltaire
The key to using your camera’s built-in flash for shooting portraits is knowing the right time to use it. If there’s any secret to knowing when, it’s learning how to see the light falling on your subject, especially the range of shadows and highlights within the scene. Learning to see light is not difficult but takes a bit of practice and using your camera’s preview screen will help you instantly analyze those flash photographs to see how successful your efforts are—or not.
Using a camera’s built-in flash as the sole source of lighting for people pictures indoors almost always produces some a portrait with lighting that may be harsh and a bit contrasty. Nevertheless the small pop-up flashes found in digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras do a surprisingly good job in delivering well-exposed pictures if you don’t exceed the maximum flash distance. Here are a few ways to solve that problem.
To avoid the dreaded “flash-on-camera” look with a built-in flash, I use LumiQuest’s Soft Screen that’s specifically designed for the built-in pop-up flashes that are found on many digital SLRs. It not only diffuses the light from your pop up flash but can prevent red eye! It’s quick and convenient to put on and remove and softens hard shadows and reduces hot spots. Light loss is about 2/3 of a stop and the Soft Screen costs less than $15!
Another way to use your built-in flash indoors is when there’s plenty of ambient light to serve as fill. This separates your subject from the background and focuses the viewer’s attention on the subject. In fact when you have too much indoor ambient light, flash is the best way to control contrast and add dimension to the photograph.
If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use lighting, please pick up a copy of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as Amazon.com, where your purchase helps this blog.