On Camera Flash

I'm talking about the worst of the worst... straight on flash from your camera. The horrid pop-up flash.

You will hear all sorts of things about avoiding the built in flash. And that you should even avoid the use of a flash mounted in the hotshoe straight on. While there is some truth to this, there are better ways to use flash, there's not a lot of truth to it.

And what if it's the only light you have available and you need light?


photo by mikebaird


Then use it!

photo by mikebaird


You will hear all sorts of ideas on ways to make a built in flash "better." Things like "put a layer of masking tape over it," or "put some tissue over it," or make a "diffuser dome" for it out of an empty film canister or ping pong ball. And, of course, there's always someone willing to sell you a diffuser for 20 bucks.

Don't waste your money. The only thing such devices/tricks really do is reduce the amount of flash getting to the subject. That's fine, but you can do the same thing just by using negative flash exposure compensation (FEC). Even my cheapest, completely automatic, point and shoot camera has exposure compensation settings. Use them!

With -FEC you are telling the camera to use less flash and more ambient light... that's what you want. If you only have exposure compensation available then -EC is telling the camera to underexpose the image slightly by using less flash. With a completely automatic camera it is going to be better to underexpose slightly (-EC) and bring up the whole image in post than it is to let the camera fry the subject with flash.

Don't know how to set EC/FEC? Then RTM.

All of these pictures were taken with on camera/pop-up flash pointed straight at the subject. It can be a very useful tool if used "correctly." And often, it may be the only tool you have available.


photo by memoflores


photo by CEBImagery


photo by realworldracingphotog


photo by gil riego jr.

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