Flash Point – by Nick Kelsh

 Article from Scrap magazine March/April 2011 volume 22/number 2 pg.6-7

 The worst place to put a light source for dramatic, compelling photographs is next to your camera lens. That, ironically, is where you’ll find your flash.

 Yes, a flash lets you push the button in low light and be fairly confident that you’ll get something resembling an in-focus, properly exposed picture. That’s extremely useful.

 And a flash allows you to stop action. A picture of a juggler becomes a shot of a man with various objects frozen in space above his hands as though they’re hanging from invisible thread.

 No question about it, a flash built into your camera has serious practical applications.

 And limitations. A flash illuminates things that are near the camera – generally within 15 feet – and leaves the rest of the world in the dark. A flash is harsh and mood changing. The light comes straight from the lens. Most good photographers choose to have the light come from the side of the lens for dramatic effect.

 Using a flash all of the time makes you an amateur snapshooter. If you ever want to mature photographically, you’re going to have to turn that darn thing off. And know when to turn it back on.

 You’re almost forced to turn the flash on if the light is really dim and the kids are jumping and running around. If you don’t, you’ll have lots of ghosty, blurry things in your photos where

the kids are supposed to be. You might get lucky and get something interesting, but you’ll need to shoot lots of pictures to increase your odds.

 It’s probably good to have the flash on when the kids are trick or treating at Halloween or during their birthday parties. But when the cake comes out of the kitchen covered with lit candles, it’s nice to know how to turn the flash off and be able to focus on the lovely face of the birthday girl blowing them out.

 When professionals use a flash, it’s almost always attached to some kind of lighting device that softens the effect – a white umbrella, maybe – and  is off the camera.

 An excellent compromise for the amateur is a bounce flash. That’s a light attached to the camera that you can point at a wall or the ceiling and bounce soft, flattering light back onto the subject.

 Of course, this is another purchase, but it’s the best way to photograph those jumping, running, squirming, dare I say annoying, kids in less than perfect light and get pictures that have a natural, this-is-what-real-lifelooks- like feeling.

 Remember to turn off your flash for distance shots so you don’t light up the backs of the heads in front of you! – Nick


Nick Kelsh reviews amateur photography at facebook.com/howtophotographyourbaby. He is the author/photographer of nine books and has appeared on national TV shows. Nick is a frequent Creative Memories partner, including his “Photo Tips for Scrapbookers” DVD shown at Photo Solutions Parties. His DVDs are for sale on www.howtophotographyourbaby.com. See page 12 for information on a new DVD available in March!


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