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5 Steps to Achieve Excellent Flash Photography


Flash photography as a skill has become popular among the growing millennial and Gen Z crowd. Most photography enthusiasts who are beginners start their journey in the field with mastering the usage of natural light to achieve their perfect clicks. As you learn more and get accustomed to advanced techniques of photography, you can start playing around with the incredible power of the camera flash.

While using the flash is not a mandatory requirement, knowledge of flash photography is important for clicking even the ‘natural light’ photos. The understanding of how to use the camera flash gives you control over your scene and allows you to understand the way you can manipulate light to achieve the best results, irrespective of the weather or the available lighting at the scene.

Following our 5 step guideline, you can learn how to click fascinating flash photography! These simple steps will let you have control over your camera’s flashlight to having complete creative control over every little aspect of your scene using flash photography.

Step 1: Why Do We Need the Flash

The natural light in your surroundings might not always be the ideal situation to click a photo. After a point, you will definitely need the help of external (or rather) your camera flashlight to be able to click those brilliant photographs. Here are our top 5 reasons why flash photography can come to your rescue:

  • Control/modify the light: The sun is a huge source of light, and manipulating it might not be the easiest task. A flash allows you to use control over the sunlight and modify the impact of it on your photographs.
  • Control the amount of light: Without a natural light source, your camera can only do so much when it comes to retaining the integrity of the scene in front of you. Your camera flashlight allows you to do this seamlessly without depending on the sun.
  • Control the direction of light: While it’s best advised to take photos in the early morning or around twilight, there might be situations where you have to shoot during the peak afternoon or late at night. Your OCF allows you to have control over the angle and direction of the light source, even in these situations.
  • Control the quality of light: The sun is a very harsh source of light and can often make your photos look overexposed. Using a camera flashlight, you can easily modify the impact of the sunlight to give you great results in flash photography with flash modifiers like MagMod!
  • Control the colour of light: The flash can do things for your photo in indoor shoots that the sunlight cannot. The creativity of the flash is apparent when you have to bounce off the flash to combat the tungsten light that most studios have.

Step 2: Understand the Difference Between TTL and Manual Flash

Precision and control are key for any type of photography, especially flash photography. Having preset modes doesn’t allow you to have a certain level of control over the quality of photos and also hampers your ability to replicate the same thing in the future. For great flash photography, it is essential for us to understand the difference between TTL and Manual Flash.

  • TTL: The function of TTL mode is for the flash to take a reading and make its best possible guess while clicking a photograph. In this setting, the flash fires a pre-flash, which takes a light reading, and based on this, the camera flash is fired at a power level that will yield the best exposure for the image. The most convenient part of this mode is that it is automated, but the downsides are aplenty, with a lack of creative control being the foremost.
  • Manual: You are in complete charge of the power required in this mode. You can keep a consistent exposure across photos so that in the post-production stage, you can simply apply a standard development setting and get the best results for all your photos!

Step 3: Study the Light Patterns

Generally, the different light patterns that we see in flash photography can be easily classified into 5 categories. These are –

  • Flat light: In this pattern, the light falls directly on the subject from the angle of the camera. This forms the least amount of shadows and hence, is the least dramatic type of lighting in flash photography.
  • Butterfly light: Here, the light comes directly above and in front of the subject’s face creating shadows directly beneath their facial features.
  • Loop light: It is the middle ground between the flat light and loop light where the light is still ample, but there are enough shadows as well allowing the person’s features to have some definition.
  • Rembrandt light: If you move your key light source around in such a way that the subject’s nose shadow touches their face shadow, you will achieve this pattern. This camera flash trick puts one side of the face in shadows but keeps a triangle of light in the cheekbones and eye.
  • Split light: If you set up the key light source at a 90-degree angle, directly to the right or left side of your subject’s face, the line that separates the light and shadow will be down the middle of the nose and chin, creating the most dramatic light use in flash photography.

Step 4: Choose Your Quality of Light

There is no right or wrong when it comes to flash photography. However, before experimenting with your camera flash, knowing certain light situations can enhance some photos. There are essentially 4 different qualities of light –

  • Hard light is marked by a sharp transition from light to shadow on the subject
  • Soft light is characterised by a gentle transition from light to shadow
  • Diffused light is where the reflective qualities of light have been removed owing to which the light doesn’t bounce back to the camera.
  • Specular light retains its reflective qualities so that when it hits the subject and bounces back to the camera, it creates stronger highlights and contrasts.

Step 5: Balance Flash and Ambient Light 

This balancing act is crucial to your flash photography. If you combine lower flash power with longer shutter speed, you create a more natural look. A higher flash power with shorter shutter speed will allow your camera flash to add drama to your frame. Take your background into consideration before you look at how your subject will be exposed, undoubtedly within the parameters of your camera flash light’s sync speed.
In the next step, you will be working with your camera’s flash, where your aperture will determine how much light gets to the sensor. A wider aperture would require a lower camera flash power to achieve your ideal exposure. This would also give you a more natural-looking background with more ambient light exposure.

Master the Art of Flash Photography

Understanding flash photography can take a while with proper practical application to nail it down. However, with the Online Photography Course at Shaw Academy, you can get a quick and in-depth understanding of how to better your skills at this! Get to know your camera flashlight better with some handy tips and technical know-how. With hands-on sessions that span 5 weeks, you can create stunning flash photography.

Enrol today to create incredible flash photos!

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Updated: Mar 30, 2020