Flash - when to use and when not to
Why using flash is no good for theatre, shows, musicians, etc
First, a comment, there has normally been a lot of thought and effort put into the stage lighting. Why would someone think their flash can make it look better?
Flash has a maximum distance it can travel to illuminate your subject. Unless you have some heavy duty stage lighting, a flash will have a hard time illuminating a person on stage over 10 metres away. If it does, it will also illuminate everything between you and the stage, even brighter than the stage itself. Not ideal, since we now know that the eye travels to the brightest part of the image, making a focus on the backs of people in front is not helping the photograph at all. Force the flash off. This can be done on your iPhone from the flash symbol and press 'Off'. On a camera, when you go into your settings, under flash, there should be a setting to 'force flash off'.
Look at these pics... look at the different colours of light (which is styled to tell the story by lighting techs). The direction of light. Popping a flash off would rid these images of all the tone and emotion. No dark and light areas. No story-telling.
Get off camera flash
If you have an SLR, your best flash is a speedlight. Speedlights allow you to tilt the flash head in any direction but also to use them off camera via triggers or cable.
If you don't, these techniques can be 'hashed' with a torch, floodlight or bulb.
Off camera flash
Bounce off a wall, ceiling, card or anything white
- Used to fill in the shadows, particularly under the eyes and adding a sparkle to the eyes. Also handy if the photo is backlit and you don't want to render the subject as a silhouette.
Slow shutter with flash
Great for dancing, to add emotion and life, while retaining sharpness in people. Nice blur surrounding them and fast moving parts of the body. Much more visually appealing than freezing people in time. It will also give you some light in the background so you can see where they are.
Cheap and do it yourself modifiers
- car windscreen shields
- white/silver/gold cardboard
- cardboard rolled up and put over the flash head directs light in a more 'one direction' way. Rather than filtering the light out in a nice broad spectrum, the light is forced to travel forward. Great for spotlighting areas in a photograph.
- use netting, sheer or tissue paper over a flash to create a softer light.
- turn the flash head around, and bounce the light off the white ceiling or white wall. Remember, if the wall is not white, you will get the colour tone of that wall bounced back into your subject. Red walls = red hue in your photo. You can even turn the flash head around and bounce the light off some white card.
- coloured cellophane can create some cool colour accents - sometimes turning a boring photo into an interesting one that pops. It's also great for balancing light temperatures of flash and another light source, i.e., fluoros.
Simple Artificial Light
Look at the angle and way the light is falling on this subject. Visualise the light streaming onto it. Look at the effect it has.
Is the light hard or soft?
Are the shadows sharp or blend?
Watch this demo...