how to use flash {lessons from my photo class}

So in light of remembering what I've learned in my photography class and in case any of you can benefit from these tricks, I thought I would post a couple of the things I've learned from my classes.  

All the online photography tutorials I've read say that flash is bad and never to use it.  As a result, I haven't been using my flash and have been trying to find natural sources of light to take pictures.  My pictures have always turned out better without flash so I thought I had discovered the key to good picture taking (and really this is true most of the time I think). 

However, while taking my photo class, my teacher said that flash can be your friend as long as you use it correctly.   

When we did our photo shoot outside last Saturday, we experimented with using the flash as a "fill flash" and I could really tell the difference.  If you use the flash as a fill flash, you are trying to even out the light.  This works really well when you are taking pictures where there is sun and shade.  I also think this is the trick to getting good backlit pictures (where the sun is hitting the back of a person's head and illuminating their hair) without their face being too dark. 

The pictures below show the before and after (one without flash and one with flash).  I normally like shadows and everything created by the no flash, but I think this girls' sweet face really glows when the light is all even.  

Here are the tricks I've learned to make the flash work for you:

1) Turn your flash down.  You can do this on a Canon DSLR by going to your menu, selecting "Flash Control," selecting "Built-in flash func. setting," selecting "exp. comp." (make sure you hit set when you are over this option so it will allow you to move the dial) and then adjust the dial one or two notches in the negative direction.   (I know that all DSLR's have this capability and I bet even point and shoots do as well. I don't have an external flash but I know you can lower the flash on that as well). 

2) Get close to your subject.  If you only have a built-in flash (what comes with your camera), then you need to be within 5-6 feet of your subject if you want to the flash to make any difference.  (An external flash is much more powerful and allows you to be further away). 

3) Make sure your flash is turned on and then shoot away :)

I shot the above pictures using manual mode with a 24-70 mm f2.8 lens that I borrowed from my teacher.  I would love to have that lens one day because you can get some zoom out of it and a lot of great background blur for portraits.  I also want to get a fixed 50 mm f1.8 :)   This really could turn in to an expensive little hobby!

Now if only I had known this trick when I took this picture in sun and shade:
I guess you are just going to have to come back from your mission Ginny so I can do it all over again!

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