Tips & Tricks: More ways to improve your photos… FLASH!

In last week’s blog post Tips & Tricks! Catching the light! How to improve your photographs with better lighting! We discussed the drawbacks of flash photography and how to find great light in order to create great photos.  But I know there are times when a flash is just absolutely necessary.  Not all of life takes place near a fine source of natural light.  So let’s talk about how to get the best out of what we have.

Take note of where you are standing!

If you must use a flash make sure you are not too close or too far from your subject.  When a flash fires rather with minimal distance between it and the person you are photographing then you are likely to end up with a very very WHITE washed out photo like the one I took of my puppy back in 2003.  Not so great right?  It certainly would have worked better if I had just taken a step back!  Of course you don’t want to get too far away.  The flash will diminish before it reaches your subject and be of little help.

Soften the Flash!

The drawback to flash photography is that often times, even if you do step back, the light is just too harsh.  The shadows are too hard.  The look is just unflattering.  However, if you can simply turn your flash down you can greatly improve the overall look of your photo.  There are a few ways you can do this.

First, read your users manual and determine if you camera has something call exposure compensation.  It might be called flash compensation or even light compensation. I’ve seen it abbreviated to just EV.  I’m sure there are cameras out there that have yet another name for this so look carefully.   On my Nikon point and shoot there is a little symbol that looks like this…

On other cameras you might see a meter that looks more like this..

That meter might run vertically instead of horizontially. MOST of today’s point and shoot cameras have this feature.  If you take a photo and the flash is too harsh or too bright, bring up this feature and turn the flash down (or toward the -2).  And conversely if the flash is not enough turn the flash up!

These two photos of me and my daughter were taken by my husband using an on camera flash.  Between the two shots he simply turned the flash down.  This made a pretty significant difference in the outcome of the photo.

What if you don’t have Exposure Compensation?

A few weeks ago I spoke very briefly on this topic at a workshop and just after I finished someone  handed me a camera and asked me to find that feature.  I could not.  I do not believe this camera, only a year old I was told, had exposure compensation though I’d really want to check the manual to be sure.  So what do you do now?  Is all hope lost?

No, there are some very hand little tricks that can really help.

Diffuse the Flash

If you can’t turn the flash down in camera, find an external way.  You can take a little tissue paper and hang it over the flash or use a bit of semi-transparent tape.

Bounce the Flash

Like I’ve said before, the flash is so harsh because it is such a small light source.  You can soften the light by making the light source bigger.  How do you do that with a tiny on board flash?  Take a white business card and hold it just in front of the flash at an angle so the light will be directed toward a nearby wall or even the ceiling.  That will make your light source the size of the entire wall as it reflects back on your subject.  The larger the light source, the softer the light.

Experiment with different modes!

Many cameras have a variety of different modes.  See if portrait mode or even night mode will give you more pleasing results.


No matter what camera you have, you’ll never truly know the potential if you do not spend a great deal of time practicing.  Then when you’ll know just what to do with your camera when the moment is important and you’ll never have to miss an important shot or have it ruined by the terrible antics of your camera.

I love readers and adore those who comment.  Please let me know if these posts have helped you and be sure to leave any of your questions.  Perhaps you can inspire a future blog post!  Until then… thanks for reading!


  1. Really enjoyed this blog article.Really thank you! Really Great.

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