On Camera Flash Photography Tips

If you already own a DSLR camera, you’re halfway to capturing some beautiful images. However, having a camera alone isn’t going to make you an excellent photographer. Knowing how to use the camera, on the other hand, will. In this article I’m going to discuss how to use on camera flash to get some pretty excellent results.

on camera flash

Photo captured by Marcus Esparza

The great thing about having a flash gun is that it’s much cheaper than purchasing a lens with a low aperture. Now, low aperture (fast) lenses are great, and I have a few in my line up, but there’s only so much a low aperture lens can do, and without light you can’t capture any images at all.

I’m a Canon shooter, so I would recommend either of these flashes:

  • Canon 430 EX II Speedlite (expensive but not too expensive)
  • Yongnuo 456 (Chinese product—it does the job)

The two above flashes are excellent products. If you can afford the Canon 430 EX II, then get this one, as it has better build quality than the Yongnuo. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with the Yongnuo 460, and you can probably buy three of these things for the price of one Canon equivalent.

If you already have a flash,  great. If not, look into getting either of the above, as the built-in flash on your camera is pretty much a waste of time. The images will look rubbish and the results will be unflattering.

Indoor Flash Techniques

I recommended both flashes above because they give the ability to tilt and swivel the main head. Other flashes are fixed, and I really don’t see the point in them at all. If you have a fixed flash, sell it now; you’re ruining your chances at taking good on-camera flash photos.

Now let’s say the flash is mounted to your camera and you’re shooting in landscape mode. The most unflattering shot to take in this instance is to point your flash head straight at the subject and fire off a shot. If you don’t believe me, to take the shot yourself. You should notice that the image looks washed out and your subject has a deer in headlights look. Not good at all!

If you have a white wall available, turn your flash head to face this wall. A ceiling is just as good. Turn your flash head so that it’s facing against the wall/ceiling and then point your camera at the subject. Take your shot.

flash photography tips

Photo captured by metal menace

You should notice that there aren’t any harsh shadows on your image. The white wall has diffused the light, which in turn has created a much softer and natural light.

No Wall/Ceiling Available

In some instances—in my case quite a lot—there won’t be a white wall for bouncing light. So what do you do in these instances? Well, don’t worry I’m going to tell you. You need a light diffuser to create the same effect.

Stofen Omni Bounce

The most common light diffuser for a Speedlite is a Stofen Omni Bounce. One of my friends describes them to Tupperware, but they do actually do a good job. You simply put the Stofen on top of your flash and once again point the flash head up in a vertical position and fire away.

The only thing about the Stofen that I don’t like is that it wastes flash energy by throwing light in all different directions, which sometimes is an unwanted effect. For this reason, I often use the following product.

Gary Fong Diffuser

I have no idea who Gary Fong is, but I’m guessing he’s a photographer, because the product he came up with would only be thought of by a photographer. The Gary Fong diffuser is a little weird to look at, but I swear by its results. It’s a much larger diffuser than the Stofen Omni Bounce so it gives better results.

Images taken with the Gary Fong produce less harsh shadows, and because of the way the product is designed, no light gets wasted.

flash photo

Photo captured by Robert Nemeti

The Free Way

Now, I have no idea what this diffuser is called, I simply call it a bounce card, but I’m unsure if this is technically correct. These bounce cards are an excellent way to diffuse light if you’re on a budget.

When I first started shooting weddings, people were a bit worried that I was shooting them using a card on my flash, however I believe my results speak for themselves.

About the Author:
Ricky Davies is a freelance photographer.

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4 Comments

  1. B J Hughes says:

    Good information, where can I purchase the Fong diffuser??

    • Bruce Lee says:

      @BJ, Any major camera store will carry Gary Fong products. To warn you, not cheap and not easy to use…

  2. glenn bryant says:

    try this it works well 1/30 f11 iso 800 hand held

  3. Brandon says:

    I find getting flash right in photos is very hard. At my site http://clickitphoto.net I have a few articles that talk about flashes and the tools used to get the right look when you’re using a flash. Also I have a bunch of other articles that talk about different photo tips.

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