Basic mistakes when taking pictures with flash

Basic mistakes when taking pictures with flash

There are a few very simple, but fundamental, mistakes most people make when using flash photography. It is these mistakes that prevent us from giving the Blitz a second chance and from continuing to work with it.

If you manage to avoid these mistakes, an important first step has already been taken.

The rest is a bit of math. Swear to God; if any of my teachers I’ve ever had, read these lines, they wouldn’t understand the world anymore. I was bad at math, and I was never interested. Until I figured out that Mathematics can do anything for me in this area. Suddenly the “reciprocal square law” was a walk for me, it really is.

1. Flash on the camera

The biggest and most viewed mistake. Just because the flash was built by the manufacturers to fit perfectly on the hot shoe on the camera doesn’t mean that this is the best place for it. Yeah, you can use a lightning bolt up there if you know how. But you should avoid that as much as possible.

A flash should be used “unleashed” as soon as possible. So not on the camera, but set up or positioned independently of the camera. There are many ways to do this – infrared trigger, radio trigger or cable. My favorite is definitely the radio trigger. Not as vulnerable as infrared, not as bound as cables.

2. Incorrect expectations of the lightning bolt

In general, you shouldn’t expect too much from a built-in “pop-up flash”. This is actually an emergency light. Yet it is used all the time. With great disappointment afterwards.

I would like to have only 10 cents for every tourist that have tried to flash a church or even a whole mountain range with the flash on the camera at sunset. I would be “finished Tuesday noon”, as the Mayor of Vienna once said.

3. TTL misunderstood

TTL is an automatic. And just like in the camera, fully automatic is rarely a good idea. You can use TTL and correct it according to your own needs once you have understood the basics of how aperture, exposure time, ISO and distances work together. If you haven’t learned this, 99% of the time the subject will be too light and the background too dark. Or worse happens.

4. Fear

Yes, it’s almost a kind of fear we have of lightning before we understand it. As if cameras weren’t supposedly complicated enough, which they really aren’t. The flash seems even more obscure. I know very well that I’m not the only one who only used his very first flash 3 or 4 times and then left it to gather dust in a lonely corner for years. You just don’t know where to start with all the expressions between HSS, TTL and all the keys on it.

It helps a lot at the beginning if you make yourself clear – it’s just light. It can mainly do one thing – shine brighter and less bright. Like a flashlight with power control. Brighter. Darker. Finished. The rest is not rocket science, but a few functions that can be learned relatively quickly.

5. Guide number and other confusing numbers

I will keep myself as brief as possible here, the guide number is nothing more than a somewhat complicated specification for the flash output. So how much light comes out of a flash under certain conditions. The simple answer is enough for now that is high guide number means more power, low guide number is equal to less power.

Bottom line, it’s like any other subject in photography, and in life also, it’s not that difficult once you master it. Once you master the art, nothing remains difficult or un-achieved.

As always, it is important to have the right thread running through the topic, not to learn random information from one another and thus create even more confusion. One correct step after the other and you will reach your goal considerably faster than you think and then you will wonder why this could seem so complicated to you.


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