Photograph by Fabrice Jaine, My Shot
Whether used to augment ambient light or produce effects of its own, flash can be a valuable and versatile tool. In this gallery, learn principles and techniques for using flash to enhance the scene without overpowering the shot.
Here, the use of flash allows the photographer to capture the water’s multiple reflections on both the sand and the body of the subject.
Photo Tip: Pay attention to what is behind your subject before snapping the first shot. The goal is to ensure that there aren’t any reflective surfaces that could bounce light from the flash back to the camera.
Chez George Nightclub
Photograph by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic
A crowd dances at an underground nightclub.
Photo Tip: A combination of available light and flash allows you to capture a scene that might not be achievable with ambient light alone, while still retaining the integrity of the color and mood.
Photograph by Karim Iliya, My Shot
A chameleon sits on a rose in Lebanon.
Photo Tip: You can easily diffuse the hard light typically caused by a flash by either "bouncing" the light—positioning the flash so that it fires into a photographic umbrella—or placing a white handkerchief or tissue paper in front of the flash. Both methods force the light to be spread out, producing fewer shadows.
Boat Hull at Sunset
The hull of a wrecked boat sits on a beach at sunset.
Photo Tip: Think of outdoor flash as a two-step process. Establish your ambient light setting first, then establish your flash setting. This allows for more creative and unique photos.
Tumbleweed, Bonneville Salt Flats
Photograph by John Burcham, National Geographic
A tumbleweed is captured in midair over Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.
Photo Tip: If you do a lot of flash or fill flash photography, use a battery pack for your electronic flash unit. It stores considerably more power than the AA batteries used in most units. You’ll get a lot more flashes and you won’t have to wait as long for the flash to recycle.
Boy in Chair
A boy lounges in a chair on a Saturday afternoon.
Photo Tip: When using an electronic flash indoors, move your subject away from walls to prevent harsh shadows.
Morobe Singsing Festival
Photograph by Roy Toft, National Geographic
A participant in the Gawaya Group wears traditional dress during the Morobe Singsing festival in Papua New Guinea
Photo Tip: Get this effect, called flash blur, by setting your camera on a slow shutter speed and allowing the flash to freeze the action in the frame.
Rain falls on grass and trees near Panvel in Maharashtra, India.
Photo Tip: To create a pleasing, natural-looking light ratio, use a flash meter to determine if the key light is twice as bright as the fill light.
Photograph by Raul Touzon, National Geographic
A Mexican dancer is captured against the backdrop of San Miguel de Allende.
Photo Tip: Keep your flash close at hand. Just a light touch of electronic flash can add a sparkle to a person’s eye or pump up the color in a drab scene.