Saturday, August 17, 2013

The quirky little pop-up flash

Pop-up flashes are crappy! I am not using my camera's built in pop-up flash ever again. It simply just sucks!

(Are you serious?)

Not really. I actually believe that there are many uses for the pop-up flash. We will talk about those uses later.

But let's forget about that for a while.

First, let me tell you that these little harsh flashes are causing a lot of unpleasant photos.

To clearly illustrate my point, I grabbed a random guy outside, shoved him in our chair and took photos of him with my pop-up flash activated.

This is just so  unattractive!

No, I'm not talking about the guy. I am referring to the quality of the light.

Look at his face, it's all washed out. Unpleasant to the eyes! (Again, I'm talking about the light here)

The light is harsh and the photo looks flat. And don't get me started about how ugly those shadows are. (Hint: At the wall, just below his ears) It looks creepy. And the red eyes...ugh.

If you think that photo above looks okay, then you can go on with your lives and keep using that little pop-up flash of yours.

                                        Nuke 'em till they glow brotha!


But if you agree with me that pop-up flashes sucks produces unpleasant photos, let's then agree to not ever again use our pop-up flashes.

Let's create an anti pop-up flashers club, then make it our sole purpose to discourage others against using their pop-up flashes.

Nah...That's too much work.

Keep reading. We will try to discuss and solve the problems that pop-up flashes produce.

The problem is...

Pop-up flash is a very small light source and it produces harsh direct light.

So how do we improve the quality of the light from our pop-up flashes?

Let's try to fix it...

Since our random guy don't want to pose for me anymore (he did put up a good fight the last time I tried),this time I decided to shoot inanimate objects.

They seem not to care being shoved around and didn't even hit me back when I tried nuking them with flashes.

Let's start by digging up why we need to use flash in the first place. 

Do you know why? Here's a clue...


Simply because it's dark. (Don't be too happy, my 5 year old nephew could have guessed it too.)

For the sake of argument, I took this shot and purposely underexpose our subjects to demonstrate the need for flash.

Let the camera think for itself...

We can use our camera's TTL flash setting. TTL means through the lens, and it lets your camera determine the right flash power output to use in different shooting conditions.

For instructions how to use your camera's flash TTL settings, refer to your owner's manual. Don't be lazy.

Let's try to use my Nikon's TTL flash.

Now, the photo is bright. But we can see the unpleasant shadows and washed out parts of the photo.

This is what we want to avoid.

Let's try setting the flash manually...

Most cameras also offers you the capacity to adjust flash power output to your own liking. To be able to do that, you need to check your owner's manual again.

I found out, through trial and error, that setting at the least power (1/32) give us the most pleasant output. But it really depends on the distance of your subject and how bright your environment is.

Quite good. But I'm not happy yet. Look at the shadows. I still don't like it.

Let's try to make the light source bigger and spread the light...

Great. Now we're making sense! 

Our problem is that the pop-up flash produces small and harsh light source, so we should make it spread evenly and make it softer.

There are two ways to do this.  The cheap way and the cheaper than cheap way. 

Let's start with the cheap way. 

In camera shops one can usually find a pop-up diffuser like the photos below for about $10.

It helps diffuse the harsh light, spread it a little bit more and makes the light source a little bit bigger. Above pictured attached on my D3100.

                                                  Photo result

Now, it looks good isn't it? We have tamed the harsh light and made the shadows a little bit pleasant. 

If you always depends on your pop-up flash, I highly recommend you buy this one. 

Your $10 is worth it. 

Want a more cheaper alternative?

Use this precious material.

Yes, a paper.

Cut a piece of paper and cover your pop up flash like what I did above. It's almost free and you can always find one anywhere. 

You can also use a white cloth, tissue paper(unused ones please) or whatever white material you want to use. 


There you go, white paper as a cheaper diffuser. Photo looks okay now, although it is still not perfect. 


I don't hate using pop-up flash.

But honestly, I rarely do use it.

And if I do, I make sure I use my diffuser or head out to steal some paper or tissue to use. Make sense to carry one in your camera bag all the time.

That's all for now. Next time, we will talk about using your pop-up flash outdoor.

Any other alternatives you are using to make your pop-up flash photos looks good, please share it with us in the comment section below.