A Tip for Shooting with A Pop-Up Flash on Your Camera

0Comments

Jared Polin from FroKnowsPhoto put together this great video that shows how an image can be enhanced by resisting the temptation to shoot with a pop-up flash in auto mode.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • The pop-up flash is actually great little tool, when used correctly. I’m a wedding photographer, but I use the flash often for personal use and family trips. Open your manual and find the “flash compensation button.” For fill-flash use, I’ll turn the compensations down to -1.0, or even further. For outside, backlit scenes, I’ll turn it up to +2 or +3. It gives me perfect exposures every time.

  • Rob

    Good article Jared.

    I’ve been doing this for years. Manually kick up the flash and set the camera to manual.

    Nice to see it being recommended.

  • Rob

    Good article Jared.

    I’ve been doing this for years. Manually kick up the flash and set the camera to manual.

    Nice to see it being recommended.

  • Cool. Well done Fro!

  • Thanks! This video was really helpful to me. I’ve been learning more about shooting in manual and I think I’m getting closer to leaving the priority modes behind! 🙂

  • I recently had to resort to popup flash when I was taking photos of a traditional Malay engagement ceremony… I used manual settings for all the shots.

    you can see some of the photos I shot using manual and the popup flash here:
    http://ihsankhairir.blogspot.com/2010/06/shooting-with-popup-and-torn-piece-of.html

    I also used a torn piece of white paper to diffuse the harsh light.

  • As any piece of equipment, it can be useful if you know how to use it. 🙂

    BTW, that t-shirt is great!

  • As any piece of equipment, it can be useful if you know how to use it. 🙂

    BTW, that t-shirt is great!

  • DEE&CHRISMOM

    I love your video this will help me out because I do not shoot in the basic modes anymore..thanks again Oh love the Tshirt by the way too cool 🙂

  • nice little write up/video

  • Martin

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I’ve seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I’ve seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I’ve seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I’ve seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Dawn

    Ok.. don’t like the fro, but really like his videO! That was VERY helpful and he does a nice job or presenting. Thanks for posting. I’ll ignore the fro and check out froknowsphoto !

  • Dawn,

    It’s ALL ABOUT the fro, babe!

    C’mon!!

  • aPod

    First off, that is not a fro. It’s scaryhair.

    Second, he knows what he’s talking about and that is a great video. Fro does know.

  • Hey everyone thanks for the kind words and thanks to Darren for posting this on this page to help everyone out!!!

  • Melissa

    I keep refreshing this and it freezes up at 1:15. :/

  • thanks for sharing.now i have gained some knowledge in using pop up flash ang inceasing iso.

  • michelle

    the video won’t play – is there a direct link someone can post to the video?

  • D’ Baptist John

    More on to that probably he used rear synch flash curtain to fall in all ambient lighting in the picture …instead of front synch curtain….

  • shanna

    SO glad to see so many people say they are doing this! I even go so far as to rig a little 3.00 fold up diffuser on mine, It is fast easy if you like to travel light like me.

  • U GO FRO! These little flashes work great in a bind. I made a nifty little pop-up flash cover out of a piece of clear plastic milk jug to diffuse the harshness of the flash and it works awesome.

    p.s. is that hair for real!?! : )

  • yes, nice clip,
    but not really new,
    most cameras do this already automatically when you use these special modes. For Canon, the mode is something like nightshot or so. Symbol is a man with stars and moon above him.

    Cheers
    Vicco

  • Shooting with flash actually does not require any specific shutter speed (provided that it is not too fast, say not faster than 1/125 of a second, usually) so one can freely experiment with *very* long exposures. Up to 1 secon and even more. Indoor shots as well as outdoor photography at dusk, either with an handheld camera or a tripod mounted device. Flash + ambient light opens a whole world of possibilities and experiments. I find it particularly fun, personally 🙂

  • Hemant

    That was great video. I never thought that way (I guess I am new to photography). Thanks for the post !!!

  • Dewayne

    One thing I don’t understand is how he keeps the image in focus at 1/10. I tried it and do see the improvement with the flash, and that is great. However my images are blurred. I am using a D90 with 60mm 2.8. Not a LOT of blur, but still noticeable…

  • This was really great and very, very helpful for me (a beginner). I was able to use the tips this evening and my hubby was quite impressed. I am unsure about how to post pictures so if you tell me how, I can show you my shots.
    Thanks!
    Karen

  • ergamusai

    Great video!

    The second shot was slower though, and usually in that speed, my images are blurry, unless I use a tripod.
    But with a tripod I can only take shots of still objects, the people that move look like ghosts.
    I own a Canon T1i. When I increase the ISO to 800, the images have noise.

  • @dewayne You are right: keeping the camera steady for 1/10 of a second is not too easy, but if you: a) stop breathing for a short while, b) keep your camera firmly pressed to your face, c) hold it with your both hands (one hand under the lens), d) sit down or partly support yourself on your knee, then you should be able to obtain a fairly good shot. Add that recent cameras have an image stabilization system, and you should be fine.
    Also: his shot was quite small, so that blur would be hardly visible.
    The real key point here is, though, that the foreground subject (the one lit by the flash light) will come out fine, while the rest might be blurred, and this will add a sense of place nonetheless.
    Hope it helps 🙂

  • Cut an opening the size of your pop-up flash in a transluscent 35mm film casette or ping pong ball. Great for close-ups if you don’t have an adjustable flash setting

  • Higher ISO, larger grain! Better use a tripod!

  • jm

    Fro keeps saying to increase the ISO when using flash. But in this example he simultaneously increased his ISO by two stops (from 200 to 800) and then decreased his aperture by two stops (from f/2.0 to f/4.0). Nothing has effectively changed there (except for a little DOF difference with a smaller aperture); the two adjustments perfectly cancel each other out in the exposure equation. The only thing he effectively changed was going from 1/60s to 1/10s. And if he had only changed the shutter speed (which is a good idea in itself) he would have confused fewer people, and concentrated on explaining only one variable and its effects, and ended up with the same ambient levels in his 2nd (better) exposure.

    There is a LOT of subtly misleading information in this video that only becomes apparent when you spend nearly every day balancing flash in dark indoor situations. He is exactly right that if you let more ambient light in (often by using a slower shutter speed) that your flash photos will generally look less “flashy”. But the rest of what he did was unfortunately not entirely correct or advisable. Increasing the ISO 2 stops was definitely progress in the right direction. But he should have left the aperture at f/2.0, instead of canceling out the ISO change he made by going to f/4.0. If he wanted greater DOF/sharpness at f/4.0 (which is two stops less than f/2.0) he should have then increased his ISO another two stops to compensate for losing two stops with his aperture. So now he would be at f/4.0 ISO 3200. (obviously this is only recommended with certain bodies, most people are not excited about ISO 3200 pictures with their D3000).

    Now admittedly ISO 3200 at f/4.0 may not have led to the best final exposure. But at least he would be telling the ISO story he intended to tell. Maybe ISO 1600 or 2000 would have been good enough. But it’s pointless to talk about the effect of increasing your ISO when you completely negate that effect in your example by decreasing your aperture by the same amount.

  • Jill

    How do you get clear pictures with the ISO so high, without using a tripod? Everytime I try to increase the ISO, my pictures come out blurry..

  • Guys – it’s no so complicated.

    Put the camera on M – manual.

    Pop up the flash.

    Set it on like f4 and 1/60

    take some shots. Adjust the shutter or aperature.

    done.

  • Almost forgot, start at ISO200, 400 or whatever.

    If you go ultra high ISO like some have suggested, what’s the point of any of this…

  • Nathan

    Hello
    Can you help me i have a nikon d90 and cant select an iso above 200 with flash in any mode do i have to change some settings.
    I have only just started in dslr so any tips will help.
    thanks

  • Nathan

    sorry not to worry just discovered that the 200 was the shutter speed not iso

  • Great tips! And I love the hair too. 😀

    Dragging the shutter helps properly exposing the background thus we can avoid washed out subjects and dark backgrounds when using pop-up flash.

    I also wrote something about controlling the flash output of our pop-up flashes manually and using cheap diffusers in my blog.

    http://shutterbugshub.blogspot.com/search/label/Lighting%20lessons

Some Older Comments

  • Alex August 20, 2013 04:21 pm

    Great tips! And I love the hair too. :D

    Dragging the shutter helps properly exposing the background thus we can avoid washed out subjects and dark backgrounds when using pop-up flash.

    I also wrote something about controlling the flash output of our pop-up flashes manually and using cheap diffusers in my blog.

    http://shutterbugshub.blogspot.com/search/label/Lighting%20lessons

  • Nathan October 8, 2010 05:15 am

    sorry not to worry just discovered that the 200 was the shutter speed not iso

  • Nathan October 8, 2010 02:13 am

    Hello
    Can you help me i have a nikon d90 and cant select an iso above 200 with flash in any mode do i have to change some settings.
    I have only just started in dslr so any tips will help.
    thanks

  • Rob in Atlanta September 30, 2010 07:36 am

    Almost forgot, start at ISO200, 400 or whatever.

    If you go ultra high ISO like some have suggested, what's the point of any of this...

  • Rob in Atlanta September 30, 2010 07:35 am

    Guys - it's no so complicated.

    Put the camera on M - manual.

    Pop up the flash.

    Set it on like f4 and 1/60

    take some shots. Adjust the shutter or aperature.

    done.

  • Jill September 30, 2010 05:23 am

    How do you get clear pictures with the ISO so high, without using a tripod? Everytime I try to increase the ISO, my pictures come out blurry..

  • jm September 27, 2010 05:58 am

    Fro keeps saying to increase the ISO when using flash. But in this example he simultaneously increased his ISO by two stops (from 200 to 800) and then decreased his aperture by two stops (from f/2.0 to f/4.0). Nothing has effectively changed there (except for a little DOF difference with a smaller aperture); the two adjustments perfectly cancel each other out in the exposure equation. The only thing he effectively changed was going from 1/60s to 1/10s. And if he had only changed the shutter speed (which is a good idea in itself) he would have confused fewer people, and concentrated on explaining only one variable and its effects, and ended up with the same ambient levels in his 2nd (better) exposure.

    There is a LOT of subtly misleading information in this video that only becomes apparent when you spend nearly every day balancing flash in dark indoor situations. He is exactly right that if you let more ambient light in (often by using a slower shutter speed) that your flash photos will generally look less "flashy". But the rest of what he did was unfortunately not entirely correct or advisable. Increasing the ISO 2 stops was definitely progress in the right direction. But he should have left the aperture at f/2.0, instead of canceling out the ISO change he made by going to f/4.0. If he wanted greater DOF/sharpness at f/4.0 (which is two stops less than f/2.0) he should have then increased his ISO another two stops to compensate for losing two stops with his aperture. So now he would be at f/4.0 ISO 3200. (obviously this is only recommended with certain bodies, most people are not excited about ISO 3200 pictures with their D3000).

    Now admittedly ISO 3200 at f/4.0 may not have led to the best final exposure. But at least he would be telling the ISO story he intended to tell. Maybe ISO 1600 or 2000 would have been good enough. But it's pointless to talk about the effect of increasing your ISO when you completely negate that effect in your example by decreasing your aperture by the same amount.

  • Blue Boeser September 27, 2010 12:42 am

    Higher ISO, larger grain! Better use a tripod!

  • Dave September 25, 2010 01:16 am

    Cut an opening the size of your pop-up flash in a transluscent 35mm film casette or ping pong ball. Great for close-ups if you don't have an adjustable flash setting

  • kirpi September 24, 2010 10:34 pm

    @dewayne You are right: keeping the camera steady for 1/10 of a second is not too easy, but if you: a) stop breathing for a short while, b) keep your camera firmly pressed to your face, c) hold it with your both hands (one hand under the lens), d) sit down or partly support yourself on your knee, then you should be able to obtain a fairly good shot. Add that recent cameras have an image stabilization system, and you should be fine.
    Also: his shot was quite small, so that blur would be hardly visible.
    The real key point here is, though, that the foreground subject (the one lit by the flash light) will come out fine, while the rest might be blurred, and this will add a sense of place nonetheless.
    Hope it helps :-)

  • ergamusai September 24, 2010 07:36 pm

    Great video!

    The second shot was slower though, and usually in that speed, my images are blurry, unless I use a tripod.
    But with a tripod I can only take shots of still objects, the people that move look like ghosts.
    I own a Canon T1i. When I increase the ISO to 800, the images have noise.

  • Karen September 24, 2010 01:26 pm

    This was really great and very, very helpful for me (a beginner). I was able to use the tips this evening and my hubby was quite impressed. I am unsure about how to post pictures so if you tell me how, I can show you my shots.
    Thanks!
    Karen

  • Dewayne September 24, 2010 06:40 am

    One thing I don't understand is how he keeps the image in focus at 1/10. I tried it and do see the improvement with the flash, and that is great. However my images are blurred. I am using a D90 with 60mm 2.8. Not a LOT of blur, but still noticeable...

  • Hemant September 24, 2010 06:40 am

    That was great video. I never thought that way (I guess I am new to photography). Thanks for the post !!!

  • kirpi September 24, 2010 05:37 am

    Shooting with flash actually does not require any specific shutter speed (provided that it is not too fast, say not faster than 1/125 of a second, usually) so one can freely experiment with *very* long exposures. Up to 1 secon and even more. Indoor shots as well as outdoor photography at dusk, either with an handheld camera or a tripod mounted device. Flash + ambient light opens a whole world of possibilities and experiments. I find it particularly fun, personally :-)

  • Vicco September 24, 2010 04:42 am

    yes, nice clip,
    but not really new,
    most cameras do this already automatically when you use these special modes. For Canon, the mode is something like nightshot or so. Symbol is a man with stars and moon above him.

    Cheers
    Vicco

  • John Parli Photo September 24, 2010 04:29 am

    U GO FRO! These little flashes work great in a bind. I made a nifty little pop-up flash cover out of a piece of clear plastic milk jug to diffuse the harshness of the flash and it works awesome.

    p.s. is that hair for real!?! : )

  • shanna September 24, 2010 04:26 am

    SO glad to see so many people say they are doing this! I even go so far as to rig a little 3.00 fold up diffuser on mine, It is fast easy if you like to travel light like me.

  • D' Baptist John September 24, 2010 03:31 am

    More on to that probably he used rear synch flash curtain to fall in all ambient lighting in the picture ...instead of front synch curtain....

  • michelle September 24, 2010 03:11 am

    the video won't play - is there a direct link someone can post to the video?

  • benjie soriano September 24, 2010 12:58 am

    thanks for sharing.now i have gained some knowledge in using pop up flash ang inceasing iso.

  • Melissa September 23, 2010 08:50 am

    I keep refreshing this and it freezes up at 1:15. :/

  • Jared Polin September 22, 2010 06:07 am

    Hey everyone thanks for the kind words and thanks to Darren for posting this on this page to help everyone out!!!

  • aPod September 22, 2010 02:11 am

    First off, that is not a fro. It's scaryhair.

    Second, he knows what he's talking about and that is a great video. Fro does know.

  • Atlanta Homes September 22, 2010 01:10 am

    Dawn,

    It's ALL ABOUT the fro, babe!

    C'mon!!

  • Dawn September 21, 2010 11:22 pm

    Ok.. don't like the fro, but really like his videO! That was VERY helpful and he does a nice job or presenting. Thanks for posting. I'll ignore the fro and check out froknowsphoto !

  • Martin September 21, 2010 09:21 pm

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I've seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin September 21, 2010 09:20 pm

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I've seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin September 21, 2010 09:20 pm

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I've seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Martin September 21, 2010 09:19 pm

    The guy with the fro is probably the best presenter I've seen on any home-made video. Five and a half minutes of uninterrupted talking, loud, clear, concise, confident, he barely even hesitated once, and I understood exactly the lesson he was putting across. What a star.

  • Dan Ketcham September 21, 2010 04:11 am

    nice little write up/video

  • DEE&CHRISMOM September 21, 2010 12:40 am

    I love your video this will help me out because I do not shoot in the basic modes anymore..thanks again Oh love the Tshirt by the way too cool :)

  • dandellion September 20, 2010 10:33 pm

    As any piece of equipment, it can be useful if you know how to use it. :)

    BTW, that t-shirt is great!

  • dandellion September 20, 2010 10:32 pm

    As any piece of equipment, it can be useful if you know how to use it. :)

    BTW, that t-shirt is great!

  • IHSAN September 20, 2010 05:25 pm

    I recently had to resort to popup flash when I was taking photos of a traditional Malay engagement ceremony... I used manual settings for all the shots.

    you can see some of the photos I shot using manual and the popup flash here:
    http://ihsankhairir.blogspot.com/2010/06/shooting-with-popup-and-torn-piece-of.html

    I also used a torn piece of white paper to diffuse the harsh light.

  • Rachel@IdahoCheneys September 20, 2010 03:18 pm

    Thanks! This video was really helpful to me. I've been learning more about shooting in manual and I think I'm getting closer to leaving the priority modes behind! :)

  • Travel with Kids September 20, 2010 01:09 pm

    Cool. Well done Fro!

  • Rob September 20, 2010 01:06 pm

    Good article Jared.

    I've been doing this for years. Manually kick up the flash and set the camera to manual.

    Nice to see it being recommended.

  • Rob September 20, 2010 01:06 pm

    Good article Jared.

    I've been doing this for years. Manually kick up the flash and set the camera to manual.

    Nice to see it being recommended.

  • Rich D. September 20, 2010 11:26 am

    The pop-up flash is actually great little tool, when used correctly. I'm a wedding photographer, but I use the flash often for personal use and family trips. Open your manual and find the "flash compensation button." For fill-flash use, I'll turn the compensations down to -1.0, or even further. For outside, backlit scenes, I'll turn it up to +2 or +3. It gives me perfect exposures every time.

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