Better Pictures How To: Too Much Flash

web-sample-over-flashed.jpgSo, how many of you have taken a picture that was completely blown out by a flash? Everyone looked white and ghostly, pretty much wrecking the photo.

Here is what happened:

You focused on the middle of the image in your LCD screen, probably the center person or object. This told your camera: focus that far away and put out enough flash to light up that part of the room.

BUT there were other things and people in the image. So when your camera burst that light on the scene, anything that was closer to the camera than that focus point was totally blown out.

This can also happen if you were just too darn close and even at the minimum flash power, your camera couldn’t help but over light the scene.

What to do:

First, remember the rule of thumb for flash: keep everyone at least 8 feet away from you. A quick way to check is to imagine yourself falling straight onto your face. If you are going to hit anyone, they are too close for flash. Back away.

Second, if you HAVE to be that close, for example you’re in a restaurant and you’d be standing on someone else’s table, take a white paper napkin or a kleenex and lightly cover up the flash. This will diffuse the light enough that you won’t blow anyone out (it will also, as a bonus, prevent red eye.)

If the scene is complex, for example a child blowing out candles surrounded by other kids, try to zoom enough that the people closest to you, and who will get blown out by the flash, are out of the picture.

To fix the sample picture above, I could have either

  1. Backed away.
  2. Focused on the boy by only pressing the shutter button halfway, waited for the confirmation beep that the camera is focused, and then moved my camera over to get the pumpkin in the shot.
  3. Turned off my flash.

The beauty of digital is that you can see your mistake and often fix it before the moment is lost.

Need more help? Deanna’s Point and Shoot Camera Basics Class is coming up in a few weeks.

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