5 Tips on How to Get Better Lighting from Your On-Camera Flash

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5 Tips on How to Get Better Lighting from Your On-Camera Flash

Lighting is perhaps the most important part of photography. With the wrong lighting, a picture is likely to end up underexposed or overexposed or perhaps with dark shadows in unwanted places. There are different ways to work with light in photography, using for example, natural light, ambient light, flash, or studio lighting. It can be possible with the use of a fast lens, one with a large aperture, to shoot photographs using low levels of light, however, much of the time there is just not enough light available in order to take the photograph.

For this reason, a flash is an important tool for any photographer. It is possible to use on-camera and off-camera flashes. On-camera flashes link to the hot shoe on the camera and the flash sits attached to the top of the camera. Off-camera flashes are used on light stands and are positioned away from the camera when the photographer wishes to create a light source from a different direction.

Using On-Camera Flashes

Using an on-camera flash pointed directly towards the subject with no diffusion can create unwanted effects such as a spot of light, which reflects off the subject's nose, for example. Red-eye can also be caused by the use of on-camera flash when pointed directly at the subject. However, when on-camera flash is used correctly or in a number of creative ways, it can create well-lit photographs. There are a few different ways to use an on-camera flash which can allow the photographer to get better lighting for their photographs from this flash, rather than just directly pointing it at the subject.

Some flashes do not have the ability to swivel or move up and down, in order to get better lighting on photographs. If possible, use a flash which has the ability to be moved around. This allows the photographer to do things such as bounce the flash off of the ceiling indoors, or off a surface or wall.
Ultimately, an on-camera flash can create great lighting for photographs, but when used directly it can be harsh, unattractive light. The key points are to try and create a bigger area of light from the flash and light up the subject from a different angle, rather than directly aiming the flash towards the subject from the top of the camera. The following tips will help achieve this.

Tips for Getting Better Lighting from the On-Camera Flash

The table below provides some tips on how to get better lighting for photographs using an on-camera flash.

Use fill flash in daylight

Fill flash is the term used for using the on-camera flash for shooting photographs outdoors, especially on sunny days. The sun often causes dark shadows and harsh contrasts in photographs, depending where it is in the sky. By using the flash when taking pictures outside on sunny days, the light from the flash will help to dissipate the shadows, effectively "filling in" these dark shadows with light.


Bounce the flash off a ceiling or wall

By bouncing the on-camera flash off a ceiling or wall, the small direct light from the flash is diffused into a larger area and reflected back onto the subject. It works best on light coloured walls as more of the light can be reflected back onto the subject. However, different coloured walls can create different lighting effects. Bouncing the flash is perhaps one of the most popular ways of creating a more natural light appearance while still using an-on camera flash. Instead of the on-camera flash being fired when it is directly aimed at the subject of the photograph, the flash head can be angled up at the ceiling or swiveled left or right towards a wall. When the flash is fired, the light will then bounce off the ceiling or wall and result in a more diffused, natural looking light. Some on-camera flashes do not have the ability to swivel or be angled up and down and these flashes cannot be used to bounce the light. If a wall or ceiling is not available, or appropriate (for example, being too high or too far away for the flash to reach), then a reflector can be an alternative option. A reflector is a piece of card or stretched material which is either white or silver most often, and it can be used to bounce the flash light back onto the subject in a similar way to the use of a wall or ceiling.


Use a diffuser

Using a diffuser with an on-camera flash is also a good way to get a more natural looking light. Flash diffusers help to scatter the light from the flash over a wider area, rather than the direct single source light that comes directly from a flashgun with no diffuser. Diffusers can come in different shapes and sizes but the photographer can also make them quickly and cheaply. By using an elastic band and some white tissue paper over the flash head, diffused light can be created.



TTL stands for Through the Lens mode. Modern flashes and cameras will often have this mode. The purpose of it is to allow the flash and camera to talk to each other so that the photographer does not have to rely on their lighting knowledge to properly expose the photograph using the flash. Using TTL can greatly enhance photographs, as the camera will tell the on-camera flash how much power to use in order that the photograph is correctly exposed.


Use gels for colour balance

While it is possible to adjust colour temperatures of photographs in the editing process once the photograph has been taken, the photo editing software can only correct the light to a certain extent. Different types of lighting have a different colour-cast, for example natural sunlight compared to a lightbulb or a strip light. To help compensate for these types of lights, especially when using a flash which offers yet another colour of light, gels for the flash can be used. Colour gels are used to approximate the colour temperature of light sources and, therefore, help avoid unnatural looking colour casts.


Find an On-Camera Flash Gun on eBay

On-camera flash guns can be bought from places such as camera shops or electronics departments in high-street department store in addition to online places such as eBay. To buy on-camera flash guns on eBay, begin by opening the eBay homepage. Click on All Categories tab and then on the link which is labelled Cameras & Photography.

From Cameras and Photography click the link for Flashes & Accessories, followed by Flashes. It is then possible to select from a range of options on the the left hand side of the page, in order to filter the results depending on the type of flash being searched for. The resulting eBay page will show only that particular type of flash for sale. If accessories such as a diffuser is being purchased at the same time, then after clicking on the the link labelled Flashes and Accessories, click the link labelled Flash Diffusers. Additionally it is possible to enter search terms in the bar at the top of any eBay page.


A flashgun can be considered necessary for most photographers. The correct lighting is vital when taking a photo and, therefore, using an on-camera flash in the best way possible can enhance photographs. Direct flash with no diffusion is not really recommended for photographers aiming to achieve a natural, soft light. However, by following the tips such as bouncing the flash off a wall or ceiling, using a diffuser, using fill flash on sunny days and taking advantage of TTL mode on flashes and cameras, a more natural and flattering light can be achieved with an on-camera flash.

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