How to Use a Flash on a DSLR camera

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How to Use a Flash on a DSLR camera

One of the most important parts of photography is lighting. Without the correct lighting, a photograph will be underexposed, overexposed, or wrongly exposed. There are many ways to work with lighting in photography, such as natural light, inbuilt flash, additional flash, and off-camera flash, or studio lighting. There is also the possibility of using fast lenses, with a large aperture such as an f1.4 in order to take photographs in low level light. Sometimes, however, there is simply not enough available light to take a correctly exposed photograph, and therefore a flash is required for use on a DSLR camera.

When used incorrectly, a flash can make photographs appear badly exposed. There may be a hot spot of light reflecting off someone's nose or forehead for example, the subject may have red eye, or the subject of the photograph will appear flattened by harsh and unattractive light. This is often the case when using the inbuilt flash on a camera, whether the camera is compact or a DSLR. They simply do not have the range or power to light up scenes correctly most of the time.

The best option is to buy a flash, which fits on to the DSLR when needed. When used properly, it can enhance photographs as well as allow sharp, freeze-framed photographs to be taken when the available light would only allow a long shutter speed and exposure, thus not having the ability to freeze-frame any action.

Features of a DSLR flash

When buying a flash for a DSLR, there may be a few things the photographer wishes to consider before making the purchase. One of the main points to consider is whether the flash gun will work automatically with the camera, or whether the settings will need to be created manually. Buying a flash that automatically works with the camera to provide the correct exposure is a good idea as it can be tricky to manually calculate the correct settings for a manual flash. Third party flashes are available that work with many different types of cameras, but they are often only able to work with manual settings. Arguably the better option would be to buy the manufacturer flash, such as a Nikon Speedlight for a Nikon DSLR. When used with a Nikon DSLR, a Nikon Speedlight is able to talk to the camera and provide the correct amount of power, and therefore flash, in order to light the photograph correctly.


To avoid harsh light or glare when using a flash, a diffuser is a necessary addition to the photographer's camera equipment. Diffusers can be bought in several sizes; the larger the diffuser, the more the light is diffused. Similarly the size of the flash head will also have an effect on diffusion.

Ideas for How to Use a DSLR Flash

The table below summarizes some ideas of how to best use a DSLR flash.

Daylight or fill flash

Using the flashgun as a fill flash for outdoor photographs is a great way to enhance pictures. On sunny days especially, photographs outdoors can cause harsh shadows and contrast in the photograph. This is especially unwanted for portraits; for example, wedding pictures. By using fill flash, the photograph sets up the shot as normal, but sets the flash to also trigger in order to help light up some of the areas where there are dark shadows.

Indoors - bounced off ceiling or other surface

Bouncing the flash off a ceiling indoors or another surface is one of the best ways to create a more natural looking light when using a flash gun. Rather than the flash being aimed directly at the subject and lighting up that part brightly, the flash can be angled upwards towards the ceiling if it is not too high or towards a wall for side lighting. The flash needs to be powerful enough to reach the ceiling and be reflected back, but most flashguns will achieve this. Some flash guns are fixed, and the head does not have the ability to swivel up and down or left to right; therefore, when buying a flash, consider purchasing one that does have this movement. By bouncing the flash off a ceiling or another surface, the light from the flashgun will be less harsh and more diffused, resulting in a softer and more natural appearance in the photograph.
If no suitable surface is nearby, a reflector can sometimes be used to bounce the flash from, onto the subjects.

Direct flash

Direct flash is often not very desirable, but when a photographer finds that they do have to use it, such as in darkness or very low level light, with nothing to bounce the flash off from or when using a flash which does not have a swivel head allowing the flash to be moved to bounce of a surface, then there are certain tips to ensuring photographs are the best they can be. One tip, especially for portraits, is to try and position your subjects away from any walls or big objects. By doing this, the flash will light up the subjects only rather than cast heavy shadows from any big surfaces or walls that were nearby. Using this type of flash does tend to make photographs appear flat, and the colours can also appear washed out, so this type of flash is best used sparingly, and where possible, available natural light would be a better alternative.

Off-camera flash

Using a DSLR flashgun off-camera is exactly how it sounds. Instead of mounting the flash to the hot-shoe on the DSLR, the camera is mounted on to a lighting stand and can be positioned wherever the light will be needed. The flash can be triggered either by the camera if it is able to do so or by a remote trigger. By experimenting with off-camera flash, a whole range of creative effects and enhanced lighting can be achieved in photographs.

Find a Flash Gun for a DSLR on eBay

Flash guns, such as those bought for DSLR's, can be purchased from many different places. Camera shops and camera departments in high street stores are one option, but buying online from somewhere such as eBay is also an option. There is a wide variety of flash guns available, from budget priced ones to very expensive ones. It is possible to buy flash guns that are made by camera manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, and Olympus, but it is also possible to by third party flash guns, such as those made by Nissin, which are often manufactured to work with certain brands of camera like Nikon or Canon.

To find flash guns for a DSLR on eBay, begin by opening up the eBay homepage. Then head to the tab for All Categories and click on the link forCameras & Photography. After this, click on the link for Flashes & Accessories. From there, click on Flashes and then select from the left hand side filter the type of flash required. This will lead to a search results page on eBay page, which shows only that type of flash for sale. If wanting to purchase a diffuser with the flash gun, then after clicking the link for Flashes and Accessories, follow the link to Flash Diffusers. It is also possible to enter specific search terms into the bar at the top of an eBay page.


A flashgun is a necessary piece of camera equipment for most photographers using a DSLR. Lighting is one of the most important factors when taking a photograph, and therefore, the use of a flash is vital in some situations. Direct flash and inbuilt flash are not often recommended for photographers wanting to get a soft, natural light effect in their photographs. A flashgun, which can be mounted onto the DSLR and, additionally, can be swivelled to provide light bounce off the ceiling or other surfaces, provides a good option for adding light into a photograph. While many people would consider using a flash when it was dark or there was a low level of light, flashes can also be used to good effect as a fill flash when it is sunny outdoors. By using a flash outdoors, especially when sunny, it can compensate for the harsh shadows created by the sun and help to correctly expose the photograph. There are many different manufacturers of flashguns, and it is important to ensure that the flash being purchased will work with the particular DSLR it is being purchased for.

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