New Years Flash Guide: 7 Simple Tips for Great Flash Photos

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New Years means three things: dancing, champagne, and lots of photos to record the blurry memories.

If it weren’t for your trusty flash, those photos would turn out just as blurry!

Have no fear fellow party monsters because we’ve put together a guide to flash photography guaranteed to keep your photos sharp as a tack and shiny as a disco ball.

Check out these 7 simple tips, and by midnight we’ll have you ready to kiss blurry goodbye.

7 Simple Tips for Great Flash Photos

p.s. We’re having our first ever sale today in the shop! Hurry on over before we change our minds ;)

Why it’s Cool:

ingred-smFlash tends to get a bad rap.

Many people associate it with dark shadows and washed out colors.

In a perfect world we could use ambient light all the time, but nobody wants to miss capturing the party just because the light’s gone low.

In this guide we’ll show you how flash can help avoid motion blur, balance for unusual lighting, fill in dark shadows, accentuate movement, and offer tons of creative control.

And what’s awesome is that when done just right flash looks really good!

In fact, most people won’t even be able to tell you’re using it.

Diffuse the Situation – Flash Diffusers

paint-smDirect flash can be over-bright, harsh, and create some nasty shadows.

But, flash diffusers help soften the light from your flash by either shooting it through some transparent material or bouncing it off a reflective surface.

We like the Lightsphere from Gary Fong for even soft light, and The Flash Bender and Diffuser when you want a little more creative control with your lighting.

For this shot, we angled our flash slightly backwards so that light popped forward through the diffuser to shine on our subject and also kicked off the wall behind us to spread our light evenly.

Glitter Bomb – Using flash to Freeze Action

paint-smWhen the ball drops, don’t drop the ball with blurry pics, use your flash to freeze the action!

To take advantage of flash’s action grabbing potential, make sure you set a minimum shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second.

Because of a fancy rule called the inverse square law (which basically says the power of your flash doesn’t travel very far), you will want to get as close to your subject as possible.

A wide angle lens will help capture your entire scene.

We took this shot at 1/250th of a second, f/4, and ISO 1000, fast enough to keep background light from messing up our freeze.

Also, a super wide 21mm focal length helped keep the camera close and still squeeze it all in.

Ghosts in the Night – Using Slow Sync

paint-smThe slow sync setting leaves your shutter open longer, and lets your camera pick up the ambient light in your surroundings.

This helps keep color natural instead of just picking up the light from your flash which is tinted a little blue.

Slow sync can open a pandora’s box of possibilities, from light painting with sparklers to incorporating background movement into the mix.

Our example was shot using rear curtain sync option.

This means the shutter will open, gathering ambient light and allowing anything moving to blur, and then right before the shutter is about to close the flash will fire, freezing the action.

If we had used first curtain sync instead, the flash would’ve fired as soon as the shutter opened and then stayed open to gather light.

Notice the ghostly light passing through our subjects, and the glowing trails of their movement.

Flash Filterz – Using Colored Gels

paint-smColoring doesn’t have to stop when you outgrow your 24 pack of Crayolas.

Flash filters are super easy to use and can be a fun way to add creativity to your shots.

Using flash filter can also help balance for ambient lighting conditions.

For instance, a yellow flash filter balances for the amber tint of candlelight.

We used a couple filters from The Universal Flash Filter Kit for this shot.

To use these filters, simply snap the included rubber band around your flash head and attach the colored gels.

Cranking up the saturation in your settings will make these guys shine, and for extra creative points try combining flash filters with double exposures.

Bounce House – Bouncing Flash

paint-smBouncing is a technique for diffusing the light from your flash.

Instead of pointing your flash directly at your subject, you tilt your camera’s flash so it bounces off another surface such as the ceiling, which illuminates your subject with the reflected light.

Bouncing flash keeps your subjects from looking like a deer in headlights, and gives you super creative powers.

For this technique, imagine you are playing a giant game of light pinball.

Aim your flash forward, backwards, or to the side, to bounce your ball of light off different surfaces and at different angles, creating unique looks and eliminating harsh shadows.

If you’ve got an off-board flash, just angle away. If you’re working with the pop-up flash on your camera, add a Pop-Up Flash Bounce for added angling power.

For this shot, the flash was angled up and just a little forward so that the light bounced off the ceiling just in front our subject and filtered down onto her face.

Off Roading – Using Flash off Camera

paint-smWith this technique, you’ll be taking your flash on safari with an off camera excursion.

You will need an external flash unit for this one. If you don’t already have one, this flash from Sigma can be picked up for a pretty good price and is made for all major camera manufacturers.

Many external flashes can be triggered wirelessly by the pop up flash built into your camera.

To do this, simply set your flash into slave mode, set your camera’s flash as the master commander (Muhahaha), and make sure they are on the same channel.

You can set your camera’s built in flash just to trigger the external flash unit or to fire along with it.

This shot was created with the flash pointed straight at the camera and placed behind the disco ball. When fired, it created shiny sparkles and consequently reminded us of our middle school dances.

Off camera flash can also be used to fill in dark shadows and balance for other light sources that are striking your subject.

I Can See Your Halo – Using Ring Flash

paint-smRound pupils, round face, portraits were just made for circular flash!

Ring flashes attach around your lens and light up like a big glowing halo for glitzy circular catch lights in the eyes.

We used The Ring Flash Adapter for our example, which attaches to the flash you already have saving you some solid buckeroos.

To use the Ring Flash Adapter, you will probably need to turn up the exposure compensation on your flash as it works by bouncing light down a mirrored tube.

We found between +1.3 and +2 stops worked best for a nice bright exposure.

Taking it Further