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To flash or not to flash

There seems to be this big debate in the online photography world and beyond: whether or not to use flash in your photos. The only real photography class I’ve taken was on using available light and it was awesome. I learned so much about how to judge when the light is going to help or hurt your photos. And that’s what I stick to outside. But people, I’m here to tell you that I love me a bounce flash. I have two:

The Nikon SB 400 and

The Nikon SB 400

The Nikon SB 600

The Nikon SB 600

Both of these puppies flip up so you can bounce the light off the ceiling. The first one is ultra-light and easy to use, but only has vertical positions. The second one is heavy and adds a lot of heft to your camera, but can rotate horizontally so you can turn your camera for the shot. It also has a little digital screen so you can adjust the intensity and a whole lot of other things I haven’t learned how to use.

Which is my whole method of photography, by the way. Learn a couple things and ignore all the other crazy features until forced to learn something new. In other words, I’m a total hack.

So while I’m firmly in favor or using flash as needed, DO NOT use the onboard pop up atrocity. Here’s why:

Grampa Dave Oster

This is my dad on pop-up flash.

Notice how his skin looks washed out and shiny, and how hard and unflattering all that direct light is.

Grampa Dave Oster

And this is bounce flash. Aaaahhhh.

Oh so much better. The way the bounce flash diffuses the light (and they can have fun little diffusers built in as well) softens everything up and makes it more luminous. For indoor shots of people, objects, and especially food, these two little widgets make a world of difference.


Who can argue with this face?

If you look at Loki’s eyes in this shot, you’ll notice that nice glowy look that comes from the flash reflecting off them. This makes dark eyes which tend to recede pop out more (but not in a creepy way).

Food is great too:


If you’ve ever taken a picture of food with your camera phone or with a normal flash, you may notice that you end up with shiny looking food. This can be really unappetizing, and it can make stuff look greasy. I’ve also used a tripod and available light which many people favor, but I find it makes my pictures end up with a greenish-yellow cast rather than the nice warm look I get with the bounce flash. Like I said, I’m not an expert with my camera settings. But it’s also way easier to just pick up the dang camera and snap a pic than to try and navigate around a tripod in your kitchen.

CSA Summer Bounty

Anyway, that’s my two cents on light. There is infinitely more subtlety in the debate than I have to offer, I just do what works for me. And what works for me is my bounce flash when I’m indoors. Cheers!

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