Casting some light on the subject


Instead of a happy couple lounging on the beach in your vacation pictures, all you see is two featureless silhouettes, your favourite star is but a shadow of his former self and your granddaughter's picture looks like a police mug shot. What did you need to have these pictures turn out right? The answer is obvious-a flash!

A flash, either a built-in or external model, is the answer if you want to avoid backlighting, compensate for very poor lighting conditions or simply to take a better picture.

Uses of Different Models of Flashes

Built-in Flash

A very practical type of flash that operates perfectly with your camera's exposure system. Most recent cameras models already have a built-in flash that is only useful at very short range (no farther than 7 m / 23' from the subject).

The proximity of the built-in flash to the lens is the main cause of red eyes in pictures. As a countermeasure, several cameras have an integrated function to reduce the red-eye effect.

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without anti red eye

with anti red eye

You can also remedy the silhouette problem by pressing the BACKLIGHT button that causes the flash to operate, even in full sunlight, in order to light up shadowy areas. For example:

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Sun cast without flash

Sun cast with flash

Automatic Flash

Generally stronger than a built-in flash, the automatic flash gives you greater flexibility with regard to lighting and allows you to enjoy the convenience of your camera's automatic exposure. You can also position it to reflect the light and detach it from the camera to modify the angle and quality of the lighting around your subject.


Dedicated Flash

If you have a camera with many PROGRAM functions and have a variable focus, this type of flash will be better adapted to your camera and will allow you to use all of its functions. Some higher-end models have a ZOOM function that recognizes the focus at which you are working and instantly adjusts the angle of the lighting for maximum performance in both wide-angle and close-up shots.

A Few Models of Automatic Flashes

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Basic automatic

Dedicated with zoom

Dedicated spider

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With power source


Diving flash strobe

Remote Trigger Mechanism

It is possible to separate our portable flash from the unit and have it triggered by remote using an infrared transmitter that is installed in its place on the unit. This allows the user to moderate the light to suit the subject, textures and to create the desired ambiance.

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Certain superior quality flashes are also equipped with a simultaneous triggering mechanism that allows multiple units to be triggered at once using either infrared waves, radio waves or a photo-sensitive cell. This added feature adds definition to backgrounds, details, shadows and special effects.

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Slave flash

Radio wave transmitter

Photo-sensitive cell

Correctly Adjusting the Flash

Working with a fill-in flash lets you adjust the lighting in many ways. For example:

By directing the light at the ceiling, you can create uniform lighting conditions in a relatively large space. Of course, you are limited by the strength of your fill-in flash.

You can also use a little white piece of cardboard to reflect some of this light to illuminate your subject's eyes.

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Ceiling + reflector

You can also use a little white piece of cardboard to reflect some of this light to illuminate your subject's eyes.

Do you want the light to come from beside your subject? Add an extension to your sync cord and place the flash next to your subject. You can also aim the lighting on a lateral wall for softer lighting.

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Lateral wall

Several accessories allow you to control the lighting conditions. A softbox you attach to the front of your flash will soften the light and cause it to spread out. A metallic reflector can give an intermediate effect between the flash itself and the mini-box. A dome diffuser can easily be fixed in front of the flash to soften the light.

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There is one more thing to take into consideration when choosing a flash: the GUIDE NUMBER. The higher the guide number, the stronger the lighting. Consult the spec sheet of the model that interests you before making a purchase because a weak flash with a bunch of gadgets will be, for all intents and purposes, useless if it does not provide more powerful lighting than your camera's built-in flash.


Lighting is the most important element to master in the field of photography. Learning to control lighting is not easy, but once you have done so, your pictures will be eloquent testimonials of all you have seen or created.

I guess now you can see the light!

Go for it, and Happy Shooting!

With the cooperation of Jacques Bourdages, PFE.