Ever go to a concert and notice how many flashes go off from little portable cameras or cell phones? If you have any understanding of how photographic lighting works you probably either chuckle to yourself or shake your head in quiet disbelief that people just don't get it. Unfortunately the majority of point-and-shoot users don't understand the simple principles of light and how it interacts with their camera.
While today's cameras are highly sophisticated and can do so much they are not miracle makers. We still need to intercede when technology fails. The only problem here is we need to understand when that technology has failed. In this case, we'll be talking about your camera's onboard flash.
While powerful for their size, on-camera flashes do have an effective range. That means that there is only so much space in front of the camera that can effectively be lit by the flash. How far depends on your camera's abilities so take out that manual you threw in that drawer and read up.
Can't find the manual? Try this; Set your camera up at one end of a large room. Get someone to help you or use your camera's self-timer. Take a series of exposures with your subject at increasing distances from the camera. When you review the pictures you will be able to see exactly how your camera's flash behaves at different distances. Now you won't be one of the embarrassed uninitiated who uses flash in a large stadium, lighting the dark open, well, nothingness.
|No Fill Flash|
|With Fill Flash|
So next time you notice your subject is in shadow, go ahead and use your camera's flash. And when you're at the concert in that big open arena, go ahead and save your batteries.