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Using your camera's built-in flash

Created date

March 28th, 2014
camera flash icon
camera flash icon

Your camera probably has a built-in or pop-up flash. Each is designed to provide a burst of light to help create more pleasing photos in dim light situations. Their farthest most effective range is generally 15 to 20 feet. There are four basic flash functions:

1. Auto—flash will fire automatically when the light level is too low as determined by the camera

2. Red-eye prevention—the camera will send a low-level pre-flash toward the subject before the main flash triggers

3. On—flash always fires when the shutter button is pressed

4. Off—the flash will never fire 

A lightning bolt icon near your camera’s control selector indicates where you can change these settings. Normally, you would set it on auto, but now and then you might need to change the setting.  

Use the red-eye prevention setting whenever you photograph people indoors who are looking at the camera. In low-light situations, the iris of a subject’s eyes open wide so that greater detail can be seen. Light from a flash will bounce off the retina of the eyes and reflect back to the camera, causing the eyes in the captured image to appear red. If you set the camera flash to red-eye prevention, a pre-flash will close the subject’s iris, thereby preventing this from happening. 

Outside use

Outdoors, the light is generally bright enough to close your subject’s iris, so you won’t need the red-eye prevention setting. However, when sunlight creates high contrast and deep shadows on your subject’s face, set the flash control to “on.” The additional light, called fill-flash, evens out the harsh lighting and makes a more pleasing photo.

You generally do not need flash when shooting landscapes, wide-angle scenes, or when shooting distant objects (such as performers on stage or athletes in stadiums). Use the “off” setting in these situations to conserve battery and flash life.

A word of caution: Do not remove your finger from the shutter button too soon when using flash. There are a number of functions the camera must execute when the shutter is pressed, but before the main flash fires. The camera must determine the exposure, establish focus, and activate red-eye prevention (when you are using that feature). This takes a bit of time—more with some cameras, less with others. So, be patient, and keep the camera trained on the subject and your finger on the shutter button until the main flash goes off and the camera captures the image.