Flash or no flash?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by JDMvW, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Gordon N. Converse, head photographer at the Christian Science Monitor
    Since Converse was my beau ideal, I always tried available light rather than flash. Also, at the time, flash was much less popular than it is today.
    Very high ISOs and an ability to tolerate ungodly amounts of noise or grain have allowed me to continue to work without flash.

    Example of my very high threshold (comes of using hi-speed color slide film in my youth. maybe it ruins you for life):
    Canon 5dii, EF 24-105mm, f/4, 1/50 sec ISO 25,600
    I had a dedicated Canon flash but gave it to my daughter a couple of years ago.

    I still prefer available light to the glare and rudeness of flash. How about you?
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  2. I use flash in certain conditions. I usually use a shield and bounce off ceiling or wall, when I can, to avoid glare. I especially like it in indoor situations with windows when I want to avoid blowing out what's happening outside. Although sometimes window blowout, in the right context, can be very effective, here I felt it would not help the photo.

    Uhooru and sjmurray like this.
  3. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    i’ve never had a flash but sometimes use the built in flash of my olympus. i usually just muck about, looking for gimmicks . here, i was trying to mix flash with street lighing.

    Norma Desmond likes this.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    I seriously doubt anyone is going to have a problem with an exploding flash bulb today. Or an exploding flash unit.

    There are plenty of situations that call for flash. And there are plenty of things that can be done with flash that can't be done without it.

  5. :rolleyes:
    If God had meant for us to use flash, he would not have made GAF 500 film or ISO 25,600. :)

    I do admit that I use flash in caves and sometimes at night, but I would never use it during a public artistic performance.
  6. Never used flash but I have a couple of speedlights for a job that eventually didn't go through. I'm planning to put them to use one day and learn the techniques as you can do some amazing things with one or several speedlights, sculpting with light and color, if you know how to use them.
    tholte likes this.
  7. Bad flash photography is not only distracting, but just bad.

    With that said, good flash photography can give results not possible with ambient.

    At home, I'll pull out the Normans if it's possible, but of course that's not always practical for a lot of reasons.

    When I'm dealing with Speedlights, I go off-camera as much as possible. If I have to be on-camera, I bounce and use modifiers.
  8. I do both.
    I shoot available light and put the ISO up as needed.
    But I do not hesitate to shoot flash where I need the extra light.
  9. There are discrete ways to use flash to augment the natural light. For a live performance it is dicey unless the rehearsal director is explicitly on board. Photographers should, in my opinion, use whatever combination of light sources do the job with the foregoing caveat clearly observed of course.... Meaning, not to get into specifics of all photos, the sun can be a back light for a portrait and a reflector can fill in the shadows in a face. Or a small fill light flash can do the job. It is the quality of light not just the ability to expose it to make a decent rendering I guess I am saying... For some years I let the yellow zone on my thyristor 285HV add a little sparkle to eyes. Wedding pros suggested same and it was acccepted, or at least I did not getting any resistance .... In a performance on the other hand another story, and I learned to brace against a wall or use a monopod and just let the tungsten floods on the stage do their thing. No,I have no resistance nor shrink from a flash is my bottom line advice to anyone. ( bulbs bursting yeah was a problem once and they found a way to fix that. ( I even burned a few fingers with those guys) That said, I would hate to have a Solti or Koussevistsky give me hell too...might put me off my bratwurst for good. Being a music lover. But Lennie might have been agreeable for a ten minute flash number with him leaping off the stand in the Tchaikovsky Fourth. I rather think that today's shooters have not the savoir fair to use flash smartly and wisely to supplement or be a key light to get the photo at all...So many abjure flash.. Not I. Army Strings small venue, good spots, who needed flash anyway..but I have an accumulated stable of flash equipment over the years. enjoy its capability, and encourage beginners to use it as an 'available light.' And even mix light sources. Be brave young men and ladies... Army strings NW sharpened and cropped copy.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  10. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    I have used flashes of one sort or another for over 50 years--beginning with bulbs. What I found out was that for 45 years of that time I really had little effing idea of what I was doing... :p

    Unlike JDM, I am not becoming tolerant of ISO noise. It is not the same as coarse grain in pushed film, and don't let anyone delude you that it is. Dye clouds or pixel noise is not grain--and IMHO needs left to the LoMo crowd!

    Evaluation is key. If increasing ISO to a reasonable factor will allow necessary detail to be recorded--then that is the prime choice. If not, or needed for effect--it's off to flash. If anything, I am coming to believe that lighting is one of the most misunderstood and badly practiced areas of photography. It's easy to see the right outcomes in the work of those who have mastered it--but getting there is the challenge.

    I never use the pop-up anymore without a Gary Fong type diffuser on it. And then only because I have no other options. "Speedlight" use is never on camera--I have come to use either a side grip or more so a rotatable flash bracket. It's also been a bit since I pointed a 'bare' strobe at anything. Modifiers help with many things--whether they are diffusers, softboxes, honeycombs, snoots, bounce cards, etcetera. Sometimes a simple, largish portable reflector is what is necessary. Sometimes a flash on a stand with modifiers is called for.

    Maybe I will get it reasonably figured out before I get too old to remember where I left the camera (currently at APS for service, due to forgetting it outside and it getting rained on) :eek::mad::rolleyes:
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
    Jochen and tholte like this.
  11. A little fill flash done subtly can make a big difference and am surprised more photographers don't use it more often.
  12. If you can tell its flash then its bad flash.
    The whole trick IMO is to control it rather than just blasting huge gobs of light at the subject.
    gordonjb, PapaTango and Supriyo like this.
  13. I recall reading rumors of Pyrex safety bells or something else between tube and subject being mandatory for commercially used flash heads? - I suppose I should investigate. There are also seasoned strobes like Elinchrom Quanta still floating around which can be electrically dangerous i.e. zapping people but yes, they are a stretch of "today"...

    I am feeling torn about flash. - I'd appreciate if there were cameras more capable (and way more affordable!) than the Sony A7 S series for low light. I flashed in the past and will continue doing so, although I might be frequently seen going out without any flash on me.
    Flash is something we should learn to master. - I don't mean putting it into a hotshoe and setting the rig to TTL (bounced or not), I mean the Strobist approach where one brings enough to resemble a studio setup.

    Shooting available light is probably just a lazy approach? - Yes you click more, to spray & pray but you also safe a lot of editing time just binning the too noisy & OOF stuff and most importantly you don't need to carry the flashes.

    Figure out what you are supposed to do and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong about using an otherwise decent camera at desperate ISO for personal memories. If you are supposed to deliver more than that, do what it requires.
  14. Sometimes the event precludes flash, I'm thinking of professional boxing here. So what we used to call "Available Darkness" was frequently used to dramatic effect. The running joke was that if someone asked for "your exposure" the reply was frequently "f8 for half a fortnight"! I think control, if not mastery of both is an advantage.

    I also find that the two are not mutually exclusive, balance is the name of the game.
  15. I think on the day flash was invented, God was busy raining down pestilence on some sinners somewhere. Some things just get through the cracks no matter Who's in charge.


    Seriously, though, I know what people mean, and agree to a large extent, when using words like control, mastery, balance, supposed to do, etc. (I'm not singling anyone here out, rather just riffing on some ideas.)

    I think what Jeff is getting at and what Norman has given a good example of is experimenting, not coming off as mastered or balanced but instead as loose and somewhat more effervescent than "respectable."

    And if, as a matter of fact, a photographer wants to throw flash in a viewer's face, then there's no reason to try and hide it. Maybe, in some significant instances, the viewer will be able to tell it's flash. There's a long history of photographers and artists making their technical process visible and obvious, commenting on their medium and methods within their visual work.
  16. Light has more characteristics than just intensity. Direction, degree of diffusion, contrast as part of intensity and color can be modified using flash as well. Since lighting is so important to shape, form and mood, the ability to enhance light can help improve otherwise less than stellar images or take an image to a new level. I use whatever the situation calls for and allows being used to meet my vision. Often, however, lights are not practical or permitted. Then, I will use ambient only but try to find good light and background. I am then forced to accept the quality of light available. But if I have to in order to get the shot, getting the shot often is better than no shot at all. I agree with Tim, fill flash is really useful, but with a caveat, crummy light filled is full crummy light.
    tholte likes this.
  17. Good grief! Flash is a tool, not a false idol. (Are there any true idols?) It would not have helped in the image first posted in this thread, but more attention to the exposure setting would help, and a better choice of film even more.

    Flash is good any time you need more light, or more flattering light than otherwise available. No one would argue against multiple lights for formal portraits. After all, photography is all about light and the control thereof. I especially like to use flash when it is not immediately obvious that it is being used. The following example uses fill flash in an outdoor environment where the subject is in shade. (I was a guest, not a photographer at the wedding.)

  18. I use flash for fill-in lighting and it works well depending on the camera. The flash intensity in such situations has to be carefully balanced with the ambient light and some cameras have better algorithms than others to detect the flash intensity. When using fill-in flash, I would make sure there is nothing in close quarters of the camera lens, or you have to deal with ugly overexposed stuff.

    I would use flash with full consent of my subject(s), and definitely not when using flash would cause inconvenience to others. Sometimes with group portraits with children, I would make sure that the children are not bothered by the light, because sometimes they are (I was when I was a child).

    My philosophy for using flash is, it should not be evident that flash was used. It should look like natural lighting as far as possible, unless flash is being used in a special creative way, like Norman's example.

  19. If God didn't intend us to use flash why does he play with lightening?
    Lets face it, in nature every subtle nuance of light was a one light setup!
  20. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Flash like makeup, is best when invisible.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017

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