To flash or not to flash? That's a question we should ask more often when shooting photos. Many of us simply choose Auto mode and let the camera decide whether to pop up the flash or not. But the camera doesn't always "know" the right answer. Here are two examples of that.
True or false? Shooting outdoors on a bright, sunny day at high noon, the camera correctly skips the strobe because there's plenty of light.
False. The blazing sun will cast shadows, so you might need the flash to shed enough light on the subject's face, for example. But in auto mode, the camera’s flash won’t fire on its own, so you'll have to activate it manually.
True or false? Family and friends are gathered around a birthday cake in a darkened room as the birthday girl or boy prepares to blow out the candles. Since it's dark, the camera will automatically pop up the flash, which is the right thing to do.
False. That will destroy the soft atmospheric light coming from the candles on the birthday cake. In this case, the better option is to keep it turned off.
Know your camera's flash icons
To use your flash effectively, first determine how to turn it on and off. Almost all cameras have the following settings: Auto Flash (this lets the camera determine if the flash should be on or off); Fill Flash (this keeps the camera's flash always on and uses it for every shot); and Flash Off (which keeps the strobe turned off no matter how dark the setting).
One other common flash setting called Slow Sync Mode fires the camera's flash but then leaves the camera's shutter open longer than it would in Auto Flash mode. This lets you keep the natural or ambient light in the background while the flash illuminates your main subject. But because the shutter speed is slow, your subjects may appear blurry if they are in motion.