Making the Most of Your Camera’s Pop-up Flash

19/10/2020 8:13 am

We are the first to admit that if you are looking to escape the constraints of natural lighting, studio lighting or an external flashgun are the best ways to uncover consistent exposures and well-lit subjects in any condition. But what if you don’t have room in your budget or gadget bag for more gear? Can you still get pleasing results using your DSLR or Mirrorless camera’s pop-up flash? 


While you will never reach the heights of a powerful flashgun or expertly directed bounce flash, here is how you can make the most of your camera’s pop-up flash.

Understand the limitations




The main reason for exploring external flash options is the limited power of the built-in flash. While this issue can not be overcome, understanding it can limit the disappointment you feel in the meantime. The pop-up flash should only be used for subjects a few meters away from your lens at max.


Expecting it to do more will only produce underexposed images, and will result in your never relying on it to light up your subjects again.

Making the most of your camera's pop-up flash

Use it for fill flash

Making the most of your camera's pop-up flash

Most amateur photographers only think of their flash when they are shooting indoors or after hours, when conditions are dark and their images become blurry due to slower shutter speeds. While this is a major benefit of flash photography, it is by no means its only use. Your flash can also be used to turn otherwise mediocre images into great images - enter fill flash.


Fill flash refers to using your flash to illuminate shadowed subjects and to minimise overwhelmingly bright backgrounds. It is particularly useful in backlit conditions and requires you to balance your flash output with ambient lighting. This can take some time to master, so we recommend experimenting with your flash compensation setting and paying attention to what works best.

Consider a DIY mod



The second reason for purchasing a speedlight is the fact that pop-up flash is always direct, which often produces unwanted shadows. With a few carefully selected materials and a little bit of patience, you can mimic light-shaping tools which are commonly used for external flashguns and put them to use on your pop-up flash.

One of the easier options is to position a piece of white card in front of your flash, so that when fired the output is directed up onto the ceiling and then down onto your subject, which is usually referred to as bounce flash. This option produces artificial light that closely emulates natural lighting and is great for capturing beautiful portraits. Another common mod involves using grease-proof paper as a flash diffuser.

Making the most of your camera's pop-up flash

Explore slow-sync flash

Making the most of your camera's pop-up flash



Shooting in darker conditions means a photographer has to do one of two things, use a slower shutter speed or reach for a flash. Slower shutter speeds are fine for stationary subjects but will cause moving subjects to blur. Conversely, shooting in the dark with a flash will produce dark backgrounds which may not be the desired look. Slow-sync flash means your flash fires and your camera uses a slower shutter speed, meaning you have the best of both worlds.

As your flash goes off it lights up your subject, while the slower shutter speed used provides  better exposure for your background. Mastering this technique does take some time, and you will need to make some other decisions and changes, such as using a tripod or panning with a moving subject and adjusting the shutter speed for effect. All things considered, this is a fun and rewarding technique that can vastly improve your photographs with your pop-up flash.

Tweak your flash settings a little



Many of us pop up our flash and expect perfect results every time. While this would be nice, unfortunately your camera can’t read minds and understand what you want to capture when you fire the shutter. Just as you get best results from understanding and adjusting the basic settings of your camera, such as the exposure triangle, adjusting your flash settings yields more consistent results.


If you find your flash is too powerful or not powerful enough, use the flash compensation setting to adjust the output. Flash compensation settings are easy to understand with settings in the (+) providing more power and settings in the (-) providing less. Another important setting to take note of if you are shooting portraits is the red eye correction setting. With this setting turned on, you can save yourself lots of time trying to limit this unwanted look in the editing stage.

Making the most of your camera's pop-up flash

Ready to start taking flash photography seriously?

When all is said and done, your pop-up flash is never going to be able to compete with a speedlight but you can still use it to create great results and improve as a photographer in the interim.

Ready to take the plunge on an external flash? Shop online or talk to the expert staff in your local Ted’s store today.


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