One of my favorite things about my work is when I get to shoot interesting people in unique locations. This week we were at the New Hampshire State House to photograph Shawn Jasper, the Speaker of the NH House. We only had a short window in his schedule to capture his portrait. That, and my vision of the shot dictated that we go with a one-light, portable set-up. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look:

 

The last time we shared one of our Top Ten Photo Tips we talked about composition, today I want to talk about lighting, specifically: on camera flash.

#4 Turn off that on camera flash

While it might be tempting to go automatic with your point and shoot while shooting a dark scene, your results can be much better if you don’t. Those little pop up flashes aren’t doing you any favors. The brightness of the flash often washes out your subject, is blueish in tone, and is nearly guaranteed to create those horrible red eyes. Not to mention harsh shadows. Instead of using the flash, turn it off. Here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Turn your subject toward the available light. Instead of having light shining from behind your subject, say from a window or an open door, try turning them around. By simply turning your subject toward your light source you can often find all the light you need to shoot with.
  • Move your subject closer to the light that you have. This is a great way to increase the intensity of light falling on your subject.  Remember, the closer the light source the brighter it is.

If you simply MUST use your flash you can put a warming filter on it to get rid of the blue.  If it’s too bright you can usually reduce the flash output in your camera’s settings. If your flash allows it, try bouncing it off of a wall behind you or slightly to the side.

NH Photographer

You can see the effects of the on-camera flash in this shot of my daughter.

NH Photographer

In this shot, with no flash, I used only available light, and you can see how much more natural it looks.

If you follow this tip, it’s imperative that you remember tip #1:  hold still.  Finally, if you just have to use the flash get the shot then use the flash.  Better that than to miss the photo.

And here’s one more example of when it’s best to use the light you’ve got. Can you imagine what a flash would have done to this shot?

NH Photographer

It’s not hard to get great shots from your point and shoot camera. Just keep in mind where your light comes from and make sure it’s helping your image. It’s the key to creating images you’ll love.

Photography tips and tricks only help you get better if you’re out there using them! I hope you’ve been giving them a try. If so we’d love to see what you’ve been up to! Share a link to your images in the comments below!

Perhaps the best way to improve your photography skills is also the simplest. As one of my favorite photographers Jay Maisel says, “Carry the damn camera.” I don’t think more sound advice has been given.

Another great piece of advice is to look at other photography and art for inspiration.  On a recent trip to the Peabody Essex Museum for just that purpose, I carried my camera with me.  I’m glad I did.

NH PHotographer Peabody Essex Museum

 

Where have you been lately? Did you have your camera with you? The more you use it, the more you capture, the more refined your vision becomes. To borrow another line from Jay, it’s like “doing visual pushups”.  Happy shooting!

Last week I announced the second round of Portsmouth Icons– a personal project featuring photographs of the local characters in my town. We shot the first portrait for the round two last week. Here’s a hint…

Portsmouth NH Portrait Photographer

 

Know who it is? Leave your guess in the comments below! Also, you can let us know who YOU think should be included among our Portsmouth Icons. We’ll be sharing the new portrait in a couple of weeks!