An Ode to On-Camera Flash

We've all felt it, being caught in the sudden flash of a camera. The rush of blinding white light filling the air around you and forcing your eyes shut so they don't get burned out of their sockets. The world slowly comes back into focus, the white fading out to be replaced by at first hazy images and someone asking you to smile a little too late.

It's the attack of the on-camera flash.

Forcing people to squint always makes for a great photo.

The flash on my digital rebel hasn't been fired in the longest time. this is in part because it is broken. Pressing the flash button causes a few yearning clicks as it attempts to pop up, but eventually the camera gives up and demands to be reset.

Of course I don't know when it broke, probably one of the many occassions where it took a tumble.Any time I need the flash in a pinch, I forget that it no longer works and have to spend a minute fumbling around with it.

Still, on-camera flash has never been anyone's friend because it's like assaulting someone with light. Sure people can grin and bear it, but that bright light washes away an awful lot of things when done wrong including shadows and highlights on the subject especially when the flash unit is sitting right on top of the camera. What shadows that the flash doesn't eliminate it can make a lot harsher, creating looming specters in the background.

And then there's red-eye, horrible red eye that makes i tlook like your subject stepped off of the set of The Exorcist or something.

There are ways to do it nicely of course, with diffusers and extenders and by bouncing lights off of the walls and ceiling. That kind of work can break up or diffuse the tsunami of light coming out of the flash, giving you enough to work with while not overwhelming a subject (though it's a little harder to do when the flash is built in to your point and shoot).

Really there are times when it's indispensable, better to have something that you can correct in post (I think there are Easy Bake Ovens with build in red-eye correction) than have nothing at all to show the client. Maybe it's just my pet peeve.