Many photographers underestimate the qualities of flash and never explore its true potential

MOST photographers only ever use flash to get a decent exposure in challenging conditions. These same photographers see flash as a last resort and rarely take the time to learn how to use it correctly. But by exploring how to modify and control a flash, you can take your photography to another level.

Light from a flash can be modified easily using household items, to give you maximum control. With paper, a simple flash bounce or snoot can be made, and a cigarette paper over a pop-up flash can give a lovely soft light for portraits.

Flash is ultimately a versatile tool, but one that is underestimated. Why not try controlling the flash intensity and adding some fill light to a portrait on a bright sunny day? Using flash in daylight is something that the majority of photographers don’t do, but it can make the subject more prominent against the background. Also, in a bright sunny situation flash can be used to fill in any unwanted shadow areas created by natural light.

In some situations it becomes difficult to balance an exposure between the background and foreground, and we must settle blown highlights somewhere in the scene. When using flash, it is possible to find the optimum exposure for the background and then use the flash to add the additional light needed to balance the exposure.

PHOTOGRAPHY is nothing if not adaptable. The keen-eyed photographer can find opportunities in all manner of situations, and that includes those days when the sun has disappeared and the heavens have opened. If you live in the UK you may find yourself faced with grey skies and damp landscapes more often than you would wish, but that’s no reason to set your camera down to collect dust. Rain-drenched scenes can offer some brilliant images.

A key issue for photographers is that rainy days can often subdue the colour of the scene. This offers a great opportunity to try your hand at monochrome imagery. It means you’re free to boost the contrast of your scene in post-production to create a stark atmosphere and reveal the shapes and tones of the scene.

One of the key visual quirks of rain (particularly in the city) is the presence of reflections, which is an element that can lend your images a point of engaging visual interest. This is particularly true of night-time city scenes. There’s nothing more seductive than the vibrant halogen glow of street lights reflected in damp pavements and roads. It’s also worth noting how keen landscape photographers are on overcast daytime skies — the cloud cover acts as a giant soft box.

If you own one, don’t forget to fix a lens hood to your optic to reduce the risk of getting water on your glass. Another tip is to use a UV filter so you won’t have to worry when you see water droplets clinging to the front of your lens.

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