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Originally shared on The Photo Life

There’s a common misconception that the more light you have, the better your photo will be. But an accomplished photographer knows the difference between ‘quantity of light’ and ‘quality of light’.

In my first post in this series, I shared some tips on using reflectors on your shoots. In this post, we’re going to talk about when to use flash. Get ready to break out your strobes. Here we go…

I once worked with a photographer who told me, “I never use flash!” His way of dealing with low light situations was to crank up his ISO and open his aperture as wide as he could – usually f/1.2 or f/1.4 in rooms with very little ambient light. Why is this a bad idea? Well, it depends on what type of result you want to get.

If you want an extremely low depth of field with very little ‘color depth’, then go right ahead. Below are three images. All three photos are taken with a 50mm f/1.2 lens in a room with low ambient light.

The image on the left is shot at aperture priority (ISO 2000, f/1.6, 1/320). The image in the center is the image on the left after being processed in Lightroom (bumping up the exposure, adjusting color temperature, removing noise, recovering highlights). The image on the right is photographed on manual settings (ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/200) with a flash set manually to 1/16th power using an Orbis ring flash adaptor (it has not been edited in Lightroom).

Let’s take a closer look at the images.

As you can see, the image on the left (no flash) has very little detail in the flowers or the dress – and that’s AFTER recovering highlights in post production! The image is also still very noisy, despite noise reduction measures (which also reduced detail in the photo). The image on the right, which has no post production, has much more color depth to work with.

Remember, you don’t have to point the flash directly at your subject for this to work. Practicing and finding the ‘sweet spot’ where you get the right amount of flash (bounced, direct, off camera, etc.) for the style of image you want to produce will help greatly. Just remember, flash is not a dirty word. If you use it correctly it can be a powerful tool!

Does it make sense?

Do you feel you have a better understanding of quantity of light vs. quality of light now? What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.

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