To Flash Or Not To Flash, That Is The Photography Question

by SomeGirl on May 18, 2011 · 16 comments

Yesterday was SUCH a LOVELY day!

We started out early in the morning to pick up my oldest son’s therapeutic glasses to help his eyes learn to focus and work together (more on that soon… and if you’re friends with me on FB or twitter and you’re sick of hearing about how AMAZING his glasses are and how MUCH they’ve helped already, I’m sorry about that. I’ll be done one of these days!). ;)

Afterward, we met some friends at one of our new favorite spots – a nature preserve in the heart of DFW (Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, TX).

We LOVE it there and could spend hours exploring (as we did). :)

children having fun in a nature preserve

While my sweet friend, who I LOVE and enjoy spending time with (that’s for you, Heather), was taking photos of the kiddos throwing rocks over the edge of a waterfall…

she asked me a question that caught me off guard, left me speechless and prompted several hundred (or so it seemed) photos and lots of discussion…

“How do you turn on the flash?”

At first I didn’t know how to answer – mainly because I had no idea how to turn it on, but also because I’ve been “brainwashed” to “NEVER turn on the flash!” ;)

After scouring my brain for what seemed like minutes to remember how to turn it on, we did some experimenting to answer the photography question, “To Flash or Not to Flash” and here’s what we came up with…

If you are at a good distance from your subject and you need a little more light, the flash is fine.

without flash

with flash



if you are close to your subject, turn the flash off and change your ISO or aperture (see more on that here).

without flash

with flash

Sample photos adjusted slightly using “auto contrast” and “auto level”

So, there you have it… the answer to the question that sent us on a wild shooting spree yesterday afternoon (it sure did take us longer to discover the answer than it did for me to share it here with you). ;)

Btw, here’s an example of why I LOVE to shoot in RAW… you can do SO MUCH more to adjust the colors, brightness, and exposure! (Please remember that I’m just learning all of this, too.) :)


shot as jpeg - auto level, auto contrast

shot in RAW - adjusted exposure, brightness, contrast, etc...

Hope you’re having a wonderful week and have time to shoot some photos!

FYI: We have another sweet, brave soul with photos to critique for submission to iStock coming next Wednesday, if not sooner… stay tuned!

Forgot to mention that I’m over at Putting God First Place, talking about building Kingdom Bridges today… I’d LOVE to have you join me over there! ♥




Loved it, as always! And I see a trip to Plano in our future this summer. That place looks fun!!

I need to find out more about shooting in RAW. Wait, I take that back. I need to FIND OUT about shooting in RAW… since I know nothing…yet. :)

Thanks again for your help yesterday! You’re a sweetie. And I’d have been more appreciative of it without that darn call from the plumber to throw me off… :) THANKS, friend! Love ya.


YES! We have been talking about having you guys join us one day, but wondered if you’d mind the long trip… It is SO NEAT! (But bring a change of clothes.) ;)

You’re welcome for yesterday. I totally understand… on top of the phone call you had been working 8+ hours, right?! Then I came in fresh and full of energy. ;)

Love ya, too! Can’t wait to look at your photos with you! :)

Gail Debenport

Have any of your followers on the How to Get Accepted…… had their pictures accepted? Just curious. I have not resubmitted mainly because every picture I take with my Nikon D70 on auto focus is a little blurry at 1oo%. Also, I don’t have the ideas I need to make the right shots. Bummer. Thanks for the post. Your point was made with just a few shots.


I’ve only heard from the 2 that I critiqued online. I have one sending me photos before she applies to critique and share. I have another friend currently working on her photos for submission… but that’s all that I know right now.

Why don’t you shoot with my camera at the wedding and see if you can get a good, clear focal point with it. We can have Steve take a look at yours and see if there’s a reason you’re getting a blurry photo at 100%.

♥ Michelle


Michelle! You better call me the next time to go to Arbor Hills! That is maybe 10 minutes from my house! Of course, we’ve had major allergy issues the last 2-3 weeks so we probably couldn’t have made it this time. I’ve been to Arbor Hills a couple of times but don’t remember a waterfall…..wonder how I missed it. Great pics – see you Friday night at the wedding!


Definitely will do! The waterfall’s on the day camp trail (just happened upon it down an “off the beaten path” trail). Can’t wait to see you Friday!

(Btw, we leave Arbor Hills sneezing and sniffling every time we’ve been… I can totally relate.)

ali @ an ordinary mom

I need another good size memory card, as I keep filling mine up when shooting in RAW! #bigfiles


…and then a new hard drive to store them in on the computer! ;) I’m using a 4GB and filled it up for the first time in awhile yesterday (after 3 days of shooting to learn new things). What are you shooting with? (I forgot.)

ali @ an ordinary mom

I graduated last year from the 1st Rebel to a Canon 50D! :D

My brother-in-law is a wildlife photographer and Nikon devotee, but both my husband and I grew up in Canon families… I still remember using my dad’s Canon AE-1 in high school…!


NICE! We’re a Canon family here… I’m hoping to graduate from the 1st Rebel to the Rebel T3i… bet the 50D is awesome! What lens do you use most often? (Full of questions here, hu?) ;)

ali @ an ordinary mom

The 50D IS awesome, but really, any of the Rebel series are excellent enough cameras for most any amateur! We only upgraded because our original Rebel (as in, we got one pretty much as soon as the 1st one hit the market!) bit the dust and it was gonna cost almost as much to fix it as buying a new camera… pointless.

I actually went through a bit of buyer’s remorse though, cause the new Rebel has HD video! The 50D has no video… so I have my tiny canon point and shoot, which has video, though not HD, and the video on my phone… (for now! hehe! I can hope…!)

The lens I use most often is the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6, as it’s the most versatile. The lens I love to play with the most is the 50MM f/1.8, though a prime lens took some getting used to! We also have a hefty and heavy 70-200 f/2.8, which is fun and works great to get decent shots at our son’s soccer games. :)

I’ve been filling up my 8GB card, so, yes, I need a nice big external hard drive, quickly! #reallyreallybigfiles and #Itakealotofpictures


Phew! Girl, you sound like my husband. Yesterday he filled 4 cards (2-16GB) on a shoot. And we now own two external hard drives to hold pics. lol

That’s a bummer about the video… I’m looking forward to that on the T3i. Although, my husband has it on his 5DMarkII and never uses it… he usually shoots video on his iPhone (does that help?) ;)

I LOVE my 50MM f/1.8, but need to branch out… I’ll keep what you’re using in mind. :) Thank you! (Don’t think my sweet husband wants to share his good lenses with me.) ;)

Would you ever be interested in doing a guest post on how to take action shots, like soccer games?? I’d LOVE to learn from you and know others here would, too!!


I’m still learning and so is my husband, but one thing we did start doing about two years ago is shooting in RAW. I LOVE how easy it is to get the pictures to look “just right” by tweaking a few RAW settings in the editor. (I use PSE8 which is fantastic for processing & adjusting RAW files.) I don’t have a good camera yet at all but my husband has a Canon 50D. We’re looking for a Canon body for me, since he has lots of lenses already.


Isn’t it great what you can do with RAW images?! Sometimes hard to believe! Hope you find a good body soon. What are you hoping for?

Deb Chitwood

Thanks for another great photography post, Michelle! I’ve never tried shooting in RAW, but it sounds awesome that you can adjust the photos so well! Of course, the #bigfiles don’t sound quite as awesome! I loved your “to flash or not to flash” research … the photos really show the difference!


I REALLY need to pick up my camera… :)

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