The common point-and-shoot camera and its built in flash make a great combination. Read your manual to determine the optimum distance to the subject that your flash will support and always keep that distance in mind when using the flash. Be prepared to wait for the recycle time between shots.
Shooting a group of people can be a problem as the people in the center may be at the right distance while the ones at the ends maybe in the dark. Try turning on all the room lights that may be available, If that’s not working then move your group outside if it’s daylight or take several pictures of smaller groups of people.
Fill flash works to supplement another lighting source. If you are shooting a person in a room with a large window in daylight the light from the window could go a long way to light up the room. However, your camera’s exposure system may want to give preference to the light from the window in determining the amount of light to flash and you don’t want that to happen. That way your subject’s face will receive too little light. You will need to be able to make manual settings or have setting overrides available on your camera to make the flash disregard the window light and only consider the light needed for the person’s face.
The task of fill flash to bring balance between the two light sources, daylight and flash, in regard to intensity. When the two sources are not in balance at least one part of the picture will be either washed out or too black. A capable camera will be able to automatically produce only the needed amount of flash and for when you disagree with the automatic settings it will offer a wide range of manual settings.
For mixed lighting setups involving flash a flash light meter will be very helpful and the top models can display combined exposure values of both flash and ambient light sources giving you your manual settings. A good model flash light meter will cost well over $100. If you have the time you can improve your shot by setting up constant electric lighting that bounces light off a white surface rendering a more pleasant effect. Since the light is constant you will have more control over the exposure settings. This method may introduce color temperature issues depending on the exact type of lighting you choose.
Don’t assume that the flash is only for indoors. There are many outside situations with sun and shadows that will benefit from flash and fill flash.
If your camera has a flash accessory mount (hot shoe) then you can shop around for a flash that meets your needs. An accessory flash will offer more options and more power that can light up larger rooms. With such flash units you may have the ability to mount the flash on a tripod with a connecting cable that allows the flash light to come from an angle other than the direction of the camera. Accessory flashes may also allow you to add the capability for bounced or diffuse light to render more pleasing effects.
Fill Flash with Back Lighting
If your subject is between you and the main light source then you have what is called a “back lighting” situation. Fill flash can save your picture. The image below has visual appeal with or without fill flash so you might want to try it both ways.
The red-eye effect is a common problem with flash units that are located on the camera. Some countermeasures employed by camera manufacturers to counteract this effect don’t work well and cause pictures of people blinking their eyes. Try having the subject look to the side of the camera or at some angle that avoids getting a reflection from the back of the eyes. A bounce flash will also fix this problem.
Most camera based flashes yield harsh light which can lead to uncomplimentary shadows upon your subject’s face. Consider bouncing the flash or adding existing light, both natural and artificial, to improve results.
There are public places where you are not allowed to use your flash or where shooting flash is not appropriate, Again, learn to be creative with the existing light. Also, remember that camera flash units are not a subtle light source and too many flash pictures will irritate some of your subjects. However, when your camera’s auto shutter is indicating a shutter speed below 1/60th of a second then you likely need a flash or a tripod.
Be sure to set the shutter speed to sync with the flash unit and, whever possible, do the shot first without flash and view the result. Such an image may clearly indicate where more light is needed and how much more light is needed.