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Using the flash or increasing the ISO #photography

When the light is poor you can usually choose between increasing the ISO which effectively makes your sensor more sensitive to light or you can use a flash. I used a pop-up flash yesterday and that was the wrong choice because my subjects were wearing high visibility vests! The light wasn’t too bad and so a higher ISO would have been a better choice but I realised my mistake and increased the ISO for the rest of my shots. Using the flash is usually a good option if you’re photographing people and doing close up shots.

Using the flash


I have a professional Speedlight and a small Nikon SB300 and I had to use the SB300 for this shot because that was all I had with me. The professional one has a display for adjusting it but I mostly use TTL so it doesn’t make much difference and I didn’t need the extra power for this shot. In fact, the professional one can be too powerful and produce a blinding flash is you’re not careful. TTL is through the lens metering and it automatically controls the flash but it can be adjusted for more or less light.

Using the flash


I made a mistake at this shoot and my camera was overriding my manual settings for ISO. It set the ISO too high for this shot. The shot is noisy but not as noisy as some of the other shots. The reason I went for a higher ISO instead of the flash is that floor. You can see in this shot how it reflects the light from the window and it also reflects the light from a flash tending to give people orange faces. The lighting in there is fluorescent and so I set the white balance for fluorescent but the light streaming through those windows is natural sunlight and so that often gives things a blue tinge.



I can see the noise in this shot on my computer screen but if you’re viewing this on a mobile phone it probably looks fine. You can see some of my photos on display there. On computer screens, images are displayed at 72 dpi and those prints are at 300 dpi which is a much better quality.


The Mayor of Sandwell

This was the Lamp Restaurant and the lighting was subdued and blue and so I had to use the professional flash. I wanted photographs of the whole room of people but I knew the only good photos were likely to be the close-up ones using a flash and a wide open aperture. I  used a wide open aperture for this shot so it gave me the added advantage that the flash wasn’t too bright. The flash gets brighter as the aperture is narrowed and can be blinding in certain circumstances. If it is very dark and you try to use a narrow aperture then the flash will be very bright and shouldn’t be pointed directly at people. It is a good practice to bounce the flash off adjacent surfaces like the ceiling anyway.

Natural light

Warm natural light is always preferred over using the flash but we often have to compromise in low light. We just have to try to get as much control over the light as possible.

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