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Do You Need a Flash for Event Photography?

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Flash photography can be very spectacular or burdensome, or even fearsome if you are not sure what output you will get from it and if the pictures’ quality will be worth it. But the question most of you ask is when you should use flash in your photography? Why would you use flash in your photography?

The answers to these questions will inform you on whether you should use flash for your event photography. This is because the time and venue of different events will definitely vary, and these varying conditions influence the choice of using flash or not in photography at that event. We will first discuss when you are supposed to use flash and when you are not, and the same benefits.

When should you use flash?


This happens to be the most expected time to use a flash. The best way to do this would be to use an external flash unit reflected off the wall or ceiling. This helps to bring out a natural look in the ensuing images. When you are firing the flash at the same angle as the lens, the images produced are very banal and bland. Thus it is essential to remove the flash from the camera and shoot from the side. Some pointers for flash photography indoors are:

  • Embrace the use of TTL mode through the lens when reflecting the light off the roof for your shots to get good results.
  • Use the flash exposure compensation button on your camera to increase or decrease the flash when shooting.
  • Use manual mode on the flash when using an umbrella and an off-camera flash in one locale to get the best results.
  • To prevent unintended numerous shots with your flash shoot in a single mode.
  • To avoid burning your flash, ensure you allow it to recycle well and cool before shooting again. If possible, it is also advisable not to use your flash at full flash power but instead decrease your aperture or increase your camera ISO.
  • An increased ISO would mean less light is needed to illuminate your objects, all this while maintaining the shutter speed and size of the aperture. On this, I will also highlight some benefits of increasing ISO, say doubling it for instance;
  • You will not bombard your subjects with lots of light, and they will most likely not blink as your only flash needs half as much light for illumination.
  • Your flash will recycle to the next shot twice as quickly, and your batteries will last twice as long.
  • You can double the shutter speed, use a smaller aperture and maintain the same brightness meaning images will be crispier.
  • Your subjects are well lit in the event, but the background is unlighted, which means your shutter speed is too fast.  The surrounding light in this photo is controlled by shutter speed, and reducing it lets in more light.
  • The “rear curtain sync’ function is very useful when shooting at reduced shutter speeds as it ensures the camera fires the flash after exposure.

Outdoors during the Day

Most of the time, we have experienced the challenges that come with taking photos in the sun. Often your photo subject appears as a silhouette, and you are not sure how you should handle it. The flash can sort this out as it acts as a secondary light source to the object. This helps fill out areas where the image is underexposed, owing to the prioritization of another part of the frame by the camera.

Cool Night photo Effects

Night photography allows you to use your colors and lighting using several sources, one among them being your flash. You can move around at night without leaving a trail by making use of long exposures specifically. Some sections of light around the frame are also frozen when you fire the external flash manually.

Freeze Motion

Flash allows you to freeze the motion in a photo with a slight flare-up of light. This works really well, especially when shooting images in low light.

Light trails

This is well related to the one above in that since flash enables you to freeze motion in pictures, it allows you to explore with the light trails. This does significantly come in handy when shooting in low light and coupled with just an on-camera flash. You can elicit great results with very little to use.

When you should not use a flash?

Big Events

Most of us are always busy taking photos of events of people on stage far from them using their on-camera flash in low light. This is always futile in that the flash only goes a short distance before maxing out, ending up being useless in the photography. This is especially very apparent again in Concert photography, and you would even normally notice that flash is not used in such events; why?

This is because flash normally casts ugly shadows in these events as the performer is on the stage and you are on the ground. I would advise that you widen your aperture and lower your shutter speed so that the camera can take up more light.


Unless you intend to use cool effects as we talked about, you should turn your flash off. To do this and stop your flash from firing automatically, you need to switch off the auto mode in your camera. You will be sure to observe a significant difference in the resultant image. In the place of an overexposed bright foreground, you will get a well-lit and exposed photo.

Daytime Outdoors

This is not to be contradictory, but you would only flash in a select number of scenarios when shooting in the outdoors. Most of the time, the flash is not required since the sun does all the heavy lifting for you. If your subject is immobile, I suggest that you tweak their positioning, possibly ensuring the sun hits the object from the side and not from behind. Alternatively, you could also employ the use of a polarising filter.

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Henri Findlay
My name is Henri, and I'd like to introduce myself. I've had a passion for photography for most of my life, and I spend a lot of time researching, purchasing, and using various sorts of photography equipment. I give you the most up-to-date and trustworthy information, either from my own personal experiences or from a variety of dependable sources.

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