Beginners Tips for Using an On-Camera Flash

Every more experienced photographer will tell you to shoot with the flash out of and off of your camera’s hot shoe. It can give you a lot of limits, but some photographers need to shoot with the flash on the camera. These photographers generally end up taking their camera and the flash and pointing it directly right at the subject. But there are ways to take better advantage of what it can do. All of this starts with having a better understanding of what a flash is really designed for and what it’s supposed to do.

On top of this, you have to think about it differently.

Understanding Flash

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung GN58 Flash review photos (8 of 9)ISO 16001-50 sec at f - 2.0

One of the basics of understanding the use of a flash is to process that a flash isn’t necessarily about just adding more light–instead it’s about creating light that’s not there. To that end, it blasts light out and you can choose in what direction it does this. Many photographers starting out simply point it up to the ceiling when shooting interiors. This does the job but also creates shadows that aren’t very flattering. Instead, you have to think about using the flash to make surfaces into light sources. With that said, try bouncing the flash output off of a wall behind you or above and behind.

The Zoom Head

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung GN58 Flash review product images (9 of 10)ISO 1001-25 sec at f - 3.2

One of the things that many photographers underuse is the zoom head on the flash. What a zoom head does is adjusts the coverage of the flash on focal lengths. That means that it will become wider or more narrow. Consider this along with the fact that you’ve got the wide angle diffuser–which we’ll cover in a bit. But if you’re having trouble with the way the light is bouncing off of a surface or you want a more narrow beam of light, consider adjusting the zoom head accordingly.

The Wide Angle Diffuser

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce

My favorite tool that comes standard with pretty much every hot shoe flash is the wide angle diffuser. Essentially what this little thing does is spread how wide the flash coverage is. Generally what I’ve also found is that it makes the output softer because it’s being so spread out. If your subject is within a couple of feet from you, I recommend giving it a try.

The Bounce Card and the Expo Imaging Rogue Flash Bender

Mary and Tommy Sutor's Wedding Batch 2 (127 of 149)ISO 64001-30 sec at f - 2.8

Along with the wide angle diffuser, something I highly suggest you use is the Bounce card. This is the little piece of white card that comes up from your flash head. That little bit of light can add just enough kick to deliver a nice, hard shadow if that’s what you’re going for. Again though, only use it for a hard light that delivers a strong shadow. Otherwise there is another option that we love: the ExpoImaging Rogue Flashbender. Arguably this is the single best flash modifier out there as it lets you shape the light in so many different ways.


Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.