Thursday, April 10, 2008

Digital Camera Tip!

If you're like me, you prefer not to use the flash on your affordable (i.e. low-end) digital camera because of how the images get blown out with terrifying head-on lighting. So what do you do when the lighting is too dark to get a good image? You would either deal with the ugly flash, or get a blurry, grainy photo. That's how I thought...until my son came along.

As a first-time father with a week-old baby, I spend nearly all of my time outside of work with my family or cleaning the apartment. Oh, and of course, taking pictures of the little man. The other day he twisted into this reeeeally cute pose, and I snatched up the camera. The lighting was far too dim for a good exposure, and I didn't get the shot. And then I got an idea.

If I had a pretty nice camera, it would have an adjustable flash. That way I could tilt the flash up and bounce light off the ceiling to get better light. Sadly these little digitals lack that ability. So I retrieved a business card from my wallet and held it up to the flash at a 45 degree angle. The result was definitely better, but some of the light still shone through the card. A mirror would be better, but I don't have one small enough to fit against the camera and not get in my way. The solution: take an old drivers license or credit card and cover it with tinfoil. Yessssss! Here was something I could slip into my wallet or the tiny camera case for those indoor low-light emergencies.

I experimented with the angle you hold the card away from the flash and found that in most cases, 45 degrees will bounce just the right amount of light at the subject. Too great an angle and it's not as effective, and too shallow an angle bounces light away from your subject.

Here are some comparisons I got from experimenting with this idea. About 90% of the light in these photos comes from the flash alone. It should be noted that I am by no means a skilled photographer, so forgive the weak compositions. It's also worth commenting that there are some limitations to this technique. For instance, it works best in a room with a ceiling of average height. But another plus to bouncing your flash is that it eliminates red-eye. At least I think it should.

(taken in a room with no lights after dusk)

(left: normal, right: bounced flash)

(left: normal, right: bounced flash)

(left: foil card angled too shallow, right: angled at 45 degrees to flash.)

Hopefully you found this interesting and useful. If you did, or have other suggestions, let me know. That's all for now from the secret lab.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post a learned a lot from this. And nice, cute little baby... :)

David Suroviec said...

I read this last night and first thing in the morning, I made myself one of these. Well done sir!

rincewind said...

you're results left me amazed. I'm gonna try this and give my crappy old camera another chance before spending any money on a new one. Thanks!