To Flash Or Not To Flash

I’ve been meaning to do a tutorial on flash for some time.  I can’t seem to get motivated though because, well, flash sucks.  I know what I need to know to use flash at wedding receptions.  But, I never use flash in my every day photos.

So, instead of doing a tutorial on flash, I want to show you a couple of examples of how I compensate not using flash for night shots.

I loved this Christmas tree, but when I first took a shot it was a bit too dark and I already had my ISO bumped up to 1600 and my aperture wide open at 1.2

*** Canon 5D Mark II, 50 1.2

F 1.2, 1/125, ISO 1600


I noticed that there was a light shining on the tree a couple of feet over.  I simply moved Brayden over a few steps and it dramatically improved the picture.  I am constantly looking for other sources of light that I can use.

*** Same settings


When shooting with a wide open aperture AND a slow shutter speed, it’s really easy to get motion blur.  For this shot I was kneeling on the ground.  I rested my right elbow on my right knee to steady myself.  Kind of like a human tripod.  Yes, there’s still a little motion blur.  I don’t really care though because I’m just so in love with the look on her face.  And I love how the motion blur in her hands shows her excitement (I just wish the lady in the yellow jacket would have gotten out of my shot!).

F 1.2, 1/125, ISO 1600


If you’ve read this blog for awhile you know I’m a huge proponent of shutting off the lights when shooting inside.  At night that’s not really an option.  For this shot I kept the lights on.

F 1.2, 1/125, ISO 1600


The fluorescent lights make it super yucky.  Next week I’ll show you an easy way to fix that in Photoshop!  Happy Friday


  1. Palak says

    Honesty, one of the best tips I got about using flash was from this site. It was about lengthening the shutter speed so the rest of the light in the room could sort of fill in and reduce the harsh lighting effect of the flash. It’s really helped me quite a lot. I think along with the tips from this post, I’m well armed for holiday shooting!
    Palak´s last blog post ..Easy Peasy Paper Pom Pom Ornaments

  2. Joanne says

    This is a great little tutorial with pics to help explain – thank you.

  3. Jamie says

    So many things I love about these photos:

    (1) B’s pose
    (2) K’s face!!!!
    and (3) the hats!!! My kids will not keep hats on at all. I love the K wears her hat everywhere she goes. :)

    love those kiddos!!!
    Jamie´s last blog post ..The Magic of Christmas

  4. April says

    Love this post! Would love more tutorial type posts with different examples of settings and what they result in. Especially as concerns avoiding using the flash!!
    April´s last blog post ..Baby Must-Haves

  5. Melanie says

    I would LOVE to read a flash tutorial on your blog! I’ve taken an online class and read a few books but they were still way over my head. I can get by with a high ISO, wide aperture, long shutter speed etc. but when the kids are moving (for instance opening presents!) you don’t want to ask them to be still so you can get a decent shot. You have such a great way of making things easy to understand and as a mom, you get that kids move a lot! :-)
    Melanie´s last blog post ..A New Year’s Portrait Session!

  6. Abbie says

    Extremely helpful! Thank you very much. Will you still be doing a tutorial on fixing the fluorescent lighting in photoshop?

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