You’re Using Your Camera’s Flash Wrong
This week, I spoke at a conference in Las Vegas. Afterward, my wife and I went to a highly recommended show called “Absinthe.” (It’s an extremely raunchy, screamingly funny show that mixes comedy with acrobatics in a tiny tent.)
The surprising part was this: They welcomed us, the audience, to take photos and videos. They asked only that nobody use the camera’s flash.
They hadn’t even gotten past the opening announcements, and I already loved this show. Their reason for prohibiting flash photography is simple: They don’t want you to temporarily blind the acrobats.
But that unusual announcement got me thinking about you, your camera or phone, and your flash.
Truth is, you shouldn’t use the flash at a performance like that anyway. Not at a sports event, not at a school play, not on Broadway, not at fireworks, not at the Olympics — because your camera’s flash is useless beyond about eight feet.
All you succeed in doing is wasting your battery, distracting the performers and blinding your neighbors.
Let me pause to acknowledge that thousands of flashes going off in a stadium look pretty. OK, fine. But that’s not the reason those people are using their flashes; they’re using them out of ignorance.
Nobody’s fault, really. You don’t get a lesson when you buy a camera. Nobody explains the thing to you. When flashes go off at performances and sporting events, it’s either because those people didn’t know their flashes were going to go off or they didn’t know how to turn them off.
Look: Most pocket cameras are flash-happy. Left to their own judgment, they fire the flash in way too many situations.
So here, then, I offer a public service: The Ultimate Guide to Your Camera’s Flash and How to Stop Using It Wrong.
Rule 1: Know how to turn the flash off.
Every camera has a lightning-bolt icon. That’s your flash control. On small cameras, it’s usually on the dial on the back, at the 3 o’clock position.
When you press it, you’re offered a choice of flash modes. Most often, you’ll want to force the flash to stay off (below, right) or force it to stay on (below, left, sometimes labeled “Forced” or “Fill”).
Now then. Many pocket cameras don’t let you control the flash in Automatic mode. “If you want automatic, we’ll give you fully automatic — and we’ll make the decision,” the companies seem to say.