Can you provide some tips for getting better results using the flash?
Think of flash photography as another form of available light photography, but with some control. For the most part, people shoot in the AUTO flash shooting mode, unaware that they can use the flash more creatively.
One of the main issues encountered with flash photography is underexposure of distant subjects, such as trying to shoot indoor sports such as high school basketball. As the distance between the flash and the subject becomes greater, the light is spread thinner over a larger area, eventually to a point at which the flash cannot adequately illuminate the subject. This is due to the Inverse Square Law. To get a better understanding of the Inverse Square Law, in a darkened room, point a flashlight very close to a wall and then back away. You will see that as the circle of light grows wider it also becomes dimmer. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “light falloff.” A flash in a point & shoot camera has relatively low power compared to an accessory flash that would be used on a DSLR, so its effective distance is much less than that of an accessory flash. The flash in a point & shoot camera may be effective up to 10 or 12 feet. The effective distance of the flash can be increased by selecting a higher ISO for flash photography.
Another effect of light falloff is dark backgrounds behind the subject. For example, a flash photo of a group of people may have the wall behind them underexposed. This is because the wall is farther away from the flash, so the light reaching the wall is spread thinner.
Your camera has four flash modes.
In the AUTO mode the flash fires automatically in low-light or backlight conditions. If the camera senses that there is enough light for an available light exposure, it may not fire the flash. When the flash does fire in the AUTO mode, it actually fires twice very rapidly. The first flash illuminates the scene so that the camera can calculate how much flash power to use, and then fires the second flash when the picture is taken.
In low-light situations, the pupils in people’s eyes dilate and the flash can illuminate the inside of the eye, much like a cat’s eyes appear in headlights at night. However, human retinas are red, so when the pupils are dilated the result is redeye. This occurs with point & shoot cameras because the flash is very close to the lens axis. The REDEYE flash mode fires a series of flickering pre-flashes to cause the pupils to close down so the area illuminated in the eye is not seen by the camera. The REDEYE mode is not infallible, so there are options in Olympus software to remove the redeye.
The FILL IN mode tells the camera to always fire the flash. This can be very useful. A common scenario is someone standing in front of a large bright window. In the AUTO mode, the camera may think there is enough light and not fire the flash. Using the FILL IN mode, the flash will fire even if the camera thinks there is enough light to not fire the flash. The FILL IN mode can also be used in daylight to fill in shadows when subjects are standing in the shade or have a hat on with a brim that is shading their face. It can also brighten up foreground details in outdoor photos, such as if you are at an open-air market. You might try shooting outdoors with the FILL IN mode for awhile and see if you like the results.
The FLASH OFF mode disables the flash so it will not fire under any circumstances. You frequently see flashes going off at concerts and sporting events when the camera is set in the AUTO flash mode. Since the subjects are so far away, the flash cannot illuminate them (though there will be an overexposed picture of the back of someone’s head who is sitting in front of the camera). Using the FLASH OFF mode will save battery power by not needlessly firing the flash.
Flash exposure can be controlled using the Exposure Compensation function in the camera. A minus value will make the images darker and a plus value will make the images brighter.
Your camera may also have some REMOTE FLASH functions – RC and SLAVE. The RC function can be used to remotely fire Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flash units. Refer to the camera manual and the flash manual for using the RC Mode. The SLAVE function can be used to remotely fire flashes that have a slave option. In the SLAVE mode, there is no pre-flash. The camera flash and the off-camera flash are fired simultaneously. You will have to refer to the manual for the flash unit to learn how to enable the slave function on the flash.
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