MAKE THE MOST OF INTERNAL FLASH
While not the first choice for photographers requiring advanced lighting effects, built-in flash can be a valuable and versatile asset
Built-in flash has somewhat of a bad reputation amongst serious photographers, who often do not feel it is flexible enough for regular professional use. It is true that external flashguns provide lighting that is easier to work with and that internal units have their limitations. The light from these flashes is known for being harsher, due mainly to their small size, which results in a limited spread of light. The softness of flash light is directly related to the size of the source, resulting in built-in flash producing a harder light ‘hotspot’. Furthermore, the majority of integral units cannot be angled in any way, instead directing the light straight at the subject. Therefore, unlike with speedlights, which can be angled to bounce flash off a wall or ceiling, it is easy to create an unflattering bleached look to skin, with patchy blown highlights. In addition, it is difficult to produce genuinely directional lighting, for which offcamera flash can be used to enhance texture or structure in the subject. There is also the matter of limited control – speedlights usually provide full customisation of the flash power and output, to easily blend flash light with the ambient light in the scene. Since this is not possible with integral units, it can be difficult to avoid flash falloff.
However, these weaknesses aside, there are benefits to be found with your DSLR’s internal flash. Firstly, internal flashes are always present and are powered by the main camera battery, meaning it is impossible to leave for a shoot without a flash or for the batteries to run out of power. Beyond this, professional speedlights are large and heavy, so there are weight-saving advantages when travelling.
It is possible to adjust flash output to some degree and there are options for diffusing light from your flash, however the greatest method of expanding its usefulness is to use it as a wireless trigger for same-brand external devices. Either way, it is advantageous to know how to make the flash on your camera truly useful.