Digital Photography: Shadows, The Bad Kind

No this isn’t a post about the opening few minutes of the Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore movie Ghost.

This is a post about how you can effectively use your flash in the daytime.

“Flash in the daytime, are you nuts?”

Yeah, maybe, but that’s beside the point.

Okay, you’re outside in the middle of the day, the blazing sun is scorching overhead, you get everyone lined up for your family photo/memorable event and “Click”, you take your picture. The result looks something like this:


Digital Photography No Flash Normal

So, since the picture is taken under a shade tree, you decide to use some flash. Okay, but let’s not overdo it.

Let’s start with a “flash compensation” of -1, or so. 

What is “flash compensation”, you ask. Flash compensation is where you tell your supersmart point-and shoot camera that you know it’s got those big , bulky, flash muscles, but you don’t want to overdo it, so would it please, please, just use a little flash to help out your picture?

(In reality, most point-and-shoot flashes will not overdo it in the daytime, but you never know, and you should always talk nice to your cameras. They like to be flattered , too.  Hey, I’ve seen Transformers, I know if those small electronic devices ever do get animated…, I don’t want them ticked off at me.

So, after you ask nicely, here’s what your camera gives you.

Digital Photography Flash Normal

Much, better right? Not the model, the result… It’s a camera, not a plastic surgeon.

Now that we’ve covered “flash compensation”. Let’s talk very briefly about “exposure compensation”. Exposure compensation is where you tell your point-and-shoot or fancy D-SLR that you like the results, really, but you want to darken everything in the picture. Note: Exposure compensation, when you tell the camera to darken or “step down” the exposure, will turn down everything on the camera, including the flash!

Exposure compensation is a global adjustment meaning it will control everything on the camera to darken the image however many exposure levels you want it to. Most of the time these settings are in 1/3 increments, so you can darken the image in small adjustments. If you increase the “exposure compensation” on the camera, it still keeps most of the same settings, but brightens the image by the amount you tell it to.

Here’s an example of the same picture with a -1 exposure compensation setting without flash.

Digital Photography No Flash Minus Exposure

And here is the same picture with an exposure compensation of -1 with flash.

Digital Photography Flash Minus Exposure

So, just keep in mind, you can decrease your flash with the “flash compensation” setting on your camera. But, you decrease all of the controls when you modify the “exposure compensation” setting on your camera. 

Here is a side by side of normal and -1 on the exposure compensation setting.   Notice how much darker the sky is in the background? Even the flash output is less, because it was changed with the “exposure compensation”.  Less exposure will darken everything in the picture.


Digital Photography Side by Side Exp Comp

I hope this gets you one step closer to taking more control in  your pictures and becoming a better photographer.

See you next time.

Digital Photography Basics , , , , , ,


  1. Kevin Bettencourt

    Absolutely love stopping by. Your lessons will save me a ton of aggravation.

    Las Vegas Air Conditioning Repair

  2. Clare Delaney

    Yet again you’ve made something complicated, simple!

    (And I always enjoy your humour).

    Eco-Friendly Tips, Articles & Products

  3. That was an interesting tutorial . The flash is more useful than I thought .

  4. Hi Dewayne,

    I like how you aim to empower people to know and control their photography variables. Thank you for your generosity in teaching and sharing so much information.

    I sent an email….

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Online Dating Texting Tips Textetiquette

  5. Sales trainings most common costly mistakes

    I had no idea that using the flash on my camera during the day would help.
    Thanks for sharing cool tips about how to use a camera
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Sales trainings most common costly mistakes
    Now go implement!

  6. A little flash really does go a long way to taking and making
    a better picture!

  7. I didn’t know the flash compensation option of a camera! I think that can really help to improve many pictures! Whish I had known that before!

  8. It’s amazing what difference the flash makes during the day with pictures.

  9. I,too,enjoy both your humor and your ability to make the complex accessible to others.
    Sonya Lenzo

  10. I’ve taken many photo’s with bad shadows. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Way to explain things to us lay people…

    Sales Expert

  12. The more I read this blog the more attractive the hobby of photography becomes. I don’t really want yet another hobby but geez…with these lessons on here it may be easier than I previously thought!


  13. Well now I’m waiting for the Transformer camera and just tell it to compensate accordingly (and I will do so nicely :)) …

    Who’dda thunk to use flash during the day … ahhh, professionals, like YOU!

    Best, Neil