|Lori and Howard - with and without fill flash|
It is true that cell phone cameras are convenient, and that they can take a good picture. More people are carrying cameras than ever before; enough evidence of that is on You-tube anywhere you look. But those images, both video and still, are not what they could be.
There are a myriad of features which compact and larger cameras have over cell phones ones. One of those is the flash. Now, many of you will tell me that your cellular device has a "flash" built into it, but in truth it is little more than a bright flashlight. It helps reduce red eye and can augment an exposure in perfect dark, but really that's where the similarities end. When dutifully put to the task of illuminating a subject at any modest distance, especially is the sun is up in any manner, those built in so called flashes fail miserably.
Case in point is the above photographs of our friends, Lori and Howard Allan. We had the pleasure of joining them on an adventurous cruise to the southern Caribbean earlier this year (March, 2018). There were lost of walking and talking and exploring, not to mention card playing and eating, There were evening shows and musical events to enjoy too. And then there was the scenery. It was spectacular.
I captured a good many images, some of which I may eventually post, but I wanted to talk today about the benefit of flash. My cameras are DSLRs and as such have the capacity to use a powerful external flash unit. The allow me to do something special called a fill flash photograph. It is really simple to do, and compact cameras are capable of doing them too, but you won't get a shot like this out of a cell phone.
The first thing to notice is that the background is properly exposed. The first rule about doing fill flash shots is to make sure the background comes out looking good; I usually set my controls to manual, although aperture or shutter priority can work. Once I know the background is taken care of I turn on the flash. The tricky part here is convincing the camera to use the flash, because if it can take a photo of the background it should also do the foreground. The trouble is that the lighting on the foreground may be different or it may have only part of the same lighting. This is where things like hats block part of the face. Fill flash takes care of those problems.
The first shot is without flash; the background is properly exposed. Yes, you could ignore the background and just expose for the people, but then you loose all details of where you are. The shot could come from your front lawn or balcony and you wouldn't know the difference. It turns out this is pretty much what a cell phone shot would look like, even with flash turned on. That is because there is just not enough light to compete with the light shining behind the subjects.
Camera flashes, especially external units, have much more power and can illuminate their subjects much more completely. The second shot uses the same settings as the first, but then has the light from a flash filling in the dark front shadows. The difference is amazing.
Certainly, by all means, continue shooting with your cell phones, because they capture those moments of life which would otherwise go unregistered. However, if you want something more demanding which your device can't do well, turn to a proper camera.