Today is the Super Bowl and MetLife Stadium will be filled with photographers of all skill levels. In case you’re lucky enough to be at the big game and plan to take some pictures while you’re there, or if you like to take pictures at large events like sports or concerts, there’s one major mistake I see everyone make with their camera – using the flash.
The flash is great for adding extra light to a scene that’s dark. It allows your camera to speed up the shutter, which reduces blurriness, and speeds up the aperture, which helps keep a wide depth of field (more in focus). What the flash isn’t good for is distance. you’d be lucky to capture a good image with your flash more than 14 feet in front of you. The other problem is that your camera will automatically adjust to the closest object toward you because it will be the brightest due to the flash. This is why you might find so many photos with the back of someone’s head is the only thing that turned out.
Instead of using the flash, you may need to venture into some manual or semi-manual controls. At the very least, understand how different functions of the camera work and work around them. When light is limited in a scene, the camera will do a combination of three things to compensate when the flash is unavailable. One of these things is that it will reduce the shutter speed, which is the open/close mechanism to let light in. This can introduce some blur into the photo, especially when there’s movement. It will also open, or speed up, the aperture. This is the lens opening that allows light in. The wider this is, the shallower your depth of field may become – this is the effect of a blurry background or foreground. If you want everything in focus, you may want to close the aperture more, which would restrict the amount of light entering the camera. The third thing your camera can do is increase the ISO. This is analogous to film speed, the higher the film speed or ISO, the more sensitive to light the film or sensor is. The catch is that higher speeds can introduce more grain and noise. It’s best to experiment with your camera’s ISO levels and look at them on a large screen to see how high you’re comfortable setting this.
Professional photographers may use a flash in these types of situations, but there are some tools and tricks to improve the outcomes. Part of the professional flash’s advantages are the adjustments that can be made on the flash directly.