I know there are many die-hard believers of available light photography, who would rather throw their cameras down 20 storeys high building than choose to use flash in their photography.
I am a strong believer in available light. If you have seen even just 2% of what I have posted on my blog, you would see that more than 90% of what I shoot (street photography mainly) were done without aid of additional artifical lighting. However, I do not deny the advantages of enhancing an image using flash photography. I certainly acknowledge that careful and strategic use of flash can open up a whole new world of possibilities.
It all comes down to the ability of the photographer to understand the light, and apply it in his photography. Light is not perfect all the time. While most of the time utilizing available light may be the best solution, there are times the available light was simply terrible, or insufficient. Recognising that the light condition is poor, we have a few choices to make: 1) forget about shooting, lighting is everything, thus poor lighting = poor photographs 2) shoot anyway, and screw lighting. available light is king (you must be delirious) and 3) find ways to counter the poor lighting, for example, using flash!
I have encountered this situation while having dinner last night. I was served with a plate of beautiful burger, begging to be photographed (I know, I know, the internet is overflooded with food photographs, but do forgive me this one time to demonstrate my point in flash photography). I tried shooting without flash, and I did not get the shot that I wanted. No, the camera was perfect capable in shooting low light conditions, images came out clean despite high ISO setting, and I had an F1.8 lens so it was not an issue under low light. The problem is the light was poor, being flat, and uninteresting, with poor color cast. The initial image came out dull and honestly, not appetizing to look at.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8
1/25sec, F2.8, ISO400, FL50R, TTL +1.3EV, bounced directly off ceiling
I decided to use the flash.
1) I tilted the flash up 90 degrees so the head of the flash was facing the ceiling directly. The flash did not have any form of diffuser on it. It was direct ceiling bounce. The color of the ceiling was dark grey, hence I adjusted the EV compensation at TTL to +1.3EV (otherwise the image would be underexposed, due to grey ceiling).
2) I lowered the ISO from 1600 to 400, thus obtaining much better image quality in the final output. I used 1/25sec shutter speed and ISO 400 (as opposed to minimum ISO200 and higher shutter speed) to gather a little bit of ambient light, so that the image would still maintain some of the original ambient light, blending in the flash output nicely, producing a more natural output.
3) I can stop down the aperture (instead of shooting wide open especially in low light) from F1.8 to F2.8 so I can achieve more depth of field.
4) The flash just enhanced the overall look of the image. Better tones, contrast and definitely much favorable colors!
In comparison to the original shot, as shown below without flash:
ISO1600, 1/40sec, F1.8
So there you go, flash is not your enemy! Knowing when and how to use them are important. Do you use flash in your photography? Do share your thoughts and experience.