Using the in-built flash in your camera has some limitations. A few things you will find are:
- light is often too harsh for subject
- can create harsh shadows & reflections
- picture can appear too "cool"
- light intensity is too low for distances over 3 metres
- red-eye effect is more prevalent
The use of a flash where you can control the angle and intensity of light is more preferable. A shoe mounted flash, usually called a speedlight, is the ideal solution and you don't need to be a professional photographer to get immediate improvement to your flash photography. Once you have a speedlight, the first thing to experiment with is angling the light from the flash away from the subject - this technique is called "bounce". Bouncing light off white ceilings is often very successful as the light will be diffused and scattered more evenly over the subject.
Speedlights have their own power source (batteries) and are often graded in quality by the strength of the light power that can be emitted. These types of flash units are therefore better for penetrating dark areas over longer distances than with your in-built flash.
Useful features on a speedlight are:
- diffuser - usually a piece of textured perspex that is integrated to flip over the flash globe when needed to soften the light emitted
- intensity control switch
- TTL metering
- slave sensor
- swivel head used for bounce