I still think more photographers should shoot with a flash. Here are some reasons:

1. More freedom to shoot, whenever.

This is my favorite photo of the scene, because I like the girl looking at the toys, and the man looking outside of the frame. Santa Ana, 2018
RICOH GR II with Flash. Santa Ana, 2018

With a flash you can shoot all hours of the day; whether morning, noon, or night. Also all lighting conditions; you can shoot with a flash sunrise, mid day, indoors, sunset.

The problem with a lot of “available light” photography is that you become a slave to the light and lighting conditions. For example if you’re shooting zone focusing on a Leica rangefinder or film camera at f8 or f16, you cannot shoot like that when it is dark. With a flash, you can zone focus whenever, and anywhere, irrespective of the lighting conditions.

2. Improved saturation and color

Kodak Portra 400 shot with Flash

When shooting film or digital, color photos with flash are more saturated and vibrant.

Portra 400 without flash

Thus as a general tip, whenever you have the opportunity or option, photograph a scene with and without flash. Some photos will end up looking better with a flash, some photos look better without a flash.

Contact sheet. Tucson, 2014

3. Separation with background

Walking woman. Kyoto, 2018
Walking woman, Kyoto 2017. Shot on RICOH GR II, flash, JPEG, and ERIC KIM CHROMA Preset

When you shoot with a flash, you separate your subjects from the background. They “pop” out more from the background, which gives your photograph stronger “figure to ground” (separating your subject from the background).

Generally many of our photos fail because we cannot identify the main subject in the photo. We need to be able to detect the edges of the subject in your photo in order to understand and appreciate the photograph.

4. More dramatic photos

Film Leica MP, f/8, flash at 1/8th power, 1.2 meters
Film Leica MP, f/8, flash at 1/8th power, 1.2 meters

Whenever you watch film noir or any Godfather film, look at the light. The light is angled and dramatic.

The light itself can create the drama! By controlling the flash, you can control and create the drama in your photos!

5. More random effects

Out of focus street photo with flash, woman with clear umbrella. Tokyo, 2017
Out of focus street photo with flash, woman with clear umbrella. Tokyo, 2017

The great thing with shooting with a flash:

More randomness, chaos, and unpredictability in your photography.

It is impossible to know what a flash photograph will look like until you shoot it!

Flash umbrella street photograph with red and blue. Kyoto, 2017
Flash umbrella street photograph with red and blue. Kyoto, 2017

Thus, if you’re bored with your photography, or feel there is too much predictability in your photography, shoot more with a flash!

Conclusion

Shooting with a flash (especially in street photography), is more risky, bold, and uncertain. But this is what makes photography fun.

Shoot uncertain!

ERIC

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