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by Phil Ball

Q. In reviewing my holiday photos, I’m dismayed that the flash on my new little camera didn’t do a better job. Some of the images are too light and some are too dark and some are both!

A. After looking at the photos you sent, I’m quite sure that what you are seeing is the normal result of a small flash found on a small camera. It simply does not put out much light and gets dimmer with distance. Your dark pictures were all too far away and very little light reached your subjects. Your overly bright photos were taken too close. Most flashes on compact cameras only reach 10-12 feet or so. Look in the owner’s manual to find the actual distance of yours.

My best advice is to avoid using the flash at all. Turn the flash off on your camera (this is usually one of the choices when toggling the flash button or menu), raise the ISO sensitivity to say 400 or 800 (don’t get carried away; the quality drops as the ISO rises), and adjust your white balance to match the indoor lighting (e.g. tungsten or fluorescent). Turning off the flash solves all the afore-mentioned problems and the lighting will look more natural. Raising the ISO will help offset the darker conditions indoors. Adjusting the white balance will prevent off-color pictures. Run a few tests with your family before the next holiday and you will find yourself much happier with the photos you get from the very same camera.

Published: Courier 12/4/11 - Page 5C