Photographing ghosts

Today I have an extra scary photo tip for you – how to photograph ghosts.

The trick is actually simple, we will take a simple, everyday and solid object or person that will play our ghost – we will take our photo and remove the “ghost” from the scene in the middle of the exposure so it leaves a ghostly semi-transparent image in the final picture.

There are just a few simple tricks you need to know.

First, the background, you need your background to have lots of detail that will show trough the ghost, a solid color background or a background with very little details will just not create the ghost effect.

Also, the background has to be a very different color than the ghost, if the background and ghost are of similar color the background will “fill” the ghost and make it look solid.

The second thing you need is a long exposure, I use 10 seconds because if we use a shorter shutter speed it’s difficult to time the rem0oval of the ghost and if we use longer shutter speed it makes it to likely something that shouldn’t move will move and ruin the shot – especially if there are people in the shot.

Obviously for 10 seconds you will need  a tripod or some other way to steady our camera, a remote shutter release will also help because it will let you take the shot without touching (and moving) the camera.

Even more obviously, you don’t want flash (flash will “freeze” the scene and make the ghost solid but blurry instead of transparent), normal indoor room light will probably be just fine.

You can switch the camera to S or Tv mode, set the shutter speed and let the camera choose the aperture or use manual mode and set everything yourself.

You will want a small aperture, on a DSLR probably around f/11, so the background will be in sharp focus and show trough the ghost, luckily with such a long shutter speed you will need a small aperture to prevent over exposure – you may want to set your ISO to a low value to prevent the aperture from being too small.

Now that everything is ready, get everything and everyone (including the ghost) into the right pose and start your exposure, at some point during the long exposure quickly remove the ghost (or, if the ghost is a person get him/her to run out of the frame).

From my experiment you should remove the ghost about 70% into the exposure (that is,  at second 7 out of a 10 seconds exposure), this will create an image that is solid enough to be clearly visible but transparent enough to see the background trough it.

That’s it for today, happy ghost shooting.

Photography under florescent

Florescent lights are everywhere – they come in all shapes and sizes, they are inexpensive and they are energy efficient – they are also one of the worst light sources for photography (the bulbs used in street lamps and some industrial warehouses are much worse – but you rarely find those while photographing while florescent bulbs are everywhere).

There are two problems with florescent lights – flicker and color.

Flicker is the worst of the two, florescent lights flicker, they constantly cycle between different intensities and color, each cycle takes 1/50 or 1/60 of a second, depending on where in the world you are.

When your picture captures just part of a cycle you can get a strange color cast, incorrect exposure and even colored bends in you photo.

To demonstrate I’ve the camera to continues shooting mode and a shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second and pointed it at the round florescent bulb that is right above me, I’ve left the shutter button pressed for about 5 seconds and got a lot of pictures of the same light bulb, I’ve combined them for your viewing pleasure (click image to view larger version):

You can clearly see the color of the light changes between pictures and if you look closely you can also see the amount of light the bulb emits changes drastically between shots.

So what can we do? make sure we capture complete flicker cycles, here the electricity frequency is 50Hz (in the US it’s 60Hz, in most of Europe it’s 50Hz) so I’ve set the shutter speed to 1/50 of a second so I capture one complete cycle and re-run the experiment:

Those 16 identical images are different pictures – it’s just that the total amount and color of light of a complete cycle is completely consistent.

And if a shutter speed of 1/50 or 1/60 does not give you correct exposure you can select a longer shutter speed that covers complete cycles – in the US this will be 1/60 for one cycle, 1/30 for two, 1/15 for four, etc. and in Europe it will be 1/50 for one, 1/25 for two, 1/13 for four and so on.

If you remember in the beginning I’ve said the second problem of fluorescent lights is color – so I took just one more picture of that same light bulb, but this time with I’ve set the white balance to daylight:

If you look at the white ceiling around the light bulb you will see it’s green! you can fix this by setting your white balance to fluorescent – but if you have both fluorescent light and daylight or indecent light in the same picture this will cause a strange color cast that’s hard to fix.

If you mix indecent and daylight you can get the indecent to be white and the daylight to be cold blue or the daylight to be white and the indecent to be worm yellow – both will produce acceptable images but if you throw florescent into the mix you get a green cast – and unless you want people’s skin to look sickly green (or you are photographing zombies) you really don’t want a green color cast.

Also, unlike daylight and indecent light (and light emitted by fire) there are some wavelengths of light that are completely missing from fluorescent lights, this will cause some colors to look completely different under daylight or fluorescent lights – and this can’t be fixed by setting the white balance.

Luckily, the color issue with today’s fluorescent lights is not nearly as bad as it used to be and we can expect (or at least hope) this will continue to get better.

That’s it for today, hope this helps you the next time you take photos in a fluorescent-lit room, see you next week.

Photographing Screens

This week we will talk about photographing computer and TV screens, we will only talk about LCD and LED screens because the older CRT screens that are much more difficult to photograph are mostly not used anymore (thankfully).

Today with LCD and LED screens you can actually get pretty good results by just aiming the camera at the screen and snapping away, but there are still a few things that can go wrong:

Glare and reflections

This is probably the most common problem when photographing any reflective surface (including screens, obviously).

Glare happens when light from any source is reflected on the screen and obscures the actual image that is displayed, in the following image there’s a small desk lamp on camera’s right shining into the screen:

Glare is easy to predict, light that hits a surface is reflected at the same angle in the opposite direction, in the diagram below the red lines represents the leftmost and rightmost rays of light that hit the screen, the yellow area is where the light is reflected into, if the camera is in the yellow area you will see glare, on the other hand if the camera is not in the yellow are you will not see glare – that simple.

In the next picture, I moved the camera to the other side of the screen to get out of the glare area and I got a nice glare free image:

Another option is to move or tilt the screen so to change the glare area without moving the camera or to place something between the screen and light source to block the glare.

Bad exposure (image too dark or too bright)

The camera is designed to think everything you photograph is on average middle gray (at least in brightness if not color), this works out really well because most scenes are in fact, on average, close enough to the brightness of middle gray.

But this fails miserable if what you are photographing is mostly white or mostly black – and since most computer programs today use a white background you are vey likely to hit this problem when photographing computer screens.

In the following picture I loaded a picture that is half pure white and half pure black and used spot metering to expose for the white side – the white is gray-ish and everything is dark:

And then I repeated this for the black side (the picture is blurry because I took it hand held and the shutter speed wasn’t fast enough, please ignore the blur):

To fix the problem I’ve used an image manipulation program to draw a middle gray box on the screen and used this for metering (zoomed in so I see only gray in the viewfinder, switched to Av mode, set my preferred aperture, half pressed the shutter to see the shutter speed the camera selected and then switched to M mode and set those values).

With the exposure set I took another picture of the black and white image and this time both the white and black are correctly exposed.

Tip: if you can’t get both correctly exposed reduce the screen brightness.

Note that for accurate results I should have metered using 18% gray but just choosing somewhere in the middle of the L slider (of the HSL color representation) gets me close enough.

Incorrect white balance (strange color cast)

After we got the exposure right it’s time to also get the colors to display correctly.

To demonstrate the problem I’ve used Google image search to look for “red” and found a nice image of a red rose (image from here), just photographing it gets us an image with muted dark colors:

This is because the camera sees all this red and assumes that some of the color is caused by the light being red – so it makes the picture less red to compensate.

To fix this I’ve used the same gray image I’ve used for exposure to set a custom white balance (check your camera manual to learn how to set a custom white balance) and now I’ve got this:

Tip: you can shoot in raw and set the white balance in post processing, just make sure you have at least one shot where part of the screen is pure white or neutral gray.

Balancing screens with ambient light

Screens are pretty bright, especially with the factory default brightness setting (that is designed to be so bright it catches you attention from across the store), room that have screens in them are usually not so brightly lit – this makes taking a picture with both a well exposed picture on the screen and well exposed background difficult.

To demonstrate this I’ve placed a green toy dragon on top of my screen and turned the brightness all the way up (back to the factory setting):

To bring back the dragon I’ve simply used flash, to avoid causing glare I’ve used what we talked about in the beginning of this post, I’ve moved the flash to the side where it almost doesn’t reflect into the camera and used a black card to “hide” the screen from the flash to remove what’s left of the glare):

This is very much a “flash picture” with all the typical flash shadows, but it was easy to take and we see the dragon – I will write about eliminating flash shadow in a future post.

Flicker (vertical or horizontal stripes)

LCD screens have a florescent tube at the back of the screen and florescent lights flicker (they change both brightness and color), you see this with very fast shutter speeds, video cameras and cameras with electronic shutters (where the camera often reads the sensor line by line and not all at once).

To solve this you have to set the shutter speed so the camera picks up an entire flicker cycle (or several cycles).

In the US the electric frequency is 60Hz (so one cycle is 1/60, two are 1/30, etc.) in most of Europe the frequency is 50Hz (1/50 for one cycle, 1/25 for two …).

LED screens don’t have a fluorescent tube and should not have this problem (but I don’t have a LED screen on my desk to test this)

Moiré patterns (rounded lines)

Moiré patterns usually are rounded stripes that appear when there’s a fine pattern on the subject where the details are two big to register as a solid color but to small to show up correctly (in order for a shape to show up it has to be more than 2 pixels in size).

Here I’ve displayed this vertical lines on the screen (the diagonal and rounded lines are moiré patterns).

This is difficult to fix in post processing and the best option is to minimize the patterns while shooting, you can do this by moving closer of farther, zooming in or out and changing your camera angle (or making sure the subject doesn’t have small repeating patterns).

Noise (random dots)

Any decent camera will only have visible noise in dark areas and screens are pretty bright so noise shouldn’t be a big problem, but it can still appear in dark areas of the image and around the screen.

For the next picture I’ve maximized noise by setting the screen brightness very low, the camera to very high ISO with a narrow aperture and fast shutter speed and I’ve took a 100% crop from a dark area.

To minimize noise just get more light into the camera (increase screen brightness, use a wider aperture, a slower shutter speed or if the noise is around the screen add more light).

 

That’s it, see you next week.

Silhouettes

This week we will talk about creating silhouettes.

Silhouettes are created when the background is considerably brighter than the subject and you expose the image for the background and not the subject.

In this post we will cover 4 different situations where you can easily create silhouette picture.

But before we begin there are 3 important things to consider when shooting silhouettes:

  1. Shape – In a silhouette you only see the shape or outline of an object, not the details – so it’s important the subject have a distinct recognizable shape, sometime, especially with people you will want them to pose in a very exaggerated pose so the shape is recognizable and they don’t become a shapeless blob in the photo.
  2. Background – because there is no detail in the subject the background details become much more important, make absolutely sure to get your background right.
  3. Focus – if you focus on the subject the background may be blurred (and remember all the colorful details are in the background), if you focus on the background the edges of the silhouette can be blurry – you can choose what you prefer or you can use the hyperfocal distance to get them both in focus.

Sunset Silhouettes

Warning: Don’t look directly at the sun, especially trough an optical viewfinder, even at sunset (electronic viewfinders and live view are safe). Don’t point the camera at the sun for more than you absolutely have to, especially in live view mode but also when the shutter is closed.

Using the sunset as a background for your silhouette shoot is easy:

  1. Take a shot of the sunset without your subject
  2. Make sure you like your sunset image, check the image is not over exposed and doesn’t have any blown highlights
  3. Use exposure lock or manual mode to keep your camera on the settings you used for taking the sunset image
  4. Place your subject in the frame, compose and take the shot

Remember to work quickly, during sunset the light can change pretty fast.

Silhouettes against the daytime sky

The sky during the day is pretty bright and you can use it as the background of a silhouette – especially if your subject is in the shade.

This is best done if there are some clouds (because we want details in the background) but not if its completely overcast (because we want the sky to be bright)

For this example I’ve placed our good friend the toy lion on a light stand, set the camera to spot metering mode and took a picture basing the exposure only on the lion and I’ve got this:

You can see the sky is completely blown out (actually this is not a bad white background product shot) this is a good start because the same brightness difference that over exposed the sky will under expose the lion and create the silhouette, here is the same photo but this time metering for the sky:

They sky are no longer bright – because we metered on the sky they became “middle brightness” – the lion is not yet a silhouette because we have too much light (after all, we are outside in the day time and there’s not a could in the sky), to turn this into a silhouette we need to load this into an image editor of some sort (I’ve used the free paint.net) and open the curves window:

The important thing is that even with the sky too dark and the lion too bright the sky is still much brighter than the lion, we drag the point at the lower left corner of the curves graph to the right – this means “make everything that’s darker than this pure black” – drag it along the bottom until the subject is completely black.

Now, to fix the sky we drag the top right edge of the graph to the left, this will make the non-black parts of the image brighter (just stop long before the sky goes pure white).

This added a bit of noise to the image (because I worked on the JPEG, it would have been much better if I used raw) so I’ve used the “reduce noise” option of paint.net (that is pretty bad, but good enough for this image that only had a little bit of noise) and this got me this:

 

Creating silhouettes in a “studio”

I don’t have a studio, but I do have a living room I can use when no one else is home – I’ve used some toys for the background, I’ve place a flash without any diffuser at full power very close to the background and set my camera to correctly expose the background.

I’ve placed a toy giraffe as far from the background as I could, this means that the flash-subject distance is much grater than the flash-background distance and that means the subject get’s very little light (remember the light falloff post?).

Right out of camera I’ve got this image:

There’s still a bit of detail in the giraffe, I could use curves or levels adjustment to make it completely black but I like it the way it is

Silhouettes with a pure white background

And last but not least, silhouettes against a pure black background – this combines the studio silhouettes above with the white background technique I’ve talk about in the past.

I’ve just set the camera so the giraffe came out completely black with an off-white wall behind it (as far away from the wall as possible) and I’ve place my flash near the wall pointed at the area behind the giraffe, I’ve than set the flash power to the minimum required to over expose the wall so it’s completely white (by taking a few test shots) and I’ve got this:

There are some parts of the background that aren’t pure white, but they aren’t touching the giraffe and so are easy to fix (or crop), for the next picture I’ve painted them white and use the level adjustment to make everything that isn’t pure white go black:

We are back (finally)

Sometime last week my web hosting company installed an update on the computer that was running this site, that update had the unfortunate side effect of making this blog stop working.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to get the blog working again and finally I’ve decided to just move the blog to another server (using different technology and hosted by a different company).

Now the blog is finally working on the new server and within 24 hours or so everyone in the world should be redirected to the new server.

I’m very sorry for the downtime, the promised post about silhouettes is already written and will be posted in a day or two (just so I can make sure the server move was completed successfully) and if you are on a smartphone you may have noticed that jus before the blog went down I’ve made some changes to the blog’s theme to make it work better on small devices.

Taking a picture of a room interior with the view outside

Today we will talk about making a picture that shows both the inside of a room and the view trough the window – and we’ll do it when the view outside is in direct mid day sun.

Let’s begin with two test shots just to show the problem:

For the first shot I’ve used spot metering to expose for the outside, it is very bright outside and I wanted to add a flash later so I’ve set ISO to 100 (the lowest value on my camera) and the shutter speed to 1/200 – the camera’s max sync speed (the “max sync speed” is the highest shutter speed you can use with a flash), I’ve let the camera select the aperture and the camera selected F/11 and I’ve got this:

The outside is a little bit under exposed because all the white in the picture (but not by much) and the inside is completely dark.

For the next shot I’ve metered for the inside, I’ve let the camera do all the work by spot metering on somewhere in the room that is a little farther than the window and the camera selected f/5 at 1/3 of a second (ISO is still 100) – this got me this picture:

This picture is a little bit over exposed and the colors are washed up (the washed up colors are probably caused by lens flair from the bright light outside).

What those picture show us is that the difference in brightness between the inside and the outside is way to big to capture in a single image.

Now, since the whole post is about capturing both in a single image it’s pretty obvious I’m going to do something to fix the problem – and that something is to increase the brightness of the room to match the outside.

I’ve connected my cheap YN465 external flash to the camera (the built in popup flash doesn’t have the power for this) and pointed it directly up into the ceiling so the reflected light will illuminate the room evenly.

I’ve put the camera in manual mode and set it to expose correctly for the outside, then I’ve taken a few test shots at different flash power settings until I’ve got the inside brightness up to where I want it to be.

For this picture I’ve set the flash on full power and opened up the aperture a bit to f/7.1 to get a bit more light both for the inside and the outside.

Note that the outside is still much brighter – this is because I didn’t want to make the inside and outside the same brightness, I don’t want to hide the fact that it’s eye-hurting bright outside and a little dark inside – I just want to get them to the point I can capture both in the same picture (if I did get the inside and outside to be at the same brightness it wouldn’t look natural).

Now that we got the camera and flash settings dialed in we can bring in our model and start taking pictures:

If we try to take that picture without the flash we will get a silhouette – and that’s the topic for next week.

Understanding camera modes

All DSLRs and a lot of smaller cameras have a mode dial on the top, the cameras that don’t have a physical dial always have a mode menu somewhere – in this post I’ll quickly cover all those modes, what they are for and when you should use them – I’ll also comment on what modes to use when learning photography.

There are a lot of cameras out and they don’t all have the same modes (and they have different names for the same modes), so, if you see a mode on your camera that isn’t on the list just leave a comment and I’ll update the list – and if you see a mode on the list that isn’t on your camera that’s ok, not all camera’s support all modes.

So, here are the modes in order of automatic-ness starting from the most automatic:

Full auto/ full auto with no flash – In this mode the camera does all the work, modern cameras are actually very good but they don’t know what you are photographing and they don’t know how you want the picture to come out – so the camera will try to make all the safe average boring choices and this is likely to result in a safe average boring photo.

This is a good mode for “safety shots”, photos you take just to make sure you have something if the picture you planned to take doesn’t come out right.

If you see a once in a lifetime event getting a few pictures on auto mode just to make sure you got it is a good idea – and while you’re learning taking an auto shot in additional to a non-auto shot is smart because you are likely to get some badly exposed photos until you learn to use your camera’s other modes.

For learning I recommend using this mode only for safety shots, you are not learning anything while in this mode.

Scene modes (portrait, landscape, etc.), CA, A-DEP – Those are automatic modes where you tell the camera what you are photographing, those are likely to result in a better picture than full auto mode because the camera can make a more intelligent choice about what settings to use.

Those are good modes for people who are not interested in photography and don’t want to learn about aperture, shutter speed and the likes.

For learning I recommend not using those modes at all because, like full auto mode, you are not learning anything while using those modes.

Program (P) mode – In this mode you can use all the camera’s option but not set the aperture and shutter speed directly.

For learning I recommend using P mode for a little while to get a good feeling of selecting the correct ISO to and using the other camera’s features and then moving to A/Av or S/Tv modes.

Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode – In this mode you set the aperture and let the camera choose the shutter speed, in this mode the camera does not make decision for you because for each aperture value you set there is just one possible shutter speed.

This is a good mode for non-action shoots because it let you control the depth of field directly, with exposure compensation and exposure lock you can also override the camera’s light meter when the camera gets the exposure wrong – but you should consider switching to M mode if the camera gets the exposure wrong.

Note that on Canon DSLRs in Av and Tv modes the flash is used as a fill flash only, so if you want to use fill flash just switch to Av or Tv mode, on the other hand if you want the flash to be the main light source you should use either M or P mode, on Nikon the flash is the main light source in P,A and S modes and to use fill flash you should use M mode.

For learning this is a very good mode to use most of the time.

Shutter Priority (S or Tv) mode – In this mode you set the shutter speed and let the camera chose the aperture value.

This is a good mode for photographing moving objects because it let you easily choose a fast shutter speed to freeze motion or slow shutter speed to create some motion blur.

Everything I wrote about aperture priority mode also applies to shutter priority mode.

Manual (M) mode – This is a mode that let you set everything manually, it is very useful in a wide verity of situations (I’ll write about those in future posts) and is easier to use than people think.

For learning getting comfortable with manual mode is extremely important.

Bulb (B) mode – This is a mode where the shutter remains open for as long as you press the shutter, in cameras that don’t have a dedicated B mode you can usually use M mode and set the shutter speed to “bulb” to get the same results.

Movie mode – Used for shooting video, obviously.

 

Those are the camera modes, and as I said in the beginning, if you can’t find a mode your camera has on the list just leave a comment below.

Look at the background

If I had to choose the one most important composition tip it would be to really look at the background before you take a picture.

When we photograph something we concentrate on that something, on the subject of the photo – after all that is what we are photographing, and when we concentrate on one thing we ignore everything around it (that is what concentration is after all – so when we take a photo, unless we make a point of looking at the background, we just don’t see it.

This tends to lead to disappointment when we look at the photo and see our great subject in front of an ugly dirty trash can (or, for pictures taken indoors, in front of a pile of dirty laundry).

This leaves us with two options – the first is to digitally remove the problematic object in the background (the few latest versions of Photoshop are absolutely amazing at that), the other option is to fix it while taking the picture and make a mental effort to look at the background before pressing the shutter.

“Fixing” the bad background is actually easy If you notice it, the easiest option is to move your subject to a better background (if possible) but you can also move right or left to throw the problem out of frame, you can shoot down the use the ground as a background or shoot up to use the sky, you can even use a flash to make the background brighter or darker in relation to the subject.

So next time you take a picture before you press the shutter take a look at the background, look for trash, dirty laundry and other objects you don’t want to include, look for mess and clutter and while your at it look for objects in the background that blend in with your subject (we’ll talk more in the future about separating the subject from the background)

Using zoom to control the background

It’s obvious we can zoom in and out to make our subject bigger or smaller in the frame and to control the amount of background in the photo – but many people don’t realize that we can control those two factors individually by also using our legs.

For todays demonstration I’ve attached a teddy bear to a lightstand to get it to about human height (just one of the fun things you get to do when you write a photography blog) and placed it in front of a tree.

I zoomed all the way in and took this picture:

Not bad at all, the tree gives us a a nice dark green background for the entire frame, this is a very good setup if I wanted to take a portrait shot.

An interesting thing about this shot is that it could have been taken anywhere – the tree in the background is sort of a low cost replacements for a background stand with some textured fabric roll on it (and the weather cooperated by being all cloudy and giving me nice soft portrait lighting)

You can’t tell if the picture was taken in my back yard, in a forest or in a city in front of the only tree on the street – this is a good thing if you want to to a studio-style portrait but pretty bad if it’s a photo from your last trip and you want it to show where you were (or if you want to include some of the environment because it tells something about your subject).

I then zoomed all the way out and moved closer so the bear looks about the same in the frame, I didn’t move the bear (or the tree) at all, the only thing that moved is me, also, I moved in a strait line in the direction of the bear, I didn’t change my shooting angle – and I’ve got this:

Suddenly you see a whole lot of the environment, bad if you want to focus only on your model but very good for an environmental portrait or a vacation photos.

The effect is easy to understand if we use a diagram (and I just love diagrams):

There’s just one important detail to remember – people look bad when photographed from a very close distance, so don’t take this technique to the extreme at the close end.

When use your camera’s built in flash (flash basics 2)

The first post in the flash basics series was when not to use flash, as I said in that post I love flash photography (and loving it more every day) but the camera’s built in tiny flash is very limited and we have to work within it’s limitations.

Basically there are only 4 good reasons to use your camera’s built in flash (that I know of):

Fill Flash

Surprisingly the best time to use on-camera flash is when there’s plenty of light, to demonstrate this I’ve convinced a garden gnome to pose for me in the bright mid-day  summer (well, spring) sun, to help with this bright eye-hurting sum I’ve let the gnome use a hat.

As you can see the gnome’s face is in the shadow (in real life the gnome is quite bright) especially you can see dark shadows below the eyes – sometimes those are lovingly referred to “raccoon eyes” – but if we add a little flash:

The shadows on the face aren’t gone (we don’t want them gone) but they are much lighter and not nearly as bad.

To use fill flash on a Canon DSLR just use the Av mode and pop open the flash.

On a Nikon DSLRs it’s a bit more complicated – half press the shutter in your favorite shooting mode and look at the settings the camera selected (aperture, shutter speed and ISO), now switch to manual mode and set the same values, pop up the flash and you’re ready.

On some compacts you have to switch to a special fill flash mode or enable fill flash in the menu, sometimes you will also want to lower the flash power when used as fill, the setting for flash power is usually called “flash exposure compensation”.

When it’s the only way to get the shot

Basically sometimes its better to take a bad picture than no picture at all – but this is not an excuse to use flash when it’s ineffective, only use flash when:

  • The subject is close – your flash maximum range 3-5 meters (approximately 10-15 feet) depending on your camera, and this is for cameras with “real” flashes, if you are using a cell phone with a LED flash the range is even shorter, anything farther than that is just not lit by the flash.

    If you are at a show or a sporting event the action is way too far away the light from you small flash does not reach the stage at all.

  • Long exposure is out of the question – if the subject isn’t moving and you have a few seconds to set up you can still use the ambient light – just switch your camera to “no flash” mode and put it on something steady (or at least lean against something steady) so it doesn’t move.

    This won’t work if it’s completely dark (extremely rare those days) or if the ambient light has a really bad color cast (unfortunately a lot of street lights are like that)

Triggering off camera flash(s)

This is a good reason to use on-camera flash – but a bit too advanced for the second post in the flash basics series, maybe we’ll talk about it in a much later post.

Getting creative

Photography is an art – and there are techniques that use the built in flash to get a specific effect (and not every effect has to make people look good) – if you have a creative technique to use the camera’s built in flash please share in the comments.