Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Phone Photography Tip #9: Your flash isn’t really a flash

Welcome to Tip #9 in our series of “Getting The Most From Your Smartphone Photos.” Remember, each week we are bringing you an easy-to-use tip that will take your “unshareable” smartphone pictures and turn them into photos you’ll be proud to hang on your RV wall.

This week, we’ll tell you why you’re seldom happy with your smartphone’s flash pics, and what you can do about it.

Tip #9: Your flash is really a flashlight

If you’ve used your smartphone to take photos at night in dark places, you’ve probably used the flash that sits right next to the phone’s camera lens. You’ve also likely discovered that the photos produced with the flash are usually disappointing.

Every photo needs enough light. Your cellphone flash, however, rarely can deliver enough light to do the job.

That’s because the “flash” isn’t really a flash. It’s a flashlight. Smartphone manufacturers just figured out a way to have the flashlight “fire” in sync with the camera’s lens. But the flashlight, when fired as a flash, isn’t strong enough and doesn’t go off for long enough to produce enough light for a decent photo.

On top of that, you’ll have a problem with the dreaded “red-eye effect” on face portraits because the flash is far too close to the camera lens, and thus is reflecting light off the subject’s retina.

What you can do

The best way to avoid bad smartphone flash photography is to just not use it. Look for any other available light source, such as sunlight through a window or a strong lamp, to put light on your subject.

If you have a friend nearby who also has a smartphone, here’s an easy “hack” to give you the light you need: Have your friend turn on the steady flashlight feature of their phone. Then, have them hold their flashlight phone at a 45-degree angle from your subject, shining their light on the subject’s face, for instance. The steady light source should provide you with enough light to get a pretty good photo without using your phone’s flash at all. This works well for a single subject or two people. If it’s a larger group, add another 2 or more flashlights until everyone is lighted.

Then, fire away without using your own camera flash.

It certainly isn’t a perfect solution but will have to suffice until smartphone manufacturers do a better job of providing an actual flash to their products, instead of just a flashlight.

LAST WEEK’S TIP: “Tap and hold to set your exposure.”
NEXT WEEK’S TIP: “The best photo editing apps to use”

Mike Gast was the Vice President of Communications for Kampgrounds of America, Inc. for the past 20 years. Now, he’s the Managing Editor for RVtravel.com. His series of cell phone photo tips come from a lot of trial and error after 50 years of taking good (and also very bad) photos.



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1 year ago

During the daytime I’ll use the flash as fill flash. Gets rid of shadows from hat bills and such. Great for in the boat after catching and holding up the “big one!”

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