Adjust your camera for better flash pictures

Week of July 18, 2004

Q: I have a Canon S-40 digital camera which I dearly love. While in Brazil, a friend with a Sony digital camera and I were taking the same flash pictures at the same time and distance. Her flash pictures were bright as if taken in day light while mine were disappointingly dark.  I have checked the owner manual to see if the flash can be adjusted to increase the power of the flash. Apparently it can in the manual position. However, I have experimented but still not satisfied. Is there anyway to increase flash power in the auto position, which would improve the brightness of the picture?

-Jack G. Trojan, Whitewater, WI

A: Your camera has a “Flash Exposure Compensation” function you can use to make your flash pictures lighter or darker. The symbol for this function looks like a box with a little flash icon and a plus and minus sign separated by a slash.

You can adjust the exposure in 1/3 increments up to a maximum of +2 or –2. Every +1 you adjust the flash exposure compensation will double the lightness of the image. Every –1 will make it twice as dark.

I suggest you find the ideal setting by taking a series of pictures and adjusting the flash output by thirds in the positive direction. Open the images on your computer and see which one looks closest to correct to you, then set your camera accordingly.

It may be that your flash is not powerful enough for the shooting distance and your camera sensor’s sensitivity. You can increase the camera’s sensor’s sensitivity to light under the ISO setting. As you increase sensitivity, the image may become somewhat grainy. This is referred to as noise. The more you increase sensitivity, the grainier the images get. I recommend a maximum of ISO 200 for point and shoot cameras.

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