Have you ever been out on the town or in a crowded conference hall, minding your own business, only to be suddenly blinded by a flash of light from an eager photographer? Have you ever been that photographer? A nice, bright flash can help you freeze the action and capture an image, but it's not always the best (or most considerate) way to take photos in low lighting conditions.
When considering using flash, be courteous to the people around you. We've already mentioned that a blinding flash can sometimes irritate others. More importantly, a bright or noisy flash could ruin important moments in life, like a couple exchanging wedding vows on their big day. When you know you need to use flash, be tactful about it, and find ways to minimize its effect on people.
Whether or not it's annoying, sometimes the flash just isn't necessary. A flash can freeze fast action, and it's a good substitute for faster shutter speeds when capturing movement in low light. The bright light and the harsh shadows a flash creates, though, flatten the subject and background. Little or no flash can capture more of the contrasts between lighter and darker parts of the room, adding depth and dimension to the photo.
When you do need a flash in low light, diffuse the light for best results. This breaks up the hard edges and shadows for a more natural effect. There's no need for a major equipment purchase for this, either. For starters, when you're indoors, you can point the flash upward where light can bounce off the ceiling rather than other objects in the room. Photojournalist René Edde also suggests double-folding a facial tissue to place over the flash, simulating a lamp shade for it [source: Edde].
Our next tip covers most essential part of low light photography: letting in as much light as possible.