On-Camera Flash Questions for E-M10

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by greenfendr, Jun 18, 2015.

  1. greenfendr

    greenfendr New to Mu-43

    May 6, 2015
    Hello all, I'm new to "proper" photography, (besides going through a Holga phase and a series of cheap point and shoots) and bought an E-M10 as my first really nice digital camera. I've been wrapping my head around the capabilities of the camera, but when it comes to using the flash I always am unimpressed with my shots. I try not to use a flash, I prefer natural lighting, but I'm finding that my apartment just has too little ambient light to get good shots of my family. They seem too blown out, too 'obviously a flash was used'. I'm curious if anyone has any suggestions for settings. i've been reading up on 2nd curtain, which seems cool, but is it good for fast shutter speeds? is there any advantage to using that? Also, I don't understand when you would ever want to use 1st-curtain.

    I'm also wondering if I should just pony up and get an external flash, but I really would rather not have another piece to carry around.
  2. On camera flash is useful for only 2 things:

    1) weak fill, outdoors in backlit situations

    2) Bounce flash with neutral light tone ceiling/walls, if it can at least tilt.

    If you're talking about the pop-up flash, that limits you to 1.
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  3. PeeBee

    PeeBee Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 17, 2012
    With 1st curtain flash, the flash fires at the start of the exposure and is synchronised to the shutter speed. This has the effect of freezing motion. With second curtain flash, the flash fires at the end of the exposure, capturing movement blur before finally illuminating and 'freezing' the subject to present a sense of motion.

    If your flash images look blown, have you tried lowering the flash compensation?
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  4. You can also improve it somewhat with modifiers. It will reduce the blowing out problems a bit, but the angle and apparent size of the light source relative to subject will still be fairly limited when on camera. This is what gives the characteristic direct flash look.

    Try a bounce card (any white card will do) for the flash to bounce it off the ceiling, and see the difference.

    Another thing to try is reducing flash exposure compensation as was mentioned, possibly in combination with slow sync. It will mean more noise as you're relying more on the limited ambient light but it should make the flash look a bit less strong. This also might mean some double images between the ambient and flash exposure if you're using slow sync.
  5. PeeBee

    PeeBee Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 17, 2012
    As wjiang says, the small flash sitting just above the lens is far from ideal and should really be a last resort. I'm not a big fan of flash, but I use a Metz 24-AF1 when I have to. Its not very powerful, but its cheap, small and very simple. The head tilts up allowing the flash to be bounced off the ceiling and since it's powered by 2 AA cells, the camera battery isn't recycling the flash charge.

  6. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    While true it depends on your shutter speed. I use 2nd curtain pretty much exclusively and really only have movement blur when I want it by controlling the shutter speed.

    Fun fact: before 2nd curtain flash to create an image of a car with trailing tail lights in the right direction the car would actually go backward. Freezing the car in its initial location and then exposing the tail lights as they moved backward.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  7. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Set the ISO on your camera to 800 for a dim room or 400 for a room that is brighter (comparative to an office work area).

    Put your camera in Manual exposure mode, open your f-stop to the largest aperture (smallest number, eg. 1.8, 2.8, 3.5), set your shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, and set your flash mode for the lightning bolt (fill-in flash).

    The longish shutter speed will allow as much ambient light into the exposure as reasonable and the flash will help freeze the motion, even during a slow shutter speed.

    Take a picture.

    From here you can make some quick adjustments. If just your subject is to dim or to bright you can adjust the flash intensity (or flash compensation) plus or minus to change the subject exposure. Flash intensity is the option in the super control panel directly under the flash mode options.

    You also have the option of a wider f-stop (if possible on the lens you’re using) to add more flash to the subject or a smaller f-stop (larger number) to reduce the amount of flash on your subject.

    If just the background is to bright or to dim, adjust your shutter speed. A quicker shutter speed will darken the background while a slower shower speed will brighten the background. Don’t worry about shooting at 1/15 or 1/8 – the ISBIS will take care of lens shake ad flash will help to freeze you subjects.

    If both the background and the subject are to bright, change your ISO to 400, if both are to dim, change to ISO 1600.

    While the little pop-up flash is far from ideal, you can get some decent photos as long as the flash is not the primary light source, but that means slower shutter speeds and indoors. The more you turn up the intensity of the flash is when you will start to notice the ‘flash” effect.

    So two things you can do when in this circumstance, increase your ISO and decrease you flash intensity. If the camera flash is the only thing I have, I have used white Styrofoam coffee cups over the flash or thrown a while napkin over it to help diffuse the little flash.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2015
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  8. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2015
  9. gobeatty

    gobeatty Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 15, 2014
    FWIW, the built-in flash is a significant plus for me as I use my EM-10 as my family pix carry around camera. That said, like you, it's auto flash function isn't the best. Best imho is Nikon by a country mile (crazy good - really) and the DSLR Canon I shoot now doesn't compare. So yes - sometimes I just switch to iAuto and pop the flash up and get a decent result. Like others have noted, you can get a better blending with the available artificial light if you manually dial up the ISO. Just play with it. I have grabbed many spontaneous group shots that would have sucked big time without that little flash and I didn't have to bring a separate flash or dig one out of a bag and miss the shot while set the thing it up.
  10. Crdome

    Crdome Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 11, 2011
    West Central Indiana
    Certainly low tech, masking the flash head with a piece of white paper is an extremely easy and useful technique which softens the effects of the flash by diffusion. I have used this technique for decades, for literally tens of thousands of shots photo documenting 2D and 3D objects of fine art. These photos were taken using the masking process demonstrated shown here.

    Taping a small strip paper over the flash head will softly diffuses its light. This is typing paper. Depending on need and circumstances I often use a single ply of a paper napkin or even Kleenex tissue in a moment of need.

    Shooting distance here was len 12-18"

    Taping a small strip over the flash head will softly diffuses its light. Most often the flash will flash opens and close with no impact to that function.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2015
  11. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    My suggestion...go here -->


    Learn about off camera lighting nad how to bounce light and use light mods. You can get away with a cheap setup at first and then expand as needed.

    It will change your life once you figure out remote flash.
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  12. PeeBee

    PeeBee Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 17, 2012
    Even though I said above that a built in flash should be a last resort, its a last resort I'll use frequently when taking snapshots, and was a significant factor in choosing the E-M10 over another PEN model. Having to swap the EVF and flash when using the EPM1 has been a major PITA.

    My Canon seems to expose flash better than any of my m4/3. The Canon tends to be more sympathetic to highlights (maybe at the expense of shadow detail), where as my m4/3 seems a little less forgiving, at least without playing about too much with the settings.
  13. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    You failed to mention anything about the settings for your camera which may be causing the issue. Are you shooting in Aperture priority or what?

    Before messing around, or buying any supplemental devices, set the camera to automatic and take a shot. That will become your base point to see how the camera reads and responds to your particular lighting situation. Read the information on that shot. My E-M10 usually selects ISO 800 for many of such shots. Also note the shutter speed as well as the aperture it selected. From there you can go into your preferred shooting mode, mine is Aperture priority, and make the appropriate adjustments to settings. I would start out using the same settings as the camera. Note that in Auto mode it uses the I-Enhanced “Picture mode”. I suspect you are using a high ISO which you probably selected because of low ambient light. If so that will need to be reset to something around the ISO 800. Unless you are getting very critical with your photography, for grabbing shots of the family etc while that camera flash is not optimum, it is sufficient.

    Be aware that if you are attempting to get good flash dispersion with the camera stuck in their faces then you will always get blown out images as those flashes are usually setup for ranges in the 6-12 foot range. Back off and use the zoom to get close. As such it will produce coverage a bit better than the average point and shoot. I have tested my E-M10 in average room lighting conditions and at ISO 800, F3.5, 1/60 second, lens set to 14mm it provides pretty good coverage up to around 15 feet. Not too much past that.
  14. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
  15. greenfendr

    greenfendr New to Mu-43

    May 6, 2015
    Thanks, everyone, Lots of great info here. I've got a lot of ideas/concepts to play around with!
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