This is the sixth in an eight-part created by me, Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo, for the amateur family photographer. These tips are simple, quick things you can do to vastly improve the photos you take. I will be using photos that I have taken in my role as the family photographer, not images taken with high end cameras, complicated techniques nor studio lighting. These are images that ANYONE can take, many of them shot with a point and shoot camera.


Professional photographers spend years learning how to work with light. The goal is to make their artificial light look like beautiful, Rembrandt-style, natural light. But why spend all that time learning how to modify light when the real thing is right in front of you? I am going to show three examples of using natural light versus the on-camera flash. For those of you using a point and shoot, you may have to consult your camera manual to learn how to turn the automatic flash off, when you so choose. Also, in darker situations, it would be nice to know how to turn your ISO up a bit, maybe to 800 if you can.

My first example is shooting indoors at night. Roman’s birthday is right before Christmas and Leo’s is right after, so the holidays are really big for us. It is right before bed and Roman is playing with his new train that he received as a birthday present from his Grandma and Grandpa Oguntoyinbo. First I photograph him using the on-camera flash. This photo is fine for capturing the action but it is rather bland.

In this second version I turned the flash off. I think that this image captures the scene much better- a quiet, dark room with the beautiful, twinkly Christmas lights. The only caveat with using no flash indoors is if you inadvertently shake camera the image will be blurry. In this case, I was down laying on my stomach on the floor. I put my elbows on the floor and used my body as a tripod so that the camera did not shake.

Next we are indoors but during the day this time. Most point and shoot cameras automatically turn on the flash when you are indoors. Often there is plenty of good light indoors to use. At least it is worth a try! In the first example the automatic flash came on. This illuminates the subjects closest to the flash but almost always renders the background very dark. In this case my background is ugly and messy,(see tip 4) so maybe that was a small blessing, but normally I would like to see what is going on in the perimeter as it adds detail and information to your image.

In the image below I tried again. I used a plain background and had the girls stand close to a large window with the flash off. I think this works much better! When on the automatic setting your camera may see the bright light outdoors and choose the shutter speed and aperture based on that, which would result in a photo of two dark silhouttes. Make sure your camera is choosing its setting from your subjects faces rather than the bright background. You can do this simply by turning the camera a bit. If you are feeling more brave pull out your camera manual and learn how to use your manual settings. Or, if you have exposure compensation set it at +1 or +2 stops.

Finally, we are outside in front of a bonfire. First I let the on-camera flash do it’s thing. Again, this is not a horrible photo but the second photo with the flash off captures the mood of the evening much better, don’t you think? Again, you need to be careful of camera blur. So I sat down, put my elbows on my knees and create more stability for my camera.

Thanks for reading the sixth part in this eight-part series! Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for photo stories. I can be reached at