Flash Fingers :: Digital Photo Secrets

Flash Fingers

by David Peterson 9 comments

No, it's not a new kind of fish snack, but instead something to watch for when taking your next night-time shot.

A reader of my tips, Bob Johnson, sent me an email last week asking if I could help.

Hi David,

Have enjoyed your lessons and have learned a lot.

I have a problem with flash which you may be able to help me with. Some of my indoor night shots of groups of people are not turning out well. Generally the right hand side of the picture is well lit by the flash while the left hand is not. I generally use AUTO.

Not all shots are like these though. My camera has face recognition and I am wondering if this might have something to do with it.

I am at a loss to understand why and wonder if you know the answer

Bob Johnson

Well, Bob, this is a common problem when using the flash with smaller cameras - and fortunately it is very easy to solve.

The reason that only some of the photo gets the flash light is you have obscured some of the flash with your finger! It's very easy to do - I have done it myself countless times! Particularly with smaller Point and Shoot cameras. When I hold the camera ready for the shot, my finger accidentally covers some of the flash, and because it is hard to shine a light through our body parts, the flash is obscured.

How do you know if this is the culprit on your shots? Look for the following:

  1. Some subjects in your photo are dark, while others are brightly illuminated and all your subjects are the same distance from the camera;
  2. It doesn't always happen when you use the flash. Sometimes your photos are fine;
  3. It is always one side or the other that is darker. Either the left or the right. Rarely both.

The solution is to pause just before you press the camera shutter, and see where your fingers are. If they are covering the flash (or the lens itself!), move them away before you take the shot. Or check your photo after you take it. If there is a dark area, take the photo again after removing the offending finger!

Thanks for the question, Bob.

Most people think this post is Awesome. What do you think?


  1. David says:

    I love taking pictures and with all of these new cameras it is so much easier

  2. David says:

    I love taking pictures and now with all these great new cameras it so so much easier.

  3. Les Powrie says:

    Something not mentioned that I remember from pre digital days - if the shutter speed was too fast (it had to be 1/60 sec or longer) the shutter curtain blocked out the light of the flash - that tends to give a very straight boundary between dark and light. Your description of fingers obscuring the flash are surely the correct diagnosis here. I had not thought of that, and have not had that problem.

  4. Geo says:

    Hi David, recently I take some pict with my Alien Bee 800 and 400. I don't know why the picture was out of focus and with a lot of noise. So, I was used Iso 100, my camera was set up in the tripod, I used cable relase, and the aperture was 22 and speed 250, this was the reading of my light meter (Sekonic L -558R). let me know how can I send the picture for evaluate it if you need.
    Thank in advance.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Hello David!
    Thank you for adding Q&A to your photo tips! What a great idea!

    I have a photo that looks great on my laptop and on the LCD screen, but when I printed it, everything was blurry. I tried several different professional printers, but I just can't get the people in focus. The picture is of my brother-in-law's wedding and its one of the only ones taken of the bride and groom before it started pouring. So it is an important shot for me to get right. I had to Shop out part of a no parking sign on a column behind the groom. Could that be what is distorting the rest of the image?

    Thank you!


  6. Feathers Mk 2 says:

    G'day Dave. I've never had a problem with my P & S camera along these lines, but when using "fill-flash" for close-ups, I do cover part of the flash lens with a finger to reduce the amount of fill as required to get the light level I want.

    The major advantage of digital photography is that many photos can be taken just 'playing around', to get the feel of the camera, and an idea of just what it is capable of.

  7. Vivek says:

    Hi David,

    How effective is Expodisc, will it make a drastic difference in photographs. Next when ever I shoot the preview in LCD looks amaizing that's due to the size and looks great, but when I get it to my laptop it looks not so good and sometimes blurry any suggestions.


  8. David Peterson says:

    Hi Melanie,

    Yes, photographing people with different skin colors can be a problem. Can you email me your photo and I'll take a look and see if I can explain it further in a future tip.


  9. Melanie says:


    I've had a recent problem... I wanted to take a picture of two of my friends in the late evening, using my flash but no matter how many times i tried, turning the head of the flash side ways, frontal and so on... I could never get them both equally on the picture. Notice that one friend has an extremely dark complexion and the other one is really pale.. So the last one was over exposed to the light of the flash and the other one was left in the dark...

    How can I solve this problem for I am clueless



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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.