[Lesson Plans Banner]

Flash in Photography

Marvin Hamai
Mililani High School, Mililani, Hawaii

Subject: Photography
Grade: 9-12

"The use of the open flash technique proved to be especially difficult....[But] we realized that this type of photography created illusions that the students found exciting."

Purpose of Description of Project

This project involved advanced photography students in the creation of unique photographic images with the electronic flash unit. The students created, developed, and mounted portrait, still life, and special effects slides that were to be combined in a slide/tape program reflecting their creative efforts.


Marvin Hamai invited two professional photographers to make presentations to his students: the first showed the class several of his slide/tape productions, and the second showed his slide program on how to use the electronic flash and explained how he used the electronic flash in his own work. Both photographers suggested different ways of using the electronic flash (e.g., to bounce light off walls or ceilings to produce a softer effect). They answered students' questions at the end of each presentation. Hamai also showed his students Kodak's audiovisual slide presentation "Using Flash Effectively." With Hamai's guidance they learned to use manual and automatic flash units, adjust the aperture and synchronize flash with shutter, bounce off of surfaces, create multiple flash exposures, perform open flash experiments, use the electronic flash with daylight, and stop action.

The students then used what they had learned as they took portraits, still lifes, and special effects shots. They took their slides during class and after school, and often served as models for each other. Small groups of three or four students also experimented with night-time photography. Hamai's students were required to develop and mount their own slides; they did this in pairs using E-6 chemicals. The final step was an in-class group evaluation of all the students' slides. A slide/tape presentation was not completed because it proved to be too ambitious an undertaking for the time available.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

The slide presentations by the professional photographers and Kodak provided an "outstanding introduction," according to Hamai. He also provided written references on photography in general and the electronic flash in particular.

Students were required to provide their own cameras , and most owned either a manual or an automatic/dedicated flash unit. They made use of the school's existing darkroom facilities to develop their slides. Additional needed equipment included tripod, copystand, slave trigger, light stands, diffusion screen, umbrella, bounce cards, and a slide projector.

Outcomes and Adaptability

Hamai plans to continue this activity as part of his regular curriculum in advanced photography despite the fact that given the time necessary to explain and use the electronic flash, the slide/tape program was not feasible. After viewing the professional slide programs, the students needed little motivation; they were all full of ideas on how to proceed and what they wanted to try. They showed a great deal of creativity in their experiments using the electronic flash, although not all the slides turned out as expected due to exposure problems. However, their knowledge of light sources and how to intensify or soften light to change the mood of a photo did seem to have improved. Hamai finds the project an overall success on two levels: "a unit like this can stimulate the students' interest in creating different images as well as reinforce some of the basics such as exposure, lighting, stopping action, and processing."

Hamai suggests that the project could, with a little imagination, be adapted to any photography class. To ensure as much photographic success as possible, he highly recommends the use of a flash meter and lower speed films .

| More Lesson Plans | Digital Learning Center - Educators |