The difference between a snapshot and a photograph, the dead giveaway, is the use of flash. When used correctly, light can make for really dramatic photos. There are times when its just not good though. Flashes on any camera almost always wash out the faces and cast very harsh shadows. I learned a trick a few years ago before I bought a flash, to put a piece of white paper in front of the flash to diffuse the light. They also make things to snap over the flashes but they are a pain.
My main living area space has no real source of natural light. I hated to use the flash but sometimes you have to. It was only when I bought an off board flash that my camera really came alive, I could never get results like the one below with the popup flash:
And because I bounced light off a white ceiling, I was able to get this shot too:
You have to have a camera that as a hotshoe mount on the top:
(images courtesy of http://www.best-family-photography-tips.com)
And then you need to buy a flash compatible with your camera. My flash isn’t a Nikon (gasp!) I got my flash from Amazon, by a company called Digital Concepts.
I bought it when I had my d50 but it is still compatible with my d90 and the d3000 that I am reviewing. The flashes come at different power levels and of course price is higher for more power. I use flash only indoors when I have to. I also use rechargeable batteries. My flash pivots at a 90 degree angle so I can pick where I want the light to bounce. I sometimes use it on auto but most of the time its too strong so I use it to 1/4 the power and on this type of flash you just choose mode to get that. These flashes are bright, as in, you will definitely scare babies if you try to aim one of these at them. My favorite place to position it is to direct the light right over my left shoulder, and that produces wonderful results like this:
When you are thinking about buying a better camera or just looking to get better results from what you have, look into getting yourself an off camera flash. They only cost around 100 bucks for the one I bought. I can tell you right now that unless I am outside, all the product pictures that I post that readers and PR reps rave about, are done with bounced flash. Its definitely one of the best accessories I ever bought for my gear bag!