flash photography introduction

Flash

introduction in flash photography world

Using flash in photography is also as important as having a camera. Flash is critical for any serious photographer to compensate for the low light level which account for a significant amount of moments when one need to take a picture. as a beginner in digital photography i have found that it is not as easy as just pressing one button as the result might be out of control. However in time once reaches a certain level of experience, you should be able to know what you are going to get and be in total control of the camera and flash.

talking about flash takes more than one article and one lesson, there are a huge number of books and websites covering the topic, but I assure you than it is not that complicated. we are going to start with the basic things you need to know about flash and we will explore each one of them in detail in our flash photography category.

Definition

Flash is a photography accessory that provides a powerful light to compensate for the lack of available light. as self explanatory and pretty obvious for anyone, having a flash on your camera is an absolute must.

Flash classifications

Flashes came in many forms and sizes, included in the camera or separate.
Speedlite Collection

image by professor Jones

Integrated camera pop up flash

Olympus E-PL1 Pop-Up Flash
Most of the compact cameras and medium size DLSR cameras have pop up flashes integrated and people do not need to worry about many things. Just set up on automatic they will trigger a powerful light when the light is not sufficient for a proper exposure. The advantages are the convenience for the shooter but this aspect is not our topic. They clear disadvantages of these pop up flashes in on a more enthusiast level DLSR’s are the lack of control of direction and the limited power. No matter what you do, you will end up with the same boring low quality light present everywhere on the internet. We are not going to spend more than this talking about it as this website is addressed to photography enthusiasts who care about quality of their photography

Individual flash units

The best investment other than the camera is a separate flash unit. They can be mounted on the camera designated hot shoe or even used with a cable or remotely. we are going to touch these possibilities in separate articles.

Having a separate flash is the way to go as today flashes have a lot of power and flexibility in changing the direction and also taking them off camera for a better lighting of the scene and stepping out of the direct flash results.

In today market one have the choice to select the same brand os the camera such as Nikon or Canon or choose third parties flashes, usually much cheaper with similar functions. Sometimes the flash does communicate to the camera and back and sometimes it does not, depending on compatibility. It is important to have a compatible flash to your camera as you will discover few advantages, not only the perfect synchronised trigger during the exposure but also feedback from the flash back to camera

Flash poer is of very importance and it measures how much light it can produce.The general rule of thumb is the more expensive the flash is, the more power it has. It is an important decision and sometime adding few extra dollars might in fact doubling the flash power

flash modes and settings

There are few things you need about flashes. If they are a matching compatible brand, the flash talks to the camera and back, The camera will know it has a flash attached to it and it will change automatic settings accordingly.this is important when selecting the flash ETTL mode (Exposure Through The Lens).

1. ETTL – (Exposure Through The Lens) – flash automatic setting

This mode is useful only when the flash has this function and it talks to the camera. Camera measures the distance and brightness to the subject and communicates this information to the flash which will adjust its power settings accordingly. This setting should be used carefully as the flash might not know if there are obstacles or other conditions that camera does not see. Also it can work the other way. The flash will send a infrared beam in low light conditions helping the camera to decide its exposure settings. anyway they both know about each other and adjust their individual settings to suit. This mode is recommended for beginners as it will save the situation in most of the cases.

A condition of the TTL to work is to point camera and the flash towards the subject, otherwise if the flash is pointed in a different direction the light will go sideways and the picture will not have the expected result

2. Manual Mode for flash

In this mode more experiences users can set up a specific power and the flash will use it, ignoring completely the camera settings. This is useful for bounce flash as the camera will never guess the height and colour of the ceiling or other bouncing surfaces and but the results will give a professional outstanding result. please note in the image below a shot of myself with the flash towards the ceiling which becomes a very large source of  reflected light

introduction to flash photography

 

The manual mode is the best way to go as the amount of light produces is constant and for an experienced user, this is the best way to go, without relying on camera=’s choice

the settings for manual will be form 1 unit to 1/2, 1/4 down to 1/128 in increments depending on flash types. 1/1 is the maximum power and the other settings are fraction of one unit. A full power unit for one flash might be different from another flash so it is important to know your own

3. Multi mode for flash

in this mode, the flash will trigger more than one time during an exposure and it is interesting multiple exposures. This is a nice feature but not useful other than night time for a specific result similar as per below.
Multiple Exposures on a Single Image

image by shanecanavan

we are going to treat each individual mode with the appropriate settings in individual posts

when to use and examples

1. ETTL fill in flash in day light

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using the ETTL mode only for fill in flash in full light or perhaps lower light just to compensate the exposure. ETTL is not useful in many other situations

as an example below, the first image is without any flash and you can notice a strong contrast

IMG_7810

In the image below we have used the flash on ETTL and that brings a bot more light on the face and softens the shadows. this is fill in flash function an it works pretty well in this instance

fill flash example

 

2. Manual mode flash any other time

We recommend manual mode ay any other time when one would use the flash, especially indoors with the bounce method . Flashes are like spot lights and their dimensions might create harsh shadows and that is why the best way to take advantage of their use is to bounce the light into a larger surface and have the reflected light acting as a new source of light, in many cases  with a much better result.

In the result below, you can notice that the light is soft and there are not harsh shadows due to a bounced light of the ceiling

basics of exposure

Conclusion

Flash is must for every photographer as more than half of the shooting situations do not have enough light for a proper exposure. Also the flash is a great tool to create light and if taken off the camera it might have spectacular results. As a photographer you need to understand and control the flash for an expected and intended result.we are going to explore in detail each individual setting and use with examples in different tutorials and articles.

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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and owner and principal photographer of Tudor Photography