Guests at your nephew’s birthday party squint from the light of your flashgun. Your indoor photo shoot resembles a nuclear test site. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably time to master the use of external flashes. Not only can an external flash illuminate dark scenes better than an inbuilt flash, but it can also grant much-needed control and add a creative aspect to your photography.

Understanding Your Flash Objectives

Before imbarking on your journey with external flashes, it’s crucial to identify what you aim to accomplish. For instance, you might use an external flash to eliminate shadows, create a three-dimensional effect, or mimic natural light. Your objective will guide you towards the right flash and help you get the most out of your equipment.

Essential Gear: Flash Units

A good starting point in your flash photography journey would be understanding the types of external flash available. Straight flashes or ‘hot shoe’ flashes, for example, provide a versatile solution for most scenarios. Ring flashes can be perfect for close-ups or portraits, while macro flashes can illuminate even the smallest details of your subjects.

Mastering Flash Settings

Once you have chosen the right flash for your needs, it’s time to familiarize yourself with its settings. Here is a quick breakdown of the key settings and features you need to know:

  • Mode: This controls how the flash emits light. The TTL (Through The Lens) setting is the standard and adjusts the flash’s output based on your camera’s metering.
  • Zoom: This adjusts the spread of the flash’s light. A wider zoom setting will cover a larger area, while a narrower setting will focus the light on a smaller area.
  • Compensation: You can use this to tell your flash to emit more or less light than it would by default under a given mode.

Using External Flash Techniques

Now that you’re familiar with your gear and settings, let’s explore some basic techniques for using external flashes….

After mastering the settings and functions of your external flash, it’s time to experiment with the various techniques that pros use to create breath-taking images. One common technique is bouncing the flash. This involves angling your flash so that the light hits a ceiling or wall before reaching your subject. The resultant softer light reduces harsh shadows and provides a more evenly lit photo.

Complementing Natural Light with Fill Flash

Another technique is using the flash to complement natural light, commonly known as fill flash. This technique is especially useful in daylit outdoor shoots where the sun can cast dark shadows on your subjects. By using your external flash to ‘fill’ these shadows with light, you ensure that every detail of your subject is properly exposed.

Flash Diffusion for Softer Light

For softer, more natural-looking light, flash diffusers can be your best friend. These attachments spread the flash’s light over a larger area, diminishing shadows and decreasing contrast. They are great for portraits and indoor shoots.

Synchronizing Flash with Camera Shutter

You can also experiment with the synchronization of your flash. High-speed sync (HSS) can help capture fast-moving objects, while rear curtain sync can create interesting light trails in your shots. Understanding these techniques is sure to boost the diversity and creativity of your photography.

Investing in the Right Flash for Your Needs

With so many external flashes on the market, it can be a daunting task to decide which one is for you. Our top recommendation for amateur photographers is the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT for its easy-to-use interface and versatility. If you are on a budget, we recommend the Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite, which offers great value for money without sacrificing quality.

Incorporating other Elements

Beyond just using a flash, remember that great photography incorporates many different elements. A well-placed external flash can do wonders, but so too can the right lens or the proper understanding of filters effects on your images. Consider flashes as one piece of your larger photographic puzzle.

In conclusion, mastering external flashes doesn’t have to be intimidating. With practice and the right equipment, you can create professional-quality photographs, whether for family gatherings, professional shoots, or just your personal hobby. So pick up that flash, start experimenting, and prepare to take your photography to the next level!

What’s your favorite external flash technique? Drop a comment below and let us know!