Take your photography to the next level with a flash

16 04 2011

If it’s something that every photographer should own it’s a flash. From experienced professionals to beginners looking to break into photography a flash is one of the most important tools in a kit.

Purchasing a flash will open up a new world of photographic exploration. It’ll allow you to experiment with lighting and fill flash allowing your abilities to grow. Most DSLRs on the market already have a built-in pop up flash which is good but limited. The problem with relying on your pop up flash is that you’re always going to have the same lighting. Straight on, hard light which will result in unflattering images.

Shot with pop up flash

Notice how there are no shadows, and the image looks very flat and washed out. That’s because the light is coming straight on at the subject which will wash out the skin tones, replacing them with a shiny unflattering sheen. This is how red eye is caused in photos. It’s because of the light hitting the back of the eye. Also, pop flash is extremely restricting in the fact that you can only shoot light at one direction.

If you’re looking to spice up your images, invest in a hot-shoe mounted flash. I recently bit the bullet and purchased a Nikon SB-600 to use on my D90. The SB-600 has Through The Lens (TTL), Intelligent Through The Lens (iTTL) , and it uses commander mode. Also, the SB-600’s head can tilt and swivel, allowing for the light to be bounced off surfaces or diffused, which makes it a pretty versatile flash unit. I picked mine up at Best Buy for about $219.00 but since the new SB-700 came out, prices on the SB-600 should go down and you may even find them on Craigslist for cheap.

Having a flash, and being able to experiment with lighting is a great way to spice up your photos. If you want to get even fancier, you can buy a sync cord which will allow you to take the flash off your camera allowing you to play around with different lighting setups.

Here’s an image I shot with an off-camera flash. I positioned the flash to the side of my subject, which will provide hard, directional light to create those dark shadows on the opposite side of the face.

Shot using an off-camera flash

Notice how much different the two images look. The one shot with pop-up flash is ugly, and unflattering. There are not shadows or textures in the image and the subject has red-eye. Now look at the bottom one. By using an off-camera flash, I can reposition the light source where ever I want, giving me complete control over the final image. The bottom image is much more appealing, notice the shadows, textures, skin tone, and lack of red eye. Making a flash one of your greatest assets.




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