After considering our previous instalment, no doubt you have some questions regarding how to do more. You want to get more creative and elaborate…well a whole new part of photographic hobby has just opened for you – fun with external flash.
Most Digital camera brands have their own external flash units available, which can be mounted on the cameras Hot Shoe. If your flash is what we call a ‘basic’ external flash (Such as Nikon’s SB400 Speedlite or Canon’s 270EX II Speedlite), it doesn’t do much except sit on top of the camera and point forward. This gives you basically the same effect as the pop-up flash – lighting is harsh and picks out every detail you probably want to avoid drawing attention to. The solution is simple – tilt it up. If you look carefully at these flashes you will see that both allow you to point the light upward and bounce it off the roof, which can dramatically alter the outcome of your shots and create a much more flattering tone. For many people this (combined with some of the tips in Part 1) is more than enough information to get the desired flash effects they want. However, if you wish to know the advantages of a more expensive flash, keep reading.
If you have a more advanced flash (Such as a Nikon SB700, or a Canon 430EXII) you will no doubt have noticed that you can not only tilt the flash up, but also swivel it from side to side and even backward. This opens up a range of options to you- if you bounce a flash off a wall to your right, the shadows will fall on the left side of the subject. If you point the flash up and backward, it usually results in little to no shadowing on the subject at all. Another option is to use a bounce card, which come built in to many flashes and can be pulled out of the top. They sit in such a way that when you point the flash directly upward the card pushes the light forward. There are larger bounce cards available, but many photographers are happy to use their built-in bounce cards.
Finally, there is the Diffuser. Diffusers are semi-transparent plastic covers which clip onto the front of your flash and effectively spread the light out, softening it. This allows you to point the flash toward the subject and still achieve a flattering tone without needing to bounce it at all. Nikon external flashes (the SB700 and SB910) come with diffusers included, but you can buy after-market diffusers for just about any flash out there. Bounce cards and flash diffusers are very handy for event photography, as they are portable and don’t rely on you being under cover to bounce light off of surfaces.
These more advanced flashes also offer the ability to adjust their settings with regard to distance/power as well as dispersion. Some have settings that will adjust their output depending on aperture, focal length and shutter speed. Some even include an infra-red beam to assist with auto-focusing in tough lighting situations. Learning about these settings is important and if you do own one of these flashes I suggest reading up on them, however as this is a basics blog I won’t go into it here.
That’s it for now; take some time to explore using your external flash and its various settings. Our next entry will focus on off-camera flash, and I’ll tell you how I took the picture in the first blog using only one flash. I promise.
Until then, happy shooting.