Most beginner photographers start their journey using only natural light. As they progress and develop their style, some choose to learn and master flash photography, while others choose to refine and perfect the natural light aesthetic. While there is no “right” or “wrong” path, a strong understanding of flash photography is important to have, even for photographers with styles defined as “natural light” or “bright and airy.” A full understanding of flash gives a photographer full control over a scene, regardless of the weather or ambient lighting conditions. That is NOT to say that all photographers MUST use flash, but rather that they should have the knowledge and expertise to use it when doing so would create a better image or an image more in line with their creative vision.
Here is the outline of this camera flash guide:
After a certain point, natural light simply just isn't enough. Here are 5 of our top reasons as to why you should use flash:
When it comes to photography as a professional, you want control & precision. You don’t want your camera making decisions for you because it makes it hard to replicate settings, figure out how to troubleshoot, or even give you creative control. Let's understand the difference between TTL and Manual Flash:
Flat Light: Flat lighting faces directly into the subject from the angle of the lens. Flat lighting is the least dramatic lighting pattern because it casts the least amount of shadows on the subject’s face.
There is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to the artistic world of photography, however, there are looks that do tend to go better for specific situations. Let's discuss the differences between the 4 different qualities of light.
The balancing act is simple in theory: lower flash power combined with longer shutter speeds offer a more natural look, and higher flash power with shorter shutter speeds will create something more dramatic looking that no one would ask, “did they light that?”. Look at the scene in which you’ll be shooting and think of how you want the background to look, without paying as much attention to how the subject will be exposed, again working within the parameters of your camera’s flash sync speed. Once you’ve got that look dialed in, we can go on to the next step – adding the flash.
When working with flash, your aperture will determine how much of the flash gets to the sensor. This means that if you’ve chosen a wide aperture for your desired background look, you will need less flash power to get your ideal exposure. The power of your flash is determined by your desired look and you can see on the slide from Lighting 101 above, for a natural look you'll want to decrease flash power and brighten your ambient light exposure.
The Inverse Square Law states that any physical law stating that some physical quantity or strength is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.
Bounce flash does not work in every situation, but it provides a great solution for indoor venues with low, neutral or bright ceilings. If the ambient light in the room is an unusual color, such as blue, try using daylight colored light (flash without a gel, temperature set to 5500K) to more naturally light the subjects in the scene. Otherwise, if you use a gel and set the temperature to 3200K, the subjects will look yellow or orange, and after adjusting the white balance in post, the blue lights will turn a deeper shade of blue. Ultimately, gel (or don’t gel) to match the dominant light color in the room.
Direct flash has a very distinct purpose and looks when used correctly. Often times, amateurs point the flash straight forward because they want to fill the face with light in dark situations make the subject look like a deer in headlights. The key here is anything but subtlety. Give the flash enough power to become the main and primary light in the scene. Just watch out not to blow any highlights, especially over the skin.
While understanding how to use a flash is the first step, modifying it for corrective and creative control will really help perfect the shot. Our favorite flash modifiers on the market are the MagMod flash modifiers. They are great for beginners and give photographers the ability to quickly and easily modify their flash. These are our top 3 favorites:
Besides MagMod modifiers, one of the best modifiers to have on you at all times is a shoot-through umbrella. This is a great flash modifier for soft, beautiful light no matter where you are.
In photography, there is always room to bend the rules when it comes to the “correct” way to do something. Creatively speaking, there is no “perfect” way to set your White Balance. Every type of light has a color and the best way to achieve the right color in almost every situation is actually the WB setting that may seem the most intimidating and yet is actually the most simple: Kelvin White Balance.
Take your camera inside and outside, and practice dialing the Kelvin up and down until the image looks right. (of course, if you want to cheat, you can check the chart we’ve provided!) In no time at all, you’ll start to remember which numbers correspond to which shooting conditions. A lot of indoor light is somewhere around 3000-4000K. Daylight is around 5000-6000K. Deep shade, or after-sunset light, is 7000K+. In no time at all, this will become second nature!
We hope you enjoyed our Beginner's Guide to Flash Photography! If you've mastered the foundation of flash photography be sure to check out our more advanced off-camera flash courses to learn creative tips and techniques to up your flash game or purchase our comprehensive Flash Photography Training System which includes Lighting 101, 201, 3, and 4!
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