- Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash
- Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites
- On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography
- Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Photographers
- Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
- Kevin Kubotas Lighting Notebook: 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers
It takes quite a few combined elements to get a good photograph. Above all, photography means working with light. The origin of the word “photo” comes from the Greek “phos”, which means light. It’s this particular attribute that separates our craft from others. Ever since I started photography, I’ve met a lot of people that expressed their retention towards working with artificial lighting. Many would say that it made their photos look unnatural, plasticky. I believe these concerns that so many people have are rooted in misunderstanding or lack of skill in shaping light. Natural light is a great thing, and there are indeed photographers who create amazing images using only the light available in the environment .That is a great thing, but even some of the best of them find themselves in difficulty when shooting for a client in low light situations. Boosting the ISO to 12000 on your D4 will cut it if you’re shooting a wedding, when, let’s face it, you don’t have that much time to setup any external flashes. But what are going to do if your client is a major corporation who wants portraits of their employees for next year’s calendar and they want them shot in some office with dull, neon lights? The key to understanding light, be it natural or artificial, sunlight or strobes, is volume.
Photo copyright Sergiu Aursulesei
Shoot using a single SB-800 bare speedlight, right and above model.
The way light falls on a subject will determines the way the human brain perceives it in space. That’s probably why there are a lot of newcomers to photography who don’t like flash. They start taking pictures with their built-in camera flash and because the light is fired directly at the subject, it creates a very flat, unpleasant look.
Regardless of type, light can be either hard or soft. The harder the light, the heavier the shadows. This goes both ways. Shooting at midday, in bright sunlight will produce a very similar effect to that of a bare flash. Shooting outside, at dusk or dawn, will make the light on your subject to look a lot softer and wrapped around. This can be achieved with artificial lights with the help of light modifiers.
I’m not saying go out and buy the biggest lighting kit available because if you’re at entry level, it’ll most likely be a waste of money. Start small. Buy a single speedlight(or flashgun) and learn how to use it. Study what you can accomplish with just one light source.. You’d be amazed. Lighting gurus such as Zack Arias are great examples in this direction. After you’ve mastered using a single strobe you’ll start feeling more aware of the equipment you need. You might want to keep it mobile and invest in more portable flashes. There are plenty of good modifiers for these as well ,like the Ezybox designed by strobist veteran Joe McNally. Or, you might want to go for studio strobes. What they lack in portability, they gain in power and the modifying options increase substantially .There’s also a great community of strobists out there, including HERE.
All this may seem like a lot to get a hold of , especially if you’re at entry level. But once you start getting good results ( and you will as long as you put yourself to work) you’ll love everything about using flashes and combining them with existing light.
Image credit: fimkakjane / 123RF Stock Photo