Lighting School: Lesson 1. Buy a Flash.

June 17, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Welcome to Lighting School folks.  This is a segment primary meant for my fellow photographers.   If you are not a fellow painter of light, you are invited to read along and learn more about The Art.  In this lesson we're going to cover some sage advice that a Navy photographer (Hi Patrick!) gave me when I was first starting out:


Buy a flash.


This simple advice is now the same wisdom I pass on to other photographers when I critique their work.  Buy a hot-shoe mounted flash.  Pick up a diffuser, and mount it to your camera in a place of honor.  To illustrate why, I am going to show you 2 photos from a birthday shoot a while back.


There is minimal touch up work done in these shots; they weren't selected for my final gallery, but they serve to illustrate my point.  In addition to helping you to light your subject, a flash also helps in one other significant way:  It fills in the shadows on an already lit subject.  When this is needed is a bit counter-intuitive at first; you need to use a flash on bright, sunny days, particularly if you're shooting around noon.  The reason is because the sun comes down almost straight down, resulting in the eyebrows and forehead shading the eyes and the rest of the face.  This leads to dark, sunken eyes and a generally less appealing aesthetic.  Few people want to look like a raccoon in their professionally done photos.  Aesthetically, I at least find that a photo that is properly exposed is a more cheerful photo, and cheery photos are desirable to the consumer.  

So what sort of flash should you get?  Well, there are three things that I recommend you look for when buying a flash:

  1. Brand compatibility.  A Nikon branded flash won't work on a Sony camera.  
  2. TTL metering.  Through The Lens metering allows your camera to control a hot shoe mounted flash and set the flash power (and zoom level of some flashes) to properly expose your shot.
  3. High Speed Sync.  High Speed Sync is the ability of a flash to fire a longer than usual pulse of light, allowing the flash to expose the subject at high shutter speeds.  Without High Speed Sync enabled on the flash, you will find that your shutter curtain will leave black bars on your photo where the shutter was while the flash was firing.  I will go more into High Speed Sync and how the shutter works in a future lesson.

I am currently using a Godox V860IIN that I bought about 5 years ago as my work house flash.   On any outdoor portrait session or wedding, its my go to for lighting situations.  

Today's blurb is a bit short, but I plan to whip a photoshop lesson on how to fix shots where you either didn't have a flash or the flash didn't fire.



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