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Flash Photography Tips: A Brief Intro to Artificial Lighting

Knowing your lighting could be a game-changer, and using the right lighting techniques could help you take your photography to another level of artistry. Moreover, using flash opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. If you have already ventured into photography and have a decent understanding of your camera but are new to using flash, this blog offers some basic flash photography tips and tips on how you could use different types of flashes to enhance your photography game.

The Need To Learn Flash

Infographic stating mastering flash will help you gain control in poor lighting conditions

While you might prefer to shoot in natural lighting, you won’t always have complete control over it, especially if the weather changes or you find yourself shooting in a venue with poor lighting. Thus arises the need to learn how flash can help you get your photos the way you imagined them. Using flash gives you that extra control over light, and not just on its availability but also over its amount, direction, quality (soft or hard light), and color.

Good flash photography could help you create stunning dramatic images by subtracting light from the background and adding them to only the subject. But flash photography is more than just a tool for creating dramatic images. It is, in fact, also a tool that can be used to enhance the lighting scenario of any photography style. So whether you want to simulate natural light, create something dramatic, or curate an abstract setup, the right use of flash could help you get your desired shot.

Basic Flash Photography Tips

To better understand how to use flash, how they work, and how they differ from each other, we have listed down some of the basics of flash photography.

  1. Flashes can be segmented into three categories based on their power – small, medium, and large. Small flashes such as 50-70 Ws can be used to overpower the midday sun when used with no modifiers. These are ideal for photographing indoors or when you want to add only subtle light when shooting outdoors.
  2. On the other hand, with medium power flashes such as 200-250 Ws, you can use medium-sized modifiers as long as you keep them relatively close to the subject. They are often used to simulate sunlight.
  3. Large modifiers go with large flashes, such as 400-500 Ws. They can be used when photographing in the midday sun. In simpler words, you can choose to use a more powerful flash if you want to create dramatic images. If you shoot weddings, B10 flash often works well for most scenarios.
  4. One of the most important flash photography tips is to understand the working of TTL and Manual flash control. Both of these modes help determine your flash power but in different ways. The TTL mode allows your flash to access the lighting situation by firing a pre-flash, which then automates the power or the power level of the flash. While using Manual mode, you set the amount of power you want your flash to fire on your subject. Manual is usually the preferred choice since it offers more control and accuracy. Even though TTL flash mode might suggest the right power levels, it doesn’t know the photographer’s intent.
  5. If you are using a flash with an in-built radio, remember that steel, concrete, and water usually diminish the flash’s ability to send signals. Hence, fire the light with accuracy. So whenever you are shooting in an enclosed space or near a water body, your flash’s radio signals might not function the way they do in open spaces.

Using Flash in a Scene

Infographic stating be clear about the image you want to create with flash will it be more dramatic or more natural
  1. Compose: In a nutshell, using flash boils down to a few simple steps. The first one being composition. Think about the composition, analyze your scene, where do you want to place the camera, where do you want to pose your subject. It is important to have clarity about the type of image you want to create – dramatic or more natural-looking.
  2. Observe Ambient Light: Once you have a clear answer to all these questions, move forward with decoding the ambient light exposure. Take a few photos, analyze the background lighting, and set your camera settings as per the desired setting.
  3. Introduce Artificial Lighting: Once you look at the images, decide whether you need to add more light to a specific portion or the overall scene. If yes, take out your flash, adjust it accordingly, and shoot your scene. It is crucial to understand the need and requirement of artificial lighting before simply taking out your flash and start adjusting the light.

Suggested Read: Top 5 Tips: Photography Lighting Basics For Any Location

Types of Flash

1. Manual or Full Feature Flashes

Infographic stating there are many flash styles, types and modifiers, so do your research

Initially, flashes were sub-divided into two categories – manual and full feature flashes. Just as the name suggests, a full feature flash, in addition to being a light source, came with additional built-in features such as radio, digital zoom, focus assistance, TTL and manual control, etc. This naturally allowed the photographer better control over multiple aspects and cost more than manual ones. On the other hand, a manual flash was just a light source, i.e., it just fired flash when required. Cut to today, and everything is full feature flash owing to the need of its advanced features.

2. Wired, Infrared, or Radio Flash

When we talk about wired, infrared, or radio, in terms of flash, it is about how your flash will communicate with the camera (and adhere to the commands at the exact time) once you take the flash off the camera. A wired flash has a wired connector that is attached to your camera to send signals. The limitation of this type of flash was, of course, the length of the wire.

On the other hand, infrared flashes are not limited to wire length as they communicate signals via a little infrared beam. Their downside, however, is that for them to function accurately, there needs to be nothing in between the off-camera flash and the camera as the beam can’t go through anything. On the contrary, a radio flash uses radio frequencies to transfer signals between the camera and the off-camera flash.

What Are Modifiers?

One of the key flash photography tips is understanding the use of modifiers. Modifiers primarily deal with two critical aspects of flash lighting – the quality and the color of light. When it comes to the quality of light, a lot depends on the size of the light source, i.e., a small light source tends to create a hard quality of light, and a large light source creates a soft quality of light. Using a modifier helps change the size of a light source. They can also be used to change the color of light that has been flashed by making use of gel.

Dramatic or Natural: Have a Clear Intent For Lighting

Infographic stating practice, practice, practice flash photography to get your desired results

Whether you want to create a dramatic photograph or enhance natural lighting, before you start using flash, it would help to have a clear idea of the kind of image you want to take. Even though a flash could be used to achieve both effects – the workings behind each one of them are very different. For creating a more natural look, your ambient light exposure is usually bright, and your flash power is set low. On the contrary, if you wish to create a dramatic effect, you can set your ambient light exposure to dark and go for a high-power flash. So, to practice flash photography and get your desired results, it’s essential to know what kind of an impact you want.

Further Read: Off-Camera Flash Techniques To Create Dramatic Wedding Reception Images

We hope you found these flash photography tips helpful. If you have any questions in mind, feel free to reach out to us in the comments section below. At ShootDotEdit, we love bringing you resourceful tips that help you make the most of your time by doing what you love. To free up your time, we offer professional photo editing services that match your style. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.


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