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Why Bother with Flash?

January, 2023

I remember when I used to call myself a “natural light photographer”. The truth was, I was scared of flash. I had lots of excuses for not learning about it, and so I was stuck with whatever light happened to be available. Some of my excuses:

It’s too complicated, too hard to learn. Nope. A couple of hours of good instruction and practice is all you need to get started.

It’s too expensive. Nope again. Third party flashes such as Godox, Flashpoint, Yongnuo, and Neewer cost a fraction of the “big” names and work just fine. Modifiers like umbrellas are cheap and effective, and there are some you can build yourself. Yes, you can spend a fortune on lighting, but you don’t need to.

Light from a flash is ugly. Natural light is better. Absolutely true if you don’t know what you’re doing and keep the flash on top of the camera, pointed at your subject. Yuck. (Scott Kelby calls this “revenge flash”.) But with a bit of practice and some simple modifiers, you can create flash photos that look very natural, or you can create harsh, gritty, directional light or various other effects.

Flash is only for people photos. Again, no. Most classes about flash do concentrate on portraits, but I use flash a lot for flowers, macro, and still life. You can even use it outdoors in the garden.

We have LED constant lights now. I don’t need flash. Constant lights are light panels that are really intended for video, and can be useful in some situations, but they are far less powerful than flash, and less versatile.

Why I Now Love Flash

• Instead of shooting with high ISO at events like parties, I can use my flash to add light and avoid noise.

• Flash lets me use faster shutter speeds and still keep my ISO low... great for insects, flowers in wind, moving toddlers, etc.

• Flash lets me be far more creative. I get to choose the character, direction, shape, and colour of the light. I can shoot images any time of the day or night that look like they were lit by gorgeous window light on an overcast day, or by a narrow beam of light streaming through a stained glass window. The possibilities are endless, and all in my small, dark-ish dining room. It’s fun to explore!

How To Get Started

Once I taught myself to use flash effectively, I wanted to share that knowledge with others. I’ve now put that flash tutorial on my Youtube channel. Viewing it will give you specific suggestions on how to choose your equipment and will teach you to use it effectively.

Flash isn’t so hard. You can do this, and you’ll love the freedom to be more creative. (All the images with this article were shot with flash.)

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