Some Background First
There are so many kinds of flashes, from integrated flashes on our cameras to very powerful studio flash heads, going through very basic to powerful, feature-rich hot-shoe flashes.
If you’re a novice photographer or a bit of an experienced one, you have probably started shooting images using natural or available light. This meant shooting outdoors, or close to a window or using reflectors whenever possible. That’s how I started.
However, by now you’ve run into situations where you simply missed the opportunity to make the image. That’s what happened to me! There were situations where I could simply not shoot at night, or couldn’t create the effect that I wanted, or ran into some other limitation. Does this sound familiar?
At some point I started using continuous light to help my photography and it’s great, but it also has important limitations. That’s how I bought my first flash some time ago and started using it… on top of the camera and in automatic mode :-( Many people start like this, please don’t judge me.
There are many reasons to use flash so I’m going to generalize widely and list 3 of them: fill shadows, creative control, portability.
Sometimes we shoot images that have a lot of contrast, with really bright areas and seriously dark shadows. This is even more common when shooting back light, with a powerful light source behind the subject in front of us.
In those cases we can use a flash to fill the shadows with light and create a more balanced image. Depending on the situation, you can use the integrated flash in your camera or a flash mounted on top of the camera, through the hot shoe.
Using the flash on top of the camera may be helpful but it may also limit your ability to make a creative image. That’s why so many people like to use off-camera flash, which is to take the flash off the camera and trigger it remotely. Some of the most common techniques with off camera flash are Low- and High-Key lighting.
Low Key images are those where most of the image is dark and the subject is barely lit, giving the image a sense of drama and mystery.
High Key images are very bright and over-exposed, with the subject defined by hi/her main features, like the eyes, nose and hairline.
Another main reason to use flash, especially the ones mounted on the camera’s hot shoe is that they are conveniently portable. Compared to continuous light systems or lamps, hot-shoe flashes are usually tiny and light, making them ideal to use them on location or on a trip.
Of course, these are not the only reasons to use flash nor the only techniques available. As I mentioned before, I’m generalizing widely about the use of flash but I hope to give you a brief reasoning of why you should use flash.
Do you know of any other reason to use flash? By all means, leave a comment below with your reasons!