Light is your medium

Forms and colours appear from light. Like paint to a canvas these emerge from the darkness to form your vision etched onto celluloid or in modern times digital files. Photography is about contrast and light is your medium from which your images are created. The best way to become familiar with the medium is to proficient in black and white photography. Eliminating colour allows you to better understand how lights shape your image exposure.

Sync speed

A flash works by syncing with the speed of your camera shutter such as 1/50 of a second. The shutter determines how long an image is exposed onto your film or digital files. The longer a shutter is open the more light is taken in. The flash provides accurately timed discharges of light to illuminate your subject matter.

Overcoming intensity

The light emitted from a flash is extremely bright and can burnout the highlights in your subject. It is often useful to use diffusion over the flash to ease intensity. Another method is to target the flash towards another reflective surface such as a white ceiling or wall and bounce the light back onto your subject. Flashes can also be used to illuminate dark areas in the background. Other tools include bounce cards as well as gels to change the color temperature of the light.

Drawbacks and benefits

The primary drawbacks of using a flash as opposed to continuous lighting is that you cannot see the effect on your subject until it is captured. That being said as a photographer the portability and convenience of a flash can be very beneficial by removing cumbersome equipment from your photoshoots. So, depending on the nature of your project, your lighting should be chosen accordingly.

Not all flashes are the same

Many cameras come with built-in flashes which limits your use of it. It is recommended to use an off-camera unit or an adjustable one mounted into your camera’s horseshoe connector. Prices vary a lot as some units offer more features than others such as exposure compensation, tilt and swivel ability. Some can even be daisy chained allowing for multiple units to fire off simultaneously allowing you greater control over your subject.

Tips and useful tricks

Remember that light casts shadows. Separation of subject from walls is essential to eliminate shadows. To overcome to perceived distance on subject from wall one could use alternate lensing options.

Use more than one flash at different intensities creatively positioned to create surreal perceptions of depth, contrast and color.

At the end of the photographic day… Nothing beats practice and experience – Sign up to our Flash & Lighting course today.