BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Why You Need A Shoe-Mount Flash

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The majority of people who visit this Website are amateur photographers, photo hobbyists and students interested in pursuing photography as a future career. With that audience in mind, I try to bring articles with general appeal.

One of the main questions I get asked is about flash photography or using artificial light sources to make images. For lack of a better word, those who write me are “afraid” to use artificial – or flash – lighting because they don’t understand it and they often have taken photos with flash and had bad results. With that in mind, I am going to begin a section on flash lighting. Look for more posts to come in the near future.

With an external flash, you can direct where you want the light to go - or where you don't want it to go. Hard lighting from the side gives this image a unique look. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Schneider)

With an external flash, you can direct where you want the light to go - or where you don't want it to go. Hard lighting from the side gives this image a unique look. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Schneider)

External flash units are beneficial for numerous reasons. First and probably the most important, they allow you to become more creative in lighting. You can play around with the light and get more interesting – and more professional looking – results. Secondly, they allow you to shoot in low-light conditions. Finally, they reduce the limits on your photography. You’re no longer a slave to the sun. No lighting? No problem, you’ve got a flash.

One problem you may be having is simple: you’re using the built-in flash on your camera. You probably have a popup flash on your DSLR and have used it as your main source of strobe lighting. That’s a mistake. While good for fill light, a popup flash is often too narrow. Many times, you’ll see washed out colors in close up subjects or huge cast shadows, which are equally unappealing.
If your camera has a hot shoe mount on top, which if you’re using a DSLR, it does, you are able to attach what’s called a shoe-mount flash.

Although there are great third-party flash units (Metz comes to mind), I recommend purchasing a brand-specific flash because it syncs with all the features the manufacturer has developed.

For Nikon users, I recommend starting out with the SB-600 AF Speelight unit. It’s a great flash to begin with. Canon users should start with the Speedlite 430EX II and for Olympus users, the FL-50R is the right choice.

In future postings, we will discuss various techniques you can use with your shoe-mount flash that will help your photos look better.

Good luck and keep shooting!

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