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Photographers - never leave home without a flash

Updated on July 9, 2015
"Let there be light!" - A lash or two is an essential bit of kit
"Let there be light!" - A lash or two is an essential bit of kit | Source

When I first started out in photography I was determined that I wasn’t going to shoot anything unless it was being lit by natural, ambient light. Sure, I was going to use a reflector to bounce the light back on to subjects when I had to, but there was no way I was ever going to resort to using artificial light or a flash gun.

I mean, flash light looks unnatural, it looks harsh, it is unflattering and it makes photographs look more like off the cuff “snap shots”, right? In the beginning I stuck to my guns, however I started missing opportunities left, right and centre.

There were times when I wanted to photograph back lit subjects but couldn’t because I didn’t have a reflector, which ultimately led to missed opportunities. There were also times when light levels were a just a little too low to get the look I wanted, even when I opened up the lens as much as I could and pushed the ISO to levels where noise started to become an issue. There were also times when I captured shots that were not quite there, however if there had been a slight kiss of light they would have been awesome.

As the number of missed opportunities increased, and frustration levels rose I finally decided to bite the bullet and invest in a flash gun, and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have ever done, and I haven’t looked back. Having a flash gun has not only meant fewer missed opportunities, but it has also opened the door to a whole new world of creative opportunities.

A flash for those that only use Canon accessories

If I had my time again my first bit of upgrade photography equipment would be an external flash gun. Most newbie photographers, myself included, buy a new lens to improve their photographs however I have come to the realisation a flash gun is a much better investment. Okay, a new lens will improve image quality over kit lenses, but the quality of kit lenses really isn’t that bad. Besides, with a flash you can improve the quality of light, and since the whole concept of photography is based around light, it is easy to see a flash gun is going to be an essential piece of photographic equipment.

There were times when only a few manufacturer’s produced external flash guns (such as Canon, Nikon and Vivitar) and, if you wanted a high spec flash gun with ETTL technology (a must have in my opinion, even if you only want to use manual control) you had to spend a lot of money. Fortunately, times have changed and there are now loads of different manufacturer’s making top quality flash guns that are full of features at an affordable price.

My first flash was a Canon branded 430EXii because I was a Canon snob. I used to think that if it wasn’t made by Canon then it wasn’t any good. Even though the Canon 430EXii is a fantastic flash gun that did everything I needed it to and more, I got it wrong re non-canon branded flash guns. I scoffed at the Chinese manufacturers creating cheap flashes and dismissed them as low quality pieces of junk that wouldn’t last five minutes, and I hadn’t even seen any of these in the flesh let alone tested one out! Yep, I was totally in the dark (excuse the pun) about the Chinese made third party flash guns.

Fortunately I have “woken up and smelled the coffee” and the only flash guns I use are made by Godox which is…….. a Chinese based third party manufacturer. A few years ago I needed a couple of new flash guns and not having sufficient money to buy more Canon branded flash guns I had no option but to invest in a cheaper flash gun, and after a lot of reading around, I decided to go the Godox, which at the time I thought was “the best of a bad bunch”.

When the Godox arrived I was surprised by the look, feel and build quality, and after using the Godox and putting it through its paces for a few months I was a Godox convert. I was so impressed, that I actually sold my Canon flash guns and invested in more Godox flash guns, and I even made a profit! That’s right, for the sales proceeds of my Canon 430EXii I managed to buy two Godox V860 flash guns, that are actually more powerful than the 430EXii, and still had some money left over to buy a couple of gel kits. The Godox V8860 flash guns are awesome and I highly recommend it. If you want to see my exact thoughts feel free to take a look at my honest and unbiased review here.

As you can see from my review (if you read it) it is possible to get a top quality flash gun that is full of features found on high end Canon and Nikon flashes for a little over a hundred bucks, which is a fraction of the cost of the top branded flashes.

You have probably already guessed by now that I am a fan of flash, and as such I never leave home without one, and unless there are specific signs that tell me I can’t use a flash (like in museums, wildlife parks and the like) I have a flash sat in my hot shoe at all times.

The key to obtaining high quality photographs without it looking like a flash gun was used is to balance the flash with ambient light. This is not easy, but if you are prepared to put in the time and effort to learn how to do this it is well worth while. Balancing the light not only avoids harsh and obvious light and the “rabbit in the head lights” look but also leads to soft, pleasing images.

The bottom line

So, if you are looking for something that will help take your photographs to the next level and are contemplating buying a “professional” lens to do the job, take a step back and consider getting a flash gun instead. I mean, they don’t cost a lot of money and they will provide many more opportunities for you to explore and push your artistic boundaries. Giving up on ambient light only shooting and buying a flash gun was one of the best things I have done, and I haven’t looked back since.

Are you an ambient light or flash shooter?

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© 2015 Edwardjames81

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