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Speedlighting basics

Updated: May 8, 2021

Whether you are the Artist, Photographer or if you have a model in order to achieve the right Vibe for that Album cover, Speed Lights will help get that professional finish.

Shooting photos with natural light is great!

However, perhaps you feel limited by the existing natural light, maybe you don’t always have a big beautiful north-facing window to work with, or maybe you find yourself in darker situations and need something more than that pop-up flash on your camera.

The next step in your evolution as a photographer is to create your own light or enhance the available natural light sources to make your photos even better! Whatever situation you find yourself in, you should consider getting a flash for your camera, and with all the options out there, you don’t know where to start.

So we have built this quick guide to speed lights that might help you.

To start off, we will be talking about the main features that Speedlights offer, what they do and what to look for in your next Speedlight. We will talk later about using them off-camera and the creative options to open up in another post, so look out for that!

Make sure your flash is compatible with your camera!

The first step is to narrow down the choices you need to make and ensure you get a flash that will work with your camera, a Nikon Speedlight or a Canon Speedlite for example (and yes, both companies spell Speedlight differently). Or an alternative is to investigate a third-party manufacturer; you will want to get a model compatible with your camera, say Canon, Fuji, Sony or Nikon. As someone just starting off, this will make your life a lot easier!

My first suggestion would be to make sure you buy a flash that has a tiltable flash head as that will open up a lot more possibilities when it comes to lighting your subject. Such as being able to bounce the light off a ceiling or wall for a more flattering look as opposed to having the flash pointing directly at your subject. So if you have a Speedlight, bounce that light whenever you can; a much more flattering look for your subject! Fixed head Speedlights are usually cheaper, smaller and less powerful, so I would steer clear from speedlights with a fixed head unless you are on an extreme budget.

Understanding TTL

Most flashes on the market use TTL (through the lens) metering, which is basically auto mode. In a fraction of a second, when you hit that shutter button, your flash will usually send out a pre-flash (a quick strobe before the “real” flash is fired) in order to meter the scene through your lens (TTL) and determine the amount of flash power it will need to output to expose the image correctly. Once it has that info it will fire the flash at the correct intensity for your photo.

TTL is a lifesaver because you no longer need to adjust the flash power yourself manually, so if you got closer to a subject, you’d have to turn the power down, and if they got further away, you’d have to turn it up! TTL removes the need to fumble around with your settings and allows you to compose and focus on the subject.

Pretty much every Speedlight on the market also has a manual mode (there are also some manual only Speedlights) for when you’d like to take control of the lighting yourself for creative purposes. Unless you are more experienced with lighting, I suggest spending a little more and getting flash with TTL.

If you’re looking to take your lighting to the next level, being able to use and control your lights off-camera will make the biggest difference to your photography. Though built-in wireless radio systems are not found on all spotlights, usually, brands like Canon or Nikon, Godox mid-higher tiered models will have them built-in. So that is something to look for if you feel that you’d like to try your hand at using off-camera flash!

See you next time

Jeanie x

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