I recently purchased a Nikon Speedlight flash, and my whole world has changed…. Not really, but you'll see what I'm saying shortly. Previously, I was a “natural light” photographer using prime lenses with wide apertures, shooting in low light without having to use flashes or strobes. I had never used a flash besides the one built into my D5300, and I was never thrilled with the results. I was wary to purchase the Speedlight, unsure if it would be much better. I disliked the way the D5300 flash added harsh shadows in the background and made bright highlights on faces while shooting portraits. After buying a Speedlight and understanding how to use it properly, there has been a big difference in my indoor shots. My Speedlight has become one of the most important tools in my arsenal when it comes to shooting event photography indoors.
Learning to use the flash properly is very important- it's all about the swivel head. The swivel head allows you to do something called bounce flashing. Bounce flashing is a much better way to light a room, and helps you to avoid getting that "deer in the headlights" look. This technique uses ceilings, walls, or other surfaces to diffuse the light off of. This, in essence, makes the picture look as if it is naturally lit.
Bounce Flashed from ceiling
As you can see from the examples included above, there is a drastic difference in the bounce flashed photo and the direct flashed photo, not only in the exposure of the photo but also in the contrast and colors. The best way to learn how to use a flash properly is to practice! Here are some tips:
- Avoid bouncing flashing off of surfaces that drastically change flash color, such as walls that are deep vibrant colors.
- Shutter Speed does NOT affect exposure when using a flash
- Tilt your flash head multiple ways for the best results
- Bounce the light off surfaces at a steep angle
- Be mindful of flash shutter sync rates before purchasing- select flashes can only be used at 1/100 so be sure to check the specifications
When looking into buying a flash, it is very important to consider the costs. The starter model Nikon Speedlight SB500 comes in at around $250, which is pretty pricey. However, you will also notice a huge difference in quality between a Nikon Speedlight and a 3rd party flash. Many of the new flashes will get all the information from the camera, regarding shutter speed, ISO, and aperature, to decide how the flash needs to work to get a proper exposure. When switching from lower models to higher models, you obtain new features such as manual mode, which allows you to decide how the flash is going to work. When in a controlled environment this can be very helpful, but can be difficult to configure while shooting on the fly. My advice for a flash would be to buy the best one that you're willing to spend the money on, as flashes can outlast many cameras and drastically improve image quality. If you have any questions feel free to email me or tweet at me! Thanks for reading!