On Camera Flash – how to light your shots.

April 16, 2010

That little popup flash on your camera? It’s terrible. Horrible. Awful. No, please, don’t thank me, that tip is free.

It’s no secret that if you want nicer light in your photos, you should seriously consider a proper flash unit, also called a SpeedLight. This is a device that sits on the hot shoe on top of your camera, and is the first step to really lighting your shots like a pro.

Personally, I use one of these – a Canon 580 EXII SpeedLight

Now, if only it was as easy as buying a SpeedLight and job done! Even adding several hundred dollars worth of equipment doesn’t magically make your photos awesome – there is more to it than that.

Today, I took delivery of a new toy. Lumiquest make a range of modifiers, filters, diffusers and other tools to take the bare and harsh light from your speedlight and turning it into somethin

g special. Today, I added the Lumiquest Softbox to my collection.

This little softbox attaches to the top of my flash, and dramatically increases the surface area of my light, making it soft, spreading it out and ultimately making my photos better.

It also folds totally flat, and stores easily. Handy huh?

But, really, does it make a big difference?

I needed a model – happily, Buddy was feeling sleepy, looking cute, and was available. I put my Speedlight on the hot shoe of my camera, and left it in fully automatic (ETTL) mode. To make things more impressive, I could have taken control of the flash levels, and even taken the flash off the top of my camera and moved it to the side to get some cool directional light – but for this test, I only wanted to worry about what the Softbox was doing.

Both of these photos were taken with the same camera settings – ISO1600, f2.8, 1/250 – with the Speedlight in the hotshoe, pointing directly at Buddy.

The left hand photo had the Lumiquest Softbox on, the right hand photo did not – it was just a bare flash head, pointing right at him. You can see the harder light, the harsh shadow of his ears, the “flat” look of his face. Conversely, the softbox photos is much nicer – better colors and shadows.

This is just the start of light modifiers – you can go from buying a $30, small softbox like this, to huge, ellaborate setups with multiple flashes, umbrella’s, massive and complex softboxes. Even if you never get that far – please promise me, you’ll never use your popup flash again?



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