Using your flash effectively will help you to grow your photography skills immeasurably. We take a look at the different types of flash on the market and how to make the best use of them.
Complete Guide To Flash – Flash Modifications
One of the best things about owning a flashgun is that it opens up a universe of after-market accessories that can be used to soften and shape the light it emits.
Virtually all flashguns come boxed with a simple diffuser that can be attached to it in order to soften the light it emits, and while these are a good place to start it’s well worth investing in some additional accessories if you want to progress your ability to take better photos using flash.
Flash with in-built diffuser
Thankfully a small investment can go a long way and there are hundreds of products catering for all tastes and situations.
Accessories come in all shapes and sizes too – from small diffusers that slot directly onto the end of your flashgun such as the Gary Fong Lightsphere, to larger umbrella and softbox kits that require their own stand (or a willing assistant).
Ultimately though, most flash modifiers serve at least one of two purposes, if not both; to soften the harsh directional light (and shadows) caused by direct flash, and/or to channel the light emitted into a more specific shape or area of spread.
Free-standing flash umbrellas
Photographic umbrellas, for example, will produce a wide area of coverage with gradual light fall-off, whereas softboxes are designed to channel the light more narrowly towards your subject.
Snoots, meanwhile, can be used to produce a tightly focused directional light source with sharp fall-off. Last but by no means least, beauty dishes are another popular modifying option.
The ring-shaped catchlights they produce in a model’s eyes make them especially popular with portrait and fashion photographers.
In this guide we’ve concentrated primarily on pop-up, hotshoe-mounted and professional studio flash, however there is one other type of flash unit well worth knowing about, especially if you have a keen interest in macro or fashion photography, and this device is called a ring flash.
This is a distinctive-looking circular flash that slots into the hotshoe but is engineered so that the ring of light is positioned around the end of the camera’s lens.
The advantage of this approach is that the circular ring of light creates noticeably softer shadows, especially when used at short distances to photograph small objects.