After a while of using your DSLR during the day and playing around on the landscape photography field you may consider moving on to something more creative and sophisticated. If you feel adventurous about playing with light in more complex ways than just shooting subjects “as is”, you would need that extra light to play with. This is where a flashgun has to step in to play.
Many entry level DSLRs come with a built in flash. There is nothing wrong with using it to light up your friend’s face taking a photo with the Sun being behind his or her back. But this is pretty much the limit for that tiny bulb. This is why professional cameras never even have it on board.
With that being said we strongly suggest getting an external flash. One of the most common ways to start using an external flash is to buy a mid-range priced (or even the cheapest) one to play around with. And there is a reason for doing so. After you become comfortable with how it works, what settings you use, and what additional options you would like to have, you may consider buying a top-range one. But the best part is that you can still can keep your first flash and use it in a slave mode. So, in fact by upgrading your flash and keeping the existing one you will take two improvement steps: you’ll get a better main flash and also you will have a full multi-flash setup. You will progress in photography a lot by going this way. Keep this in mind.
And a few more tips to ease up the possible pain that many beginners get themselves into:
- Buy a diffuser. Any cheap Chinese from eBay would do – it’s just a piece of plastic. But you will need it as the flash light is harsh, you have to soften it. If you need one badly and no time to go shopping, get a piece of white printing paper duct taped over the flash. It is a temporary solution but it’s better than nothing.
- Do not use cheap batteries. In this case rechargeable no-named Chinese 3000mAh would not be an option. Spend a few quid more and get a decent power cells for your flash (such as Eneloop rechargeable batteries). They will last longer and they will not make your flash to overheat.
- Use Ni-Mh and not Li-On batteries in your flash. Li-On are known for causing overheating.
- Power supply is vital for a flash unit, so in addition to good batteries get a decent charger. The one that monitors each cell charge independently.
We hope that this post will be useful, as always feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in comments. Happy shooting!