Today we are going to learn how to utilize a flash and produce a total aide that will permit you to further develop your insight and get better photographs. We don’t have to convolute our lives on the equipment level. We might benefit from outside input by transmitters, windows, or umbrellas. However, we want to see how everything functions and the relationship of ideas to rehearse to create our visual intuition.
Autofocus assist illumination
Just as your DSLR camera has a small red or amber light on the body, some flashes have the same light whose function is to produce a continuous halo of light to help the camera achieve focus.
Batteries: questions to consider
Use rechargeable, pre-charged batteries whenever you can. I, therefore, recommend that you use a good charger that will allow you to detect battery problems. A damaged battery can cause the flash to malfunction.
It is useful to have alkaline batteries with you in case, during a session, the rechargeable batteries are empty. As the charging of the batteries lasts a few hours, this will prevent us from stopping the session because of this reason.
Where possible, use 2000mAh batteries as some flashes are limited to this intensity and if you are using a 2500mAh battery it could cause your flash to malfunction. In any case, we recommend that you read the manufacturer’s instructions to use the correct charger for rechargeable batteries.
It is highly recommended to use high-quality batteries or batteries when working with flashes. Use well-known brands for more reliability because it is noticeable on the recycling time of the flash which will be faster (waiting time that we must support between two flashes of the greatest power).
When we trigger the flash at maximum power, this value is a few seconds, but it can also be weighted by the quality or capacity of the batteries used.
Why is this recycling time produced? Since the energy discharge is high during the trigger, the flashes need to recharge their capacitors to be able to trigger again.
One of the interesting options, especially if you need a short recycling time of your flash, is to use a Power Pack or a Battery Pack. These accessories are sold as a kit and incorporate a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or a set of various batteries (8,12, 16 rechargeable batteries) that we can connect to the flash from a power cable. This solution is not possible with all flashes, we recommend that you check whether or not it works with your model.
Light modifiers and other accessories
Although there are many types of light modifiers, very different from each other, today we will talk about the most basic ones: umbrellas, softboxes, or light windows and snoots.
These accessories allow you to control the light. There are two types of umbrella: white and silver. With the white umbrellas, we get a soft but more consistent and controllable light.
The big problem with umbrellas is that compared to a softbox we have less lighting control, residual light losses, and less directivity. However, since they can fold, softboxes are easy to transport and install. But, be careful of the wind during outdoor sessions!
Softboxes or windows
They are the competitors of the umbrellas. They offer greater lighting control and less light loss. The softboxes make it possible to transform a strong light source (that of the flash) into a larger light source, which will be distributed equitably over the entire illuminated space while obtaining greater control of its directivity.
These are small props that help us focus the light through this cone to achieve more dramatic photographs.
Although they do not modify the light coming from the source (the flash), they allow us to illuminate, while taking advantage of this light. Its main function is to reflect light and soften shadows in an area that is not directly lit.
According to the characteristics, the intensity of the light varies not only according to the distance and the power but also if one added a modifier. It is for this reason that I recommend, even if one develops some visual skill with practice, to use a hand-held light meter or, at least the histogram on your camera to take note of the lights and stage lighting. We will elaborate on this point in the following chapters. Check for more info here.
The flash is a delicate accessory. Generally designed in plastic on the outside, it houses a “bulb”, electronic circuits, and cables inside. It is a very sensitive accessory to shocks.
All modern flashes have a “thermostat” type circuit which, in theory, asks to continue firing the flash if it reaches a certain temperature level.
Avoid storing flashes and the rest of your photo equipment in humid places. If you keep your flashes in a bag, backpack, or suitcase, it will cost you almost nothing to buy a small moisture-proof bag, sold in any supermarket.
It is also important to clean the connection shoe so that you do not have problems with data transmission and triggering. For my part, I clean all the equipment after each session with a microfiber cloth, gently passing it over the equipment to remove the dirt. With the flashes, too.
To keep your flashes in good condition, I advise you to use black insulating tape all around the flashbulb. Why? Because, when fixing your flashes on a shoe, it is possible that by pulling hard, you touch the window, the softbox, or the umbrellas that you have. Result: you damage the flash housing. Even not very serious in itself, if one day you want to sell it, the case still exists. This is why with the band you protect the flash a little more in the event of an impact.
Learning to use a flash is more than pressing a button. It’s the door to a new world, an exciting chapter in the world of photography: lighting. And let’s not forget that the word photography means painting with light.