Last Updated on March 21, 2021
One of the most important, and misunderstood aspects of photography is lighting. While the majority of modern DSLR and point and shoot cameras come with a built in flash, these do not offer the lighting many photographers will need. Because of this there are many flash types available to improve your lighting and image quality. In this article I will show you the types of camera flashes you can use to improve your lighting.
Types Of Flashes and Flash Type Terms
TTL Camera Flash
TTL flash, short for through the lens, are flashes that is able to automatically make adjustments to optimize for the lighting conditions you are shooting in. This is possible because the flash analyzes the exposure that is coming through your camera lens. The flash takes the camera’s light metering and the distance to your subject to make appropriate adjustments. There are many different styles of TTL flashes and their performance is not all equal. The best TTL flashes offer more power and features such as high speed sync.
Built In or Pop Up Flashes
The flash that comes built in your camera is the type of flash most photographers first learn about. They are fixed to your camera and offer limited adjustment. The positioning of pop up and built in flashes mean that your lighting will be directed straight at your subject from the direction of your lens. This can cause exposure issues and create unflattering shadows on your subjects. Backgrounds often turn out dark when using just a built in flash. These negative outcomes can be lessened when adjusted for the scene’s ambient lighting. But this takes an external light meter to do effectively.
Dedicated flash refers to a model that attaches to your camera’s hot shoe. The hot shoe is the slot found on the top of your camera body. A dedicated flash offers improved lighting over most built in flashes. They are able to communicate directly with your camera and use gathered information about your scene to adjust flash power to achieve proper exposure. You get a number of benefits with a dedicated flash over that of a built in option. You often receive red eye reduction and bounce head lighting. Some versions also provide you with pre-flash which is great for portrait photography.
Ring Light Camera Flash
A ring light is a flash type that fits around the barrel of your camera lens. It threads onto the attachment threads of your lens. A ring light is very popular with macro photography and videographers. When shooting macro photography, a built in flash is not able to properly light a subject but a ring light is able to do so perfectly. The ring light allows you to achieve close ups without creating harsh shadows or uneven lighting. A ring light is great at bringing out the details a macro photographer is looking for.
Hammerhead flash refers to a model that is used separate from the camera body. It is not attached to the hot shoe like a dedicated flash and instead it is attached to the tripod connection of your camera. A hammerhead flash is usually placed just to the side of your camera allowing you to create flattering lighting without red eye. This flash type is used by wedding photographers and some portrait photographers.
Fill In Flash
Fill in flash is not actually a type of flash, it is a lighting technique used under challenging lighting conditions. When the scene background is much brighter than your subject fill in flash is used. This technique evens out the lighting and creates a properly exposed subject and background. This is a frequently used technique when shooting outdoor subjects as it prevents awkward shadows and poorly exposed subjects. A light meter is used to measure the ambient light at multiple points within your scene so that adjustments can be made to create fill in flash.
Bounce Head Flashes
Bounce flash lighting is another technique that multiple types of flashes can be used to create. This refers to when a photographer bounces the light of their flash off from another object, like a softbox, onto their subject. This indirect form of flash lighting creates soft flattering light that creates awesome image quality. Sometimes photographers will bounce their flash light off a wall or even the ceiling.
Even though there are many different types of flashes available for you, the type you use depends on the type of photography you are shooting and the lighting conditions. Flash photography opens up many creative options and is well worth learning how to properly do. It takes time to learn the ins and outs of using a flash effectively but with practice you will dramatically improve your images. Keep in mind that every photographer struggled at first getting their lighting just right, but the more you work on it the better you will get!
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