External Flash – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Last week I discussed two of the more advanced camera modes available on some camera’s. This week, I will discuss the advantages to using an off camera flash.

Flash photography is made relatively easy by today’s cameras, but there are several reasons for using an off camera (external) flash. There are now several digital point and shoot cameras on the market that will allow you to use and external flash when shooting, as will most prosumer and digital SLR’s. Even if yours is not meant to be used with one, if you have a manual mode, you may still be able to.

Using an off camera flash can:

  • help reduce red eye in photos by changing the angle at which the light is entering the eye and reflecting off the retina (the cause of red eye).
  • eliminate distracting shadows around the subject by casting them down behind the subject (place the flash higher up above the camera lens)
  • provide depth to subject by creating modeling (highlights and shadows outlining shape)
  • external flashes are typically more powerful than on camera flashes resulting in greater illumination and a wider beam of light
  • may be moved for more dramatic effects
  • will provide a softer, nicer light in your images.

Not all cameras can use external flashes automatically though. You will likely need to use a manual setting and find the correct combination of settings using trial and error (which is very easy to do with a digital camera). If you camera does not have a direct connection for a flash, one may be added using a device called a slave unit. This unit connects to the flash and when it sees another flash (your on camera flash) go off, it fires as well. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively with prices starting around $20. Some include a built in slave unit as well and are manufactured specifically for digital point and shoot cameras.

Next week I will talk about some of the exciting projects you can use your photographs for this Christmas


The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the vice-president of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to chris@pcin.net.

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