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How important is an external flash unit?

This is a discussion on How important is an external flash unit? within the Digital photography forums, part of the Photography & Fine art photography category; How important is an external flash unit to your system when you already have built-in-flash in the camera's body, when ...

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    ret
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    Default How important is an external flash unit?

    How important is an external flash unit to your system when you already have built-in-flash in the camera's body, when you mostly shoot in natural light and at ISO1600 when indoors in low light?

    how useful would something like this be in terms of bettering the photography experience?

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    tirediron is offline Senior Member
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    I think the answer really depends on how much money you have to spend. Your in-body flash is good for basic stuff, but will probably have a fairly low guide number, and be less than ideal for large scenes.

    The external flash has a lot of advantages; first off, it's [I assume] much more powerful, and has a tiltable head so that you can bounce it (produces a more diffuse light), it will also give you the benefit of a second light source so that you can better illuminate a scene. For outdoor work, I found that my in-body flash really wasn't powerful enough to use as a fill light for a lot of out-door scenes.

    I think you'd be surprised at the diffence in quality of your images using that flash indoors as opposed to either shooting at 1600 or your in-body one.

    HOWEVER, if there are other things that you need, such as a tripod, filters, etc, I would suggest putting them ahead of the flash for now.

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    ret
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    thanks tirediron .... that answers my Q .... and yes, I have to get the tripod and the polarizing filter. I only have the UV filter at the moment

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    Quote Originally Posted by ret View Post
    How important is an external flash unit to your system when you already have built-in-flash in the camera's body, when you mostly shoot in natural light and at ISO1600 when indoors in low light?

    how useful would something like this be in terms of bettering the photography experience?
    Off camera flash is one of the key things that separates amateurs/newbies from advanced photographers. It doesn't have to be a portable flash. It could be a studio flash. When you use off camera flash you have full control over how you want the scene lit. The built in flash in your camera is good only for the most basic tasks.

    Hope that helps,
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    mindforge is offline Senior Member
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    Off camera flashes are important if you want quality pictures. For one, if you plan on taking any action shots you need one, more if you can get them. If you plan on good macro shots... you'll need one.

    If the cost is your thing, I would say off camera flash before anything but I prefer taking pictures of things that are moving. I try and shoot at 100 ISO all the time if I can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marko View Post
    Off camera flash is one of the key things that separates amateurs/newbies from advanced photographers. It doesn't have to be a portable flash. It could be a studio flash. When you use off camera flash you have full control over how you want the scene lit. The built in flash in your camera is good only for the most basic tasks.

    Hope that helps,
    Marko
    +1 Marko

    Well stated !!!!
    I use my flash a lot. Daytime flash fill for people is a must. Then off camera at night can be fun too !!
    www.steelcityphotography.com

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    I'm a proud strobist. I use these portable flashes all the time on location because I don't have to drag my big studio lights and large softboxes with me whenever I have a location shoot. By taking the same principal as studio lighting and applying it on location, these flashes offer me the flexability of working in confined spaces (like an elevator) and best of all, I can use them in the middle of a field or under a bridge, for example, without the need for AC power. It doesn't matter if you have a old manual Vivitar 285HV or the latest and greatest Alien Bees, It is STILL a light source and a light source you have control over. On camera flash is terrible for photographing people. The problem is that the flash is on the same axis as the lens therefore producing a very flat looking result, not to mention harsh shadows behind your subject and in some cases red-eye. By moving your flash to the left or right of your camera and aiming it at 45 degree angle toward your subject, you now give your subject shape and definition in your photo.
    The key thing in using small flashes is finding the right balance with ambient light. The way to do this is by remembering this rule: "Aperture controls Flash exposure" "Shutter speed controls ambient light"

    Another option is to decide what kind of light you need for a given situation. Diffused or soft light is much more flattering for portraits, where as Hard light is better for action or sports. Also, you must remember that when you place a diffusor, or shoot thru umbrella etc. in front of your flash, you lose about 1 stop of light and this must be compensated for by increasing the flash power level or adjusting your Aperture value.

    For those who are just starting out in off camera lighting, I would highly recommend the following websites to help you:

    www.strobist.com
    www.squeezethelime.com
    www.prophotolife.com
    www.onelightworkshop.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by nomad358 View Post
    I'm a proud strobist. I use these portable flashes all the time on location because I don't have to drag my big studio lights and large softboxes with me whenever I have a location shoot. By taking the same principal as studio lighting and applying it on location, these flashes offer me the flexability of working in confined spaces (like an elevator) and best of all, I can use them in the middle of a field or under a bridge, for example, without the need for AC power. It doesn't matter if you have a old manual Vivitar 285HV or the latest and greatest Alien Bees, It is STILL a light source and a light source you have control over. On camera flash is terrible for photographing people. The problem is that the flash is on the same axis as the lens therefore producing a very flat looking result, not to mention harsh shadows behind your subject and in some cases red-eye. By moving your flash to the left or right of your camera and aiming it at 45 degree angle toward your subject, you now give your subject shape and definition in your photo.
    The key thing in using small flashes is finding the right balance with ambient light. The way to do this is by remembering this rule: "Aperture controls Flash exposure" "Shutter speed controls ambient light"

    Another option is to decide what kind of light you need for a given situation. Diffused or soft light is much more flattering for portraits, where as Hard light is better for action or sports. Also, you must remember that when you place a diffusor, or shoot thru umbrella etc. in front of your flash, you lose about 1 stop of light and this must be compensated for by increasing the flash power level or adjusting your Aperture value.
    Great post Nomad! Thx - Marko
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    "You have to milk the cow quite a lot, and get plenty of milk to get a little cheese." Henri Cartier-Bresson from The Decisive Moment.

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    tomorrowstreasures is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by nomad358 View Post
    I'm a proud strobist. I use these portable flashes all the time on location because I don't have to drag my big studio lights and large softboxes with me whenever I have a location shoot. By taking the same principal as studio lighting and applying it on location, these flashes offer me the flexability of working in confined spaces (like an elevator) and best of all, I can use them in the middle of a field or under a bridge, for example, without the need for AC power. It doesn't matter if you have a old manual Vivitar 285HV or the latest and greatest Alien Bees, It is STILL a light source and a light source you have control over. On camera flash is terrible for photographing people. The problem is that the flash is on the same axis as the lens therefore producing a very flat looking result, not to mention harsh shadows behind your subject and in some cases red-eye. By moving your flash to the left or right of your camera and aiming it at 45 degree angle toward your subject, you now give your subject shape and definition in your photo.
    The key thing in using small flashes is finding the right balance with ambient light. The way to do this is by remembering this rule: "Aperture controls Flash exposure" "Shutter speed controls ambient light"

    Another option is to decide what kind of light you need for a given situation. Diffused or soft light is much more flattering for portraits, where as Hard light is better for action or sports. Also, you must remember that when you place a diffusor, or shoot thru umbrella etc. in front of your flash, you lose about 1 stop of light and this must be compensated for by increasing the flash power level or adjusting your Aperture value.

    For those who are just starting out in off camera lighting, I would highly recommend the following websites to help you:

    www.strobist.com
    www.squeezethelime.com
    www.prophotolife.com
    www.onelightworkshop.com
    I totally agree with what Nomad said here.
    Also, the links to some very useful/helpful sites is so welcomed as well!
    Lighting can be pretty tricky, but is worth the effort in study as it is what makes or breaks a photo. It takes a great deal of time to even begin to master, so if you are about challenging yourself, start with a little bit of light play. Look through magazines and try to figure out how scenes were lit, then try to duplicate the effect. There is sooooooooooooooo much to learn, but takes portrait/people photography to a whole new level.

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    Dark Woods is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomorrowstreasures View Post
    I totally agree with what Nomad said here.
    Also, the links to some very useful/helpful sites is so welcomed as well!
    Lighting can be pretty tricky, but is worth the effort in study as it is what makes or breaks a photo. It takes a great deal of time to even begin to master, so if you are about challenging yourself, start with a little bit of light play. Look through magazines and try to figure out how scenes were lit, then try to duplicate the effect. There is sooooooooooooooo much to learn, but takes portrait/people photography to a whole new level.
    I am looking to ditch my studio strobes for the little flash units, would like to know what I need to buy to make this work on my D80. I have one flash unit, sb-600.. can I use another type like a Sunpak or something that will work together and get a pocket wizard or can I use some other cheaper method.. Thanks.. and oh, how do I go about doing this in set-up process..

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