November has started with wet dreary weather and of course with the change in the clocks the days are shorter. This perhaps limits the amount of outdoor shooting time, unless night shots is your thing. This brings me nicely to the kit I am going to talk about today Speedlights or flash guns for you camera as they are also known.
Many photographers starting out are a little scared of Speedlights and this causes them to say things like "I prefer to shoot using the natural light". Yes I agree if used incorrectly they can cause problems in a photo such as over exposure.
Night time use of the flash is self explanatory (to light the scene) but why would I use a flash during the day. well for two reasons to eliminate Portrait Shadows or as a Fill. Let me explain harsh shadows can wreck a nice shot when shooting portraits so a flash is extremely useful in helping to eliminate facial features more evenly. I personally use a diffuser over my flash head which softens the light and helps to spread it more evenly. Alternatively the flash light can be bounced off a ceiling causing the light to appear to come from above creating a more natural look.
What do I mean by a Fill Flash well believe it or not even on a bright sunny day a flash is useful. If you are taking a portrait in bright conditions and the sun is behind your subject the background will be perfectly exposed while the subjects features are harder to make out. Use of the flash in this scenario will brighten the subject and give you a better picture.
My main speedlight is a Pixapro 580 ITTL. This speedlight cost me £160 at the Photography Show. ITTL is a useful feature which works as follows:- Before the actual exposure one or more small flashes (preflashes) occur. The light from these returns through the lens and is measured. The software then calculates the amount of light necessary for the actual exposure. The preflashes and main flash appear to be one, as there is only a fraction of a second between them.
Speedlights need not be overly expensive though. I have two Neewer Speedlights which do not have the ITTL function. This means the power output of the flash has to be manually set. However how I find these flash units indispensable is that they can be set to fire via infa red signal from my PixaPro. This gives me the option of a three light location system which is easily portable. The Neewer Speedlights can be bought for around £20 - £30. (please see the link below for a reasonably priced Neewer model).