Aperture Club blog

On Camera Canon Flash

The Why, What and How of External Flash

26th March 2019

Why on earth would I need to use an external flash?

 Yes we’ve all asked ourselves the same question during the initial stages of our photographic journey.  And rightly so.

After you understand the basics of working with your camera (see previous blog) on P, A/Av, S/Tv or M mode you will start to realise how important flash is.

So I’m here to shed a little light (sorry I couldn’t help myself) on when flash can be a very useful tool…

  • Flash allows you to expose your point of interest correctly. Let’s say you are working indoors and it’s dark – you may need flash.
  • Flash is also your saviour in a contrasty lighting situation – for example if the subject is in shade but the background is very bright adding a little fill flash will help you expose the subject properly.
  • Using flash outdoors is also very useful – especially in the bright sun where flash will fill in all those harsh shadows.
  • “Catch-lights”! One of the other great uses of flash is that it creates lovely catch lights in the eyes of your subjects. It gives them life.  10 other tips for Portrait Photography were outlined in our previous blog

Now apart from the standard uses above, flash can also allow you to be more playful and creative with your images. And that goes for any style of photography – whether it’s street photography or portraiture, fine-art photography or a family photoshoot.

Flash Workshop_Without Flash
Photo of Model Carly Landa taken without Flash.
Flash Workshop_With Flash
Photo of Model Carly Landa taken with Flash.

What type of flash to use?

Now, the first step in your journey with flash is to get away from using the “pop-up” flash that most cameras have built-in and start using an “external” flash. An “external” flash is a flash that we put on top of the camera via the hot shoe (also known as a speedlight).

Pop Up camera flash
Pop Up camera flash

But wait a second – what’s wrong with the “pop-up” flash? Awesome question and here’s the answer – the biggest issue with “pop-up” flash is that it’s harsh and you can’t control it. In general – you want to be able to control flash so that it’s not so harsh and it’s more subtle. That’s why we use an external flash.

On Camera Canon Flash
On Camera Canon Flash

How to use a flash?

Now the key is to using external flash is to use it so without the viewer realising that you have used it. AHA moment!!

How? I’ll tell you…

  • Bounce it – this is one of the most important features! Bouncing the flash off a larger surface like the ceiling or a wall makes the light source much larger and much softer.
  • Soften/modify/diffuse it – there are loads of modifiers on the market that can help you further soften the flash.
  • Adjust the intensity – you have more control over the intensity of the light and can increase or decrease where needed.
  • Direct it – another important creative tool – you can control where the light is coming from!
  • Zoom it – zooming the flash head in or out can also affect the reach of the flash.

Well hopefully that will get you started on your journey with external flash.

With a little practice you can start creating some amazing images like the pro’s and take your photos from being “nice” photos to “WOW!” photos…


Sharon Hickey 

Professional photographer and tutor at The Aperture Club runs the Focus on Flash Workshop in Sydney.






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