I don’t know what it is about flash, but it scares the crap out of most photographers. Just when you figure out how to manually meter to get great exposures, then you have to add flash and it’s like something short-circuits in your brain. Or maybe it’s just me. It has certainly taken ME awhile to grasp flash!
First things first: direct flash is evil. It rarely looks good. It hits subjects in a flat, cold sort of way that isn’t that flattering. Great for candids with the family – bad for professional photographers.
Well, that isn’t completely accurate. There are many flash modifiers you can use, such as softboxes and grids and Fong Dongs, oh my! But that’s an entirely separate subject.
So, the first bit of advice is to get an external flash. I’ve never used the pop-up flash on my 7D. I’m not even completely sure how to “activate” it, other than to put my camera in auto mode.
I use a Canon 580 EX II on my camera, Canon’s current top-of-the-line flash. I love everything about it, from the rotating head to the fast recycle time. I use PowerGenix high-voltage rechargeable batteries which I also highly recommend.
Okay, so if you have an external flash, how the heck do you learn how to use it? First, a few good free sources:
1. Melissa Jill’s blog – for a wedding photographer, these posts really opened up my eyes. I was still learning the basics and her posts (and her FAQ’s in general) have helped me tremendously.
2. Strobist – one of the best sources for learning flash. If you’re brand-new to flash, start with Lighting 101.
3. Neil van Niekerk’s blog – this is my favorite online guide for flash photography. This is where I first learned about bouncing flash and exposure compensation. He also has a book, which I have, although most of the information is online. I learn better by reading, but check out his website!
Now…I’m probably going to go off on a little tangent here that won’t make a lot of sense at first, so bear with me. There’s this concept of “rockstar photographers” currently; essentially wedding photography or photography gurus that have lots of workshops, command quite a bit for their services, and are very popular. It’s not something that I subscribe to, but if I were to consider one photographer a rockstar, it would be Zack Arias. He has a consistently fresh perspective not only with his work, but the industry in general. He’s also funny. This is one of my favorite videos (probably not funny if you’re not a photographer):
Zack Arias: Sucksessful Commercial Photographer
Anyway, Zack is somewhat of a lighting god and I have always wanted to take his course. For lack of him coming by locally with a workshop, I picked up his OneLight DVD. This is SUCH a great DVD! I cannot more highly recommend it.
Oh! And it shipped with this!
YES, I actually kept the packaging! I thought it was really cool. Am I fangirl-y for doing that?
Anyway…happy flashing! In the photography sense, of course.