Photography News Issue 36

Technique 26

Photography News | Issue 36 |

Get to knowyour flash Let’s start by looking at the different types of lights you can use. Broadly there are two types of artificial light: flash and continuous. Flash is the more popular for photography, so that’s what we’ll mainly look at in this introduction, but continuous tungsten and LED lighting can be highly effective in its own right and we’ll cover that in more detail in a future instalment. Flash lights are typically broken into three types; speedlights, monolights and head/power pack combos. Speedlights Speedlights or ‘strobes’ are the small flashguns that sit in your camera’s hotshoe, or can be fired off-camera using flash triggers. What they lack in power they often make up for in portability and most modern speedlights can work with your camera’s metering system so you can shoot without setting the flash power manually if desired. Speedlights can be fitted to stands via adapters and modifiers for these lights are much smaller than for larger heads. Monolights Monolights, or monoblocs, are more powerful than speedlights, but like the latter they have a flash tube and controls contained in one unit (hence the ‘mono’ bit). Theywill also have amodelling light, allowing you to assess the look of the light on the subject. Some are powered by an internal battery, and others need plugging into a mains supply. Like speedlights they can be triggered wirelessly if you have compatible equipment (and power can often be set in this way, too), or you can connect a sync cable between camera and light. These lights usually need to be mounted on a stand and their modifiers can be larger due to the increased power on offer. Head/power pack combination Head/power pack combos tend to be the most powerful flashes, but they’re frequently less than portable, so mostly found in the studio. Like monolights they have modelling light, but the head needs to plug into a separate power pack. The latter may be dependent on the mains or contain a rechargeable battery and power is usually controlled from the pack. Many now have integrated wireless connections as well as optical sensors for slaving off other flashes. Packs will often feature multiple ports allowing several heads to be powered at once, andmodifiers can be very large due to the extra power provided. Right Here’s an annotated example of a typical flash head you might find in a studio or out on a location shoot. The head shown here is a Profoto D1 Air 1000, but the basic features are common to most models. This kind of head is called a monolight, or monobloc; this particular model is a self- contained unit with a built-in rechargeable battery. Most heads are mains power only although there are a fewwith the option of either. The most powerful – and most expensive – mains flash units have a separate head (or heads) connected by cable to a power pack or generator.

SLAVE CONTROL When the slave control’s radio or IR lamps are lit it will fire in response to either a radio signal or the light from another flash.

ON/OFF SWITCH There’s also a power supply indicator here.

READY CONTROLS Here there’s a choice of an audible beep, or for the modelling light to dim as the light is powering up.


This, in conjunction with the main control knob, manually sets the modelling light power.

MODELLING LIGHT SETTINGS This controls the type of modelling light allowing it to be proportional to the flash (Prop), manually controlled (free) or off.

TEST BUTTONANDREADY LIGHT The Test button fires the flash manually. It’s useful for open flash techniques, or to discharge power before switching off. The ready light shows when the flash has recharged fully.

CONTROL KNOB This controls the power of the flash and the modelling light, as well as some other secondary functions.

MODELLING LIGHT BULB Like a regular lamp with a dimmer switch, the modelling light can be increased and decreased in power, and provides a preview of the lighting the flash will give.

SYNC LEAD CONNECTION Here you can plug in a sync lead to physically connect the camera and flash for triggering.

POWER SUPPLY If an AC connection is

required, it’ll plug in here. If there’s an integral battery the port will be used for charging the light.

MAINDISPLAY This shows power settings for flash and the modelling lamp, and other information.

CHANNEL BUTTON This changes the radio channel, so lights can be controlled on different channels.

FLASH TUBE It’s from here that the flash is discharged. The bulb is sensitive so may be protected by a glass cover or dome. Some are user- replaceable.

STANDADAPTER This socket, which has a locking screw attaches to the top of a lighting stand for positioning of the light.

FUSE HOLDER Flashes are protected by ‘fast blow’ fuses, not the sort you’ll find for the kettle, and these may blow from time to time.

LOCKINGKNOB/TILT CONTROL Depending on the flash model this may purely affix the light to a stand or control the tilt of the light at the same time.

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