BELOW Continuous LED lights are popular now, both for stills and video imaging. The Litra Studio is compact, versatile and extremely rugged for use in all conditions
By far the most popular form of artificial lighting for photographers is flash. It offers more power and flexibility than any other light source, and there is a huge range of options, from a small, on-camera flash gun to a huge, studio-based softbox. The basic concept is that a high-intensity flash goes off in synchronisation with the camera’s shutter. Bear in mind that you will only be able to use the flash, under normal circumstances, at a shutter speed up to the camera’s given flash sync speed. This is normally around 1/200sec.
Speedlights For most of us, our first experience with flash lighting will be a flash gun, or ‘speedlight’, that can be mounted on the hotshoe on top of the camera. Some cameras, mainly the less professional models, come with their own small flash unit built in – these are a great way to experience what a camera flash can do. However, as your ability improves, you may want to try one of the many stand-alone separate speedlights available on the market. These offer more power and more advanced features. The camera makers’ own units are made specifically for their models, so are usually simpler to operate and easier to understand, with many features being accessible through the camera’s own buttons and menu systems. Note that each modern digital camera brand has a different hotshoe connection, so speedlight units that fit on one, do not usually fit on another brand’s. It’s worth shopping around for a speedlight, as there are also some extremely good independent manufacturers that make units to fit your camera at considerably lower prices. For
instance, one trustworthy third-party manufacturer is Godox, which makes several different speedlight models with fittings for most brands of camera. The Godox V860II N only works with Nikon cameras, for example, (as denoted by the ‘N’) but the same speedlight is available to fit other camera makes as well, including Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic. Most modern speedlights are wirelessly compatible, so they can also be operated off-camera. A through-the-lens (TTL) function is also worth looking for – this allows the unit to communicate with the camera and automatically change the flash output to achieve the correct exposure in most situations. Ring flash units consist of a wrap-around circular lamp that encircles the lens. They are useful for close-up macro and nature photography, as well as fashion, if used further away from the subject. Sigma makes some of the best ring flashes on the market, but many camera makers supply their own models. You can also buy more powerful ring flash units for some studio flash systems.
ABOVE The battery- powered Profoto B10 family features two models. The B10 is 250W/s output, and the B10 Plus (pictured) has twice that output, but still comes in a really compact body form
If you are serious about flash photography in a studio or on location, then you will need to invest in some studio flash units. To begin with, there are a few crossover flash units that are effectively very powerful speedlights (such as the Profoto A1, Godox V1 and Godox AD200), but are not quite as powerful as proper studio units. These are popular with wedding photographers who want a little more power, but still need to move quickly and travel light. They have a limited number of reflector and modifier attachments, but are compact, as well as being relatively powerful. Studio flash units are the most powerful lighting units available. They are generally measured in watt Studio flash
seconds (Ws), but be aware that this is simply a measurement of the available power output of the light. What the light does with that power will vary from one unit to another, and one manufacturer’s 500Ws unit can give a slightly different result to another. It’s also important to remember that larger flash units can be dangerous, so it is sensible to invest in a well-known brand. With units available from 100Ws up to 3000, 4000 and 6000Ws, there is plenty of choice. For more advice on the latest lighting hardware, see our buyers’ guide (p45) in this issue. We’ve got four pages of the best buys for off-camera speedlights, LED continuous, battery and mains flash.
Graffiti composite This stylish image was shot in two parts and then combined in Adobe Photoshop. The subject was lit with flash in situ, then combined with a separate background image. This technique allows you to capture the ambient lighting and still light the subject without compromise Exposure: 1/160sec at f/16 and ISO 100
RIGHT The Hähnel Modus 600RT MkII is a leading speedlight. It’s fully featured, including TTL flash and multi-flash, plus it is powered by a rechargeable battery rather than AA cells, which gives great capacity and fast recycling
Photography News | Issue 86
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