People more or less start the same way. Someone somewhere loves us dearly enough so as to send us a camera for Christmas gift. Some of us may have even inherited it from their granddad or maternal uncle. Regardless, of the origin a camera arrives in our lives. That’s the ‘Allspark’ that we needed. Life never remains the same after that seemingly inert incident. We end up getting hooked to our camera and to photography for the rest of our best days.

Photography is probably one of the easiest of vocations to make a startat because all you need is a camera. It is, however, probably the most difficult of all vocations to pursue because the shopping list is endless; and surely the most frustrating of all to master because results are never really quite what is expected.

To begin with there’s never a perfect way to do something in photography. It’s just a continuously evolving set of techniques and a world of different perspectives. Everything is an approximation. There is no right or wrong just what one sees and how s/he decides to project it. One approach is just a step seemingly closer to perfection than the other, without actually reaching that zenith.

Tools, however, help make things easier to achieve, ensure less heartburns and lead more often to satisfactory results at the end of the day,than not. Tools, such as external lights,are a photographer’s best friend – that is after his camera and lens.

External lights can be of many types. Very briefly, they include anything that is not an integral part of the camera. The pop-up flash, being attached to your camera is not counted as an external light source. Anything else, and that includes a flash head is.

To illuminate the subject in a low ambient light situation

The most common reason a photographer needs an external light source is because the ambient light is insufficient for a proper exposure. Let’s say that you are shooting portraits outdoors and it is after sundown. It is dark and you are unable to meter for the face or make it properly exposed. Your only option would be to use an external light.

Some photographers would intentionally shoot after sunset to retain the beautiful warm golden yellow orange hues of the sky while adding just the right amount of light so that the subject is properly exposed. External lights are imperative for such a setup.

To balance an exposure

External lights are sometimes used in tandem with natural light. Let’s say that you want to shoot a bridal portfolio image. The model is sitting wearing a designer bridal outfit and sitting by a large window with abundant sunlight. Ideally the window should have a diffusing cover so that the light isn’t as harsh as you would normally expect direct sunlight to be. Now, one problem that you would notice is the dramatic light fall-off. This happens due to the inverse square law and is something that has the potential to make one side of your images conspicuously darker than the other. The solution is in using a fill light that is balanced to compliment the natural light. The solution, thus, is in using an external light.

To shape light for those unique lighting results

Really, one of the main reasons professional portrait photographers shoot inside a studio (controlled environment) is so that they can control the light. Studio light sources, such as strobes or continuous lights,are compatible with a host of light modifiers which allow photographers to shape the light to achieve a unique result. This is impossible to do with natural light. Some of the modifiers they can use to create a directional light include snoots, grids and gobos. Alternatively, softboxes, umbrellas and reflectors are some of the modifiers that produce a soft wrapping light. Both are necessary for specific looks.

When the built-in flash is less powerful

One of the reasons you need an external light is because the built-in flash isn’t that powerful. The pop-up flash in most entry, enthusiastic and some professional models is there just as a handy source of light. Professionals almost never use these for the simple reason they fire straight on and they can’t be modified easily. The fact that they are not powerful enough and take a long time to recycle also works against them.

To overpower poor ambient light source

External lights can do something that built-in lights never do. They can literally drown out any offending light source if the need be. This is something that may be necessary to be accomplished in an event, where mixed lights are used. Mixed lights create a challenge for photographers to properly set the white balance. Resultantly the images they shoot tend to reflect different color casts. Apart from shooting in RAW the other option is to use artificial lights that can literally drown out the offending light sources.

Ben Novoselsky

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at Phowd.com
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

You may also like

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Nikon D4S Discontinued

Nikon has officially marked the D4S as discontinued. One look at the official Nikon Japan website ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 9, 2016

Advantage Of Shooting Film In The Digital Age

Old But Not Obsolete
The dawn of digital sensor also brought in the demise of film. In many ways ...

Ben Novoselsky September 21, 2014

Using Circular Polarizing Filter (a C-PL Filter)

Photographers shooting landscapes in broad daylight or shooting objects with shiny metallic ...

Ben Novoselsky August 19, 2016

Why You Should Invest in a Tripod

There are probably a hundred reasons why you should invest in a tripod. I am not going to detail ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Hasselblad X1D-50c: The world’s first medium format mirrorless camera is here

It’s official! Hasselblad is the world’s first medium format mirrorless camera. After months of ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 9, 2016

Samyang 20mm f/1.8 Manual Focusing Lens Officially Announced

Samyang 20mm f/1.8

Great news for full-frame shooters. Samyang has officially announced the 20mm ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 28, 2015

The five questions you shouldn’t ask when buying your camera

Call it our ignorance or plain laziness, we hardly make the research to find out more about a ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 19, 2016

Choosing the Best Travel Photography Lens

A lot of amateur photographers find it difficult to zero in on the best travel photography lens for ...

Ben Novoselsky August 27, 2014

5 Tips to Choose an External Flash

Congratulations on buying your first DSLR! Now you are well and truly on the road to photographic ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2016

Don’t Decide on That Second Lens Until You Read This

Let me start by congratulating you. Why? You may ask. The fact that you are here looking for some ...

Author March 9, 2017

Should I Upgrade my Camera Body or my Lens?

It is all too common for a wide range of emotions to complicate the decision to upgrade the body of ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2015

Advantages of a hand-held light meter over a built-in light meter

In one of the previous articles on this website I discussed in detail the many different metering ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 1, 2015

Five features on your DSLR camera that you probably never use

Your camera comes with three handy metering systems. If you are using a Canon system camera yours ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

A Guide to Choosing the Right Camera Lens for the Job

Digital interchangeable lens cameras are the preferred choice for shooting professional quality ...

Rajib Mukherjee June 13, 2016

Google Ara: The Future of Smartphone Photography

Sometime last week during Google I/O, which has now become one of the most eagerly awaited events ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

Getting to Know Your Camera Lens

The optical piece of equipment that sits in front of your camera is the single most important piece ...

Ben Novoselsky September 22, 2016

Seven Photography Tools that You Should Possess to Improve Your Images

This discussion is about the tools of trade that we photographers need to possess in order to make ...

Ben Novoselsky December 25, 2015

Shooting videos with your digital SLR – An Introduction

Today’s digital SLR cameras are extremely versatile. They are ideally suitable for not only great ...

Ben Novoselsky August 12, 2016

About Flash Sync Speed Limitations and How to Work Around It

We often hear about flash sync speed and how we normally cannot use a flash to sync at extremely ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 1, 2014

Image Stabilization: Why It Matters, Types and How to Use

In the overall history of camera technology image stabilization is a rather recent development. ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 5, 2016

Five Ways You Can Use An External Flash In Outdoor Shooting

This article is meant for photographers who want to learn how to use an external flash in outdoor ...

Ben Novoselsky March 25, 2016

The Uses of ND Filters in Landscape Photography

Often, amateur landscape photographers tend to have lots of issues trying to balance an exposure in ...

Ben Novoselsky April 22, 2016

How to Photograph Birds in Five Easy Steps

Bird photography is a supremely satisfying pursuit if you do it the right way and get results to ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

The Top 7 Compact Cameras for Travelers Under $2000

When it comes to travel photography you need not only to make great images, which is kind of given ...

Ben Novoselsky August 18, 2014

Everything You Wanted To Know About Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density filters are primarily used for balancing exposures. By balancing exposure, I mean ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 30, 2016

Introducing Canon Dual Pixel RAW Technology

Last week, the much awaited Canon 5D Mark IV made its debut. The rumor mills have been abuzz for ...

Rajib Mukherjee November 13, 2014

Understanding camera metering modes

As a photographer, digital or otherwise, one thing that you need to have a good idea of is the ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 6, 2016

Huawei Passes Image by 5D Mark III as Shot by P9, Apologizes

There is only one rule in advertising. It is not all right when you imply something in your ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 29, 2015

Working with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

One of the least understood aspects of photography is color correction. Even experienced ...

Ben Novoselsky October 24, 2016

Using a Softbox as your Key Light

The soft box is your definitive source of lighting a model or an object in order to photograph it. ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 23, 2015

How to properly use a pop-up flash

A question that most amateur DSLR users seem to ask is what is the correct use of the pop-up flash ...

Popular posts

Ben Novoselsky November 6, 2014

Portrait Photography Lighting Tips

Portrait photography, especially when we talk about studio portrait photography, as a genre, is ...

Ben Novoselsky March 25, 2015

The Use of Diagonal Lines in Photography Composition

We often read about the creative uses of lines in photography. The horizon line is one such oft ...

Ben Novoselsky April 22, 2016

How to Photograph Birds in Five Easy Steps

Bird photography is a supremely satisfying pursuit if you do it the right way and get results to ...

Ben Novoselsky June 25, 2015

A Review of Online Photo Printing Options

One of the things that photographers are guilty of and I am referring to both amateurs and ...

Ben Novoselsky November 24, 2014

Awesome Tips for Photographing Groups

Photographing groups can be extremely difficult. Usually, the need for large groups occurs at ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 31, 2015

How to use the Panning mode in photography

Panning is the technique of going with the flow of a moving subject to make images. The movement of ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 4, 2015

AF Tricks and Tips for Wildlife Photography

When it comes to wildlife photography, choosing the right auto-focusing mode can often make the ...

Ben Novoselsky June 18, 2015

How to Price Yourself as a Photographer

A question often asked by entry level protogs is how much to charge for their services. Many find ...

Rajib Mukherjee January 19, 2015

Light Painting in Photography: An Introduction

Light painting is a very interesting technique in photography that predominantly uses artificial ...