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How to Use a Speedlight

By Michelle Ecker on February 15, 2017


The New York Institute of Photography is one of the world’s largest photography schools and because we are, we often publish fun and useful photography lessons on our photography blog. Please enjoy!

How to Use a Speedlight

One of the best ways to improve your compositional skills and expand your portfolio is to experiment with new equipment whenever you get the chance. If you’ve never worked with a speedlight before, using this tool is a great way to improve the strength of your flash as well as how far said flash can reach. Compared to the units that are built into your device, speedlight flash typically offers a better range.

Not only that, since they aren’t technically a part of your camera itself, using a speedlight doesn’t kill any additional battery power- they run on a battery life of their own, so they’re great to use when you’re on the go. If you want to try adding this element of flash to your next series of shots, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Flexibility- something worth taking advantage of whenever you’re using an external flash unit is the added flexibility. Unlike build-in flash units that are restricted in the direction in which they can shine their light on your subject (directly to the front), speedlights are portable and can be placed wherever the angle of the flash looks best. Try experimenting with a few different placement adjustments to find the perfect spot to add a gentle glow to your subject.
  • Bounce Capability- One of the biggest issues photographers face when using flash is that the light looks way too harsh. Thanks to the flexibility we mentioned before, it’s much easier to avoid this issue when working with a speedlight. If you’ve never done it before, check out this tutorial to learn How to Bounce Your Flash. This technique is an excellent way to soften an otherwise harsh-looking light.
  • Daytime Use Many photographers shy away from using flash when the sun is up for fear of creating an overwhelmingly harsh look, but this might be a mistake. Speedlights are great to use outdoors during the day to add some fill light, especially when taking shots like silhouettes where you need to fill in certain darker spots.

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