A speedlight is the number one accessory that every photographer should have in his or her camera bag and they have many advantages over built-in pop up flashes. In this video I’m sharing 7 reasons why an external speedlight is such an essential tool for photographers.
Nowadays a lot of photographers – especially if you look around on Instagram – don’t seem to care that much about using speedlights anymore. With image sensor technology getting better every year we can krank up the ISO, push shadows in post and still get very good results in low light situations. And most cameras also come with a built-in pop-up flash anyway leaving some of you with the question: „Hey Pat, Why should I bother carrying around one of these?“ Hang on, I got 7 reasons for you why you should grab one immediately.
The most obvious advantage of using an external speedlight rather than built-in flash is a tremendous increase in power. My Godox V860II for example has a Guide Number (GN) of 60 whereas a pop-up flash typically has a GN of about 12. So, what does that mean? It means, that at identical ISO and aperture settings, the speedlight is 5 times more powerful. This allows you to either use lower ISO settings for better image quality or shoot with narrower apertures for increased depth of field. A speedlight is not only more powerful in terms of output but also in terms of speed. It has much faster recycle times so you’re less likely to miss a moment. Last but not least they run on their own power source and won’t drain you cameras battery allowing you to shoot longer sessions.
Speedlights come with way more controls than pop-up flashes. Most notably you have the ability to automatically zoom the light so you can match it to the focal length of your lens all the way from wide angle to telephoto. This ensures the correct spread and intensity of the light falling on your subject. Most speedlights also have a built-in diffusion panel to spread the light even further or to create a softer, more flattering look.
Bouncing the flash
Another huge benefit of external speedlights is the flash head that you can tilt up or down by 90° or pivot by 360° in order to bounce the light from another surface like a wall or ceiling. This is an easy way to improve your indoor photography. Bouncing the light increases the spread for a softer, more flattering look. This technique also allows you to adjust the angle of the light giving you the ability to shoot side-lit, studio-like images. Bouncing light works best with white walls or ceilings because because they naturally reflect light without any strange color casts.
There is an incredible range of affordable accessories available that are designed to work with a speedlight. A diffusion dome for example is mostly included in the box. These clip on the flash head and make the light more even. To get more creative you can choose between various other attachments like colored gels, softboxes, snoots, barn doors, beauty dishes or grids. Each of these affects the light in a unique way allowing you to explore different styles and challenge your creative mind with new ideas.
Using off-camera flash
Ok, listen – this is next level stuff that will most likely revolutionize your photography. I’m not kidding. If you’re already overcoming challenging lighting situations using a speedlight on your camera, the next thing for you to try is off-camera flash. This means that your speedlight is no longer attached to the hot shoe of your camera. Instead that flash is triggered remotely. I use a Godox X-Pro wireless trigger which lets me remotely control and fire my V860II. If your speedlight doesn’t have integrated wireless functions you can purchase a set of wireless triggers from as little as 30€. Now you have the ability to place your light source anywhere and you gain total control over the light in your image.
Speedlights are typically smaller than a standard zoom lens, they aren’t that heavy and easily slip into your bag. Carrying one won’t slow you down and you can use them anywhere, anytime as an ultra-portable studio style light to overcome challenging shots on-location.
Speedlights are a very affordable photographic accessory considering how beneficial they are. You can get really good ones like a Godox V860II for example for under 200€.