Why I do not use flash (yet)

The 35mm nightmare.

Here is an interesting liner from the DIY photography blog.

I will admit that I am a little snobby when it comes to anyone who proclaims to be a “natural light photographer”.  To me “natural light photographer” essentially equals “beginner that doesn’t know how to use light”.

There is a bit of truth to that. Shooting indoors, I could definitely use a flash gun. I’m not going to fight it. But please, allow me to retort.

  1. I am learning, and still cannot fully understand light yet. Setting things up for the right exposure is easy enough. Setting things up to make things look natural and pleasing is a different ballpark. When I have enough learning and see that it is the right time to use a flash, I’ll use your bloody flash.
  2. My mind is already geared towards being reflexive of my environment and the subject. Manipulating it to get the result make things even more difficult and actually gets me less results.
  3. In the way I photograph things, shots with flash gets old. No, shut up, let me finish. I am just not the kind of guy who shoots in a studio or carry flash stands, reflectors, and several flash guns on me. Ergo, I am stuck with only one flash. Yes, I can get creative even with one flash, but ‘getting the flash off camera’ or ‘bouncing the flash’ makes my collection of my shots more generic than not using a flash and trying to solve the problem by clever positioning and composition. Using the pop-up as a slight fill and using the off-camera flash as key often works great. Because of the limits in the angles I can play with the flash, though, they all end up looking the same.
  4. Photography is about light. That, I can fully agree. However, can you really hand someone a flash, and say ‘stop being a noob and use a flash’? If they can’t even understand and figure out how to take advantage of available light, how can they learn how to manipulate the lighting environment with artificial sources?

Here are a few of my favourite outdoor shots.

They are all done with nothing but available light.
Could flash improve these shots? Maybe, Maybe not.
With my level of technical and artistic mastery, would I have gotten a better result with a flash and/or a reflector on these shots? Maybe with one or two – not without practice, though.
Did I have a learning experience in understanding the properties of light in photography? Oh yes.

With all this rant out of the way, though, I am picking up using how to flash. I don’t own a flashgun yet, but I am reading up and on the lookout for a flash that will serve me best.

In outdoors with daylight, using flash can be cheeky because our eyes are used to only having one light source while outside: THE FREAKING SUN. However, there are some very clever shots where strong fill or key lighting the hair while having the subject backlight by the sun in dawn or twilight. There are also clever ways of getting the subject under a shade, while using a big light source to replace the sun with something that might be softer and more flattering.

While shooting indoors events, flash can be a lot more flexible because like any other sources, flash is also artificial. When the lighting is dim and unforgiving, flash with proper colour adjustments can make or break the entire occasion. Once I buy a flash unit, I will start exploring all the indoors goodies like bouncing, diffusers, off camera, etc. With enough practice, I think I will feel comfortable enough to start shooting more indoors.

As an added bonus, here is an image I took while I pathetically tried to remedy the ridiculously low light of the restaurant with a pop-up flash.

Oh, the pain.

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