I enjoy teaching people how to take advantage of their one flash. My next class follows up my basic external flash class, though that class is not a pre-requisite for the next one, the “Off-Camera Flash: Using One Flash Effectively” class. The initial, on-camera flash class is offered mainly for people who are new to using flash and don’t want to put a lot of money into additional equipment. In that class we focus on using an external flash in the hot shoe of one’s camera effectively so as not to get flat, “snapshot” results. In the first “Off-Camera Flash” class, we review what is covered in the initial class and then jump right into taking that flash off the camera and putting it to work! I used to love teaching German 1 classes because by the end of the first semester I knew I would have all of my students speaking some German and understanding it. Teaching these flash classes is fun for a similar reason: by the end of six hours working with my students, I know they will all no longer be afraid to use their flash unit. And, I know that they will have a better understanding of how flash works and a working knowledge of how to use it to produce more dramatic and pleasing images. That is extremely satisfying for any teacher.
So, if you have avoided using your external flash or have avoided purchasing one because you thought it was an expensive and, perhaps, unnecessary accessory, reconsider. Some avoid flash because they think it is difficult. “Inverse Square Law? Get serious!” Well, it is not and the Inverse Square Law does not require you to be a math or physics expert. You’ll “get it” in 30 minutes of practice! Trust me. Some avoid flash photography because they think the necessary equipment is expensive. Well, once again, it does not have to be. Brandname flashes that match your camera can be pricey. There are good arguments for buying one (or, at least, third-party units that work specifically with your camera), however, to get started you don’t need a brandname flash that matches your camera. When using flash off-camera, you can use ANY flash with ANY camera. Yes. It is true. I have a Yongnue and Neewer flash each of which sells for under $50 that we will use in class.
The most problematic issue is getting one’s camera to “talk” to a flash, especially when using these off-brand units. Radio triggers are the most recommended solution and they range in cost for a transmitter (goes in your camera’s hot shoe) and receiver (you attach it to the flash) from $20 up to several hundreds of dollars. Just as you expected, I have the $20 solution and we will use it (I, actually, have two sets) in class. So, if cost is what concerns you, know that you can get started for under $60 for flash and a radio trigger set. And, in fact, that basic equipment may hold you for a long time depending on how much you decide to use flash and how deep you want to dive into it (I have another course for that, by the way!) Light stands and umbrella diffusers are useful, but not essential as there are work-arounds, something we will discuss in class.
Whether you decide to take a class with me or learn on your own, please start. Adding flash to your photographic toolkit will make you just that much more useful and versatile as a photographer, whether your goal is simply hobby/family photography, product photography, or to start a portrait or wedding photography business. The more you know, the better you can deliver!
Here are two previous posts that you may find interesting: http://www.infotor.com/blog/reviewing-flash-basics-firming-up-the-foundation/ and http://www.infotor.com/blog/magic-with-only-one-flash/. However, you may want to simply pick and choose from all the flash-related articles I've posted over the past few years by following this link: http://www.infotor.com/blog/category/learning/flashcontrol/.
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I have scheduled several hands-on photography classes for this fall and winter. The next ones are flash classes and start mid-November. Check them out and give yourself the gift of learning: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses! I am also available to do one-on-one tutoring or small group lessons designed to meet YOUR needs and what you want to learn in the area of photography, using flashes, or the use of Apple products and software. And check out my tutoring bundle: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses/tutoringbundle.php as well.