Speedlight Flash Photography Basics

Many beginners hesitate to purchase lighting equipment because learning to properly set it up and use it can be daunting. But there’s no need to fear it! Mark from The Photographer Academy explains how photographers with new lighting gear can better understand speedlights:

What is a Speedlight?

Speedlights or Speedlites (depending on the brand) are portable flashes that can be external or mounted to your camera. They can be used in many situations depending on the creative effect you want to introduce in your work.

In dark settings, speedlights work effectively for casting light onto your subject. You can also isolate a specific area of your image to draw light and focus to it. This can be done by zooming in the flash to pinpoint one small area of light. Also, a speedlight can be used as your off-camera flash to change the direction of the lighting.

basic instructions lighting speedlight manual photography

Speedlight Settings

Now, it is time to learn the modes on your speedlight.

The ETTL (Evaluative Through The Lens) metering mode reads the light information in the frame and helps provide extra flash for your shot.

In M (Manual) mode, you set the power for your flash. By turning the dial clockwise, you increase the power up to a 1:1 ratio. When the dial goes counter-clockwise, you can reduce the power as far as 1/128 power. If you choose manual flash, keep in mind the distance from your subject. It always helps to use a light meter to measure how much light you will need.

In Multi mode, the speedlight flashes like a strobe, so you’re able to adjust how many flashes and for how long.


how to use speedlights

Next, you can use a bounce diffuser to spread the light from your flash. When paired with a bounce card, some of the light is redirected toward your subject and the rest travels in the direction of the diffuser. This technique is used as a catch light in portraits so that your subject receives more direct illumination in addition to the diffused light.

The easiest way to learn the technology is to acquire it yourself and put it to the test. What are you waiting for?

“Speedlight—that name refers to a portable flash or a flash that was originally designed to fit on the camera hot shoe.”

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