Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Photography & Science: Flash and Which Flash?

Xenon in a tube
Image from Wikipedia

Here, my friend Alan predicted on the day that I bought my Canon EOS 7D with my first L lens and the day that I bought my Tokina wide-angle lens that I will one day want to get a flash. I said "no" the first time, "maybe but not any time soon" on the second, but I must say "yes, I am getting one" this time. And that reminds me I still owe him a buffet for getting me much cheaper photography gears.

But buying anything to do with photography is not just about having the money, but also about understanding yourself. Why do you need it? Will you be upgrading in the future? If you are, should you get something less good? How do you get the best within your budget? And what is the "best" anyway?

To answer all these questions, you may first need to understand some basics, starting from the science.

How Does A Flash Work?

Discovery Channel has the best science knowledge possible available. Watch the video below to understand how a flash works.

Xenon, by the way, has an atomic number 54 and it is a colourless, heavy, odorless noble gas.

After you have understood the science, then you will understand why a flash is so costly, which helps you in evaluating the cost of a flash. 

Then you will need to understand what is master flash and slave flash.

What Is A Master Flash And A Slave Flash
Canon 580ex II master, Canon 430EX slave, Hotshoe to mini-phone for master, 2 RF triggers
Image from pointsinfocus
From the Discovery Channel page,

Master and slave are terms used by professional photographers to describe the process of setting up multiple flashes throughout a space in order to achieve a better lighting effect. The master flash can be set off by the camera's shutter. The other "slave" flashes are triggered in turn by the master. Some slave flash designs use the master's light itself as a trigger cue to light their own flashes.

What is basically means is, master flash is the flash you can control, like the pop-up flash, and slave flash is the one that needs to be controlled or triggered by your master flash. Master flash will flash faster, and the slave flash will flash later.

Some flashes can be both master and slave, like Canon 600 EX-RT or 580 EX II, but some can only be slave, like Canon 480EX II, then of course, the price difference is huge. Which one do you need? The best way is to watch a lot of reviews on YouTube.

MichaelTheMentor has some very good videos, and here's one,

You will also need to learn the types of flash metering.

What Is TTL, ETTL and ETTL2?

What Can A Flash Do Anyway?

To understand why you need a flash and some basics of working with flashes, I recommend you watch the following video for beginners, mind you, he speaks quite fast and it is 1 hour 50 mins lecture, but this video is the best.

Do I Need A Flash In Bright Daylight?

Well, in some cases, yeah. In the last video, you can see how to blur the background while using a flash to keep the subject lightened up. This photographer's English is very simple and slow, so it is really easy to understand.

I'll update when I have finally got my equipment. For now, I need that black-&white umbrella from the lecture, a flash-umbrella stand and a flash.

Bang for the buck -- more bang for your buck(s) informal the best result for the smallest effort

Xenon @ Wikipedia

How Stuff Works @ Discovery Channel

MichaelTheMentor @ YouTube

Canon 600EX-RT vs 580EXII | Is it worth the cost? | Tutorial Training Video @ YouTube

TTL vs ETTL | Canon 580EXii / 430 EXii Speedlite DVD @  YouTube

Controlling the Light: Beginners Guide to Off-Camera Lighting and Control @ YouTube

Strobist Photography: Part 4 - Midday strobist portrait at F1.4 @ YouTube