Demystifying Flash: The Basics

Contributed by Marv Goldschmitt

At our March 28 meeting Mike Milicia, a nationally known bird photographer, teacher and founding member of the BCA Photo Group, gave a presentation to the group on the fundamentals of speedlight flash photography.

Artificial lighting is a huge topic that can take years to master. And as Mike pointed out, even with all the information that is available, there is very little that explains the basics of speedlights in a straightforward way. For many advanced photographers the vagaries of the details for optimizing their use of even a single speedlight can be daunting. As usual, Mike stepped into the breach with his clear explanations of how, when and, maybe most importantly, why to use speedlights.

Mike began by demonstrating the value of flash in a situation where most of us wouldn’t naturally think to use it: outdoor nature photography. One look at the difference between a native light shot of a bird in flight or nesting and the same shot appropriately lit with a flash, made the benefits obvious. Everyone was thinking “I want to do that” and Mike then showed us how.

Mike covered a range of topics including how the lights actually work (e.g. how different levels of light are created by a speedlight), how to use a speedlight in both manual and automatic modes, the differences between various options for syncing cameras and speedlights (e.g. front and rear curtain exposure, high speed sync, etc.), the optimal distance from a subject, how to think about the balance between ambient and flash light, and much more.

From the high level of attendance and the volume of questions, it is clear that this was a topic of great interest to many members of the group. We all left with a much better understanding of a tool that we rarely use to its potential.

Mike prepared a great list of useful resources - YouTube videos and books - in a pdf document that you can access at the link below. If clicking this doesn't open on your browser, try right-clicking and do a 'save as' to download the file.