Buyer's Guide 2007: Lighting For Digital Photography And Video
Improve the quality of your still and moving images with auxiliary light sources
Photography is about painting with light. While available light is often the palette from which most of our photographs are created, there are times when we want much greater control than we can ever have over the sun. Electronic flashes and continuous light sources provide just that.
The Modern Flash
Shooting under low light isn't the only reason to use today's electronic flashes. A flash helps control contrast, boost color saturation and enhance details that might otherwise be lost. It's achieved virtually automatically with the aid of advanced in-camera metering, reflectivity measurement and even lens-to-subject distance. The best thing about it is that you don't have to have an engineering degree to take advantage of it. It's often as easy as just turning on the flash and shooting.
Metering And Flash Output
The reason why flash has become simpler while increasingly accurate is advances in camera metering. While multipattern metering systems have resulted in more precise ambient light measurements, camera manufacturers have also improved the accuracy of flash exposures, whether the flash is the primary light source or used for fill-light.
This is accomplished using TTL (through-the-lens) metering that measures the light reflected off the image sensor and combines it with lens-to-subject distance information, the reflectivity of the subject and the ambient light level. The result is consistent flash exposures. The camera automatically turns off the flash when there's sufficient illumination.
Many of today's digital SLRs offer built-in flashes, but auxiliary flashes like the Canon 580EX, Nikon SB-800 and Metz Mecablitz 76 MZ-5 offer not only more power, but greater flexibility and control. Along with some advanced features, such as wireless TTL, wider angle of coverage, and swing and tilt adaptability, these flashes deliver greater creative control, whether used alone or in conjunction with multiple off-camera flash.