Artificial Lighting

Something that I forgot to include in my “Putting together a system” article was the topic of the flash gun.

Throughout shooting on my D300 & throughout my ‘gear acquiring’ hobby… haha… some folks call these people camera man… not photographers lol!… the one piece of gear which I have neglected quite a bit was actually the flash unit. I had a flash for as long as I was still shooting with my D50, however it was sorely underutilized & it just sat in my dry box for months on end!

Well, as a noob, I made the single biggest mistake any aspiring photographer would make. Everyone I know who is taking up photography in one way or another neglects planning their budget around a good flash unit. Every single person I know, looks for a budget camera body… with the kit lens…. some will trade the kit lens for either an 18-200mm, or the smarter ones will go for a 17-50mm f2.8 budget tamron lens. Never have I seen anyone who is getting into photography put a flash as first priority over an alternative lens… ever!! And the excuse is, the camera got a built-in flash de mah!

Why is a flash unit important?

Lighting is the most important thing in photography. Without light, there is no photography. The problem is that most of us take light for granted because we have the most sophisticated camera attached to our skulls & a CPU far greater than any Digic processor will ever be… our brains. Our eyes see more color & light… has the most advanced automatic white balance & automatic ISO than any modern digital camera today & any future digital camera will ever be. Our eye can see more dynamic range than any D-lighting can see.


During the evening when you are alone in a room, flip the florescent lighting off. For a while you will be blinded, but after a while, your eyes adjust to the low light & then things start to clear up a bit.

When you enter a hotel lobby which uses warm lighting to illuminate the hall, you will at first see everything with an orange tint… but then as if magic after a while, things start to look normal again.

While your eyes can adjust quickly to these sudden changes. Your camera can’t. Try the above 2 scenarios by taking a photo under those extreme conditions!

Time & again you will find yourself in a situation where…
1. It’s smack in the middle of the day & you have to shoot some photos of people outside in the hot sun. Some how your photos of the people don’t look too good because of the shadows under their eye brows & nose.
2. You are in a restaurant for your friend’s birthday bash. You try to shoot but everything looks yellowish & your shots come out blur & no where near as sharp as you would like them to be.
3. You are sipping cocktail on the balcony facing what looks to be the greatest view you’ve ever witnessed… suddenly your friends decide they want a photo of themselves with the scenery as the backdrop. But all you get is a nice background with silhouettes of what look like shadows of people! lol

Sure you can use that pop-up flash that comes with your DSLR but that is like trying to drive a car at night with a mini maglite. Also direct pop-up flash looks harsh & at times will create even more shadows than eliminate them at all. Nothing beats a properly diffused light from a proper flash gun like a Nikon SB600 or a Canon Speedlite 430EX II… which by the way I got one for my 5DmkII.

If budget is a problem, get one of those low-cost Nissin Di622 flash units. They make those for both Nikon & Canon as well at less then RM450 a piece.


3 responses to “Artificial Lighting”

  1. Sunsun says :

    Somehow i always think that External flash unit is really important.. As i always encountered those problems you’d mentioned in the article.. But hor… I use Olympus… not sure how much will I have to save my $$$ to add gears and upgrade.. hahhaha.. That day went to Rasa Sayang.. Failed to shoot those nice nice food… hhahaha

    • Adrien says :

      Oh sorry I’m not familiar with Olympus systems to advise you. But I’m sure they make entry level flash units which should be reasonably priced.

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