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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Pentax K50 image samples (3 of 10)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 8.0

When you’re first getting into the world of off-camera flash (or flash lighting in general) it can be a very daunting task. Like cameras and lenses, there are so many different choices that you might not know what you should get. But with lighting, you’ve got a whole new list of needs and features that you can work with.

In truth, any light when used correctly will make your images pop and look much better. But the differences is with the features, pricing, power output and integration into your camera system.

Heard of Profoto? Yeah, they make great products. What about Yongnuo? Yup, good there, too. But these two companies are on two totally different side of the spectrum and you wouldn’t make a ridiculous comparison like a high end Profoto Monolight to a sub-$100 Yongnuo flash.

So here’s how to navigate this new world.

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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer NYCC New York Comic Con 2013 exports (26 of 84)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.0

Here, we generally talk about strobism and using a flash with radio transmitters. We prefer radio because of how reliable they are, but they’re not the only option. For years, many photographers have triggered flashes and strobes using infrared transmission.

What’s infrared? Basically, it’s another way of triggering flashes to go off and usually requires you to use another flash. There are also limitations but in most situations it’s pretty reliable and it gets the job done.

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Screenshot taken from the video

Screenshot taken from the video

Two big terms that strobist photographers and anyone looking to get into flash photography will hear are flash duration and high speed sync. In lay man’s terms, flash duration will stop fast moving motion and high speed sync will deal with ambient lighting–but it gets even more complicated than that.

Dan over at Adorama created a video to show how this works. He demonstrates high speed sync and shows how at f1.2, you can get a very shallow depth of field in mid-day lighting while killing the ambient lighting and mixing it with strobe output to look natural.

Then he goes into the studio and shows how flash duration stops fast moving motion and how you need to have almost no ambient lighting in the scene for the best effect.

The video is after the jump.

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Kevin Lee The Phoblographer Strobies Pro-Flash TLi-C Product Images 2

It’s no real big secret that flashes come with varying amounts of potential power output. Large monolights can do one thing and hot shoe flashes can do another thing. But in general, it can be tough to tell how strong a flash is.

To do this, manufacturers use the rating of a guide number. We’re going to use the Canon 600EX Rt flash as an example.

To figure this out, we’re going to need to do some math.

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Pro Tip: For this image we placed Grace's back towards the sun so that it would give us a natural hair light. The softbox was then placed camera left as you see it in the image above this one.

Pro Tip: For this image we placed Grace’s back towards the sun so that it would give us a natural hair light. The softbox was then placed camera left as you see it in the image above this one.

Congratulations, you’ve probably just picked up your first flash if you’re reading this post. Welcome–and know that pretty much everything that you’ve thought you’ve known about using a flash should be thrown out the window. The use of a flash in general has to do with adding light to a scene and creativity rather than just using it in spots where it would otherwise be too dark.

We’re serious: throw everything away that you thought you knew about using a flash and read on.

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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f2.8 Touit product photos (6 of 7)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

We’re going to do you some justice: we’re not going to give you a list of lenses that will give you better macro images; that’s far too simple. The truth is that when combined with modern cameras, most any lens can do an incredible job. Instead, we’re going to tell you how to make your images even better without spending the equivalent of another lens.

The key to better macro images and better photos overall has to do with one thing: light. Yes, you can use natural light but it won’t always give you what you need to create an image that simply pops off the screen and grabs your viewers. Instead, you need to be in control of your light.

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