Why do I need an external flash?

In some shooting conditions, the flash is often much more important than the camera itself and the lens. Whatever the super-fast lens, or whatever super high ISO values ​​the camera allows, it’s often impossible to achieve a good photo without a flash.

Why do I need an external flash?

Why do I need an external flash?

I most often work with the Nikon system, because the examples here I will give exclusively for Nikon cameras / flashes, but in the general case the same applies to other systems.

Almost all modern interchangeable-lens cameras have a built-in flash, often referred to as'flash frog', more often just'built-in'. All modern interchangeable-lens cameras can use an additional flash, this flash is usually called 'external', less often 'system'.

An external flash is installed in a special connector called 'shoe' or 'hot shoe'. Usually when buying a camera, the shoe for an external flash is covered with a special plastic cap. The shoe has special contacts, with the help of which there is a 'communication' between the camera and the system flash. When attaching an external flash to the camera, it is fixed with a special lock.

This is how you can shoot with an external flash

This is how you can shoot with an external flash using the reflection of the flash light from the walls and ceiling. Image from instructions for SB-910

The general principle of the built-in and external flash is the same, but there are huge differences in the details. About the automatic flash mode, which is often called TTLcan read here. With an external flash, you can do such things that are not available when using the built-in flash:

  1. Can perform burst shooting. With an external flash, you can shoot in series. The built-in flash on most cameras only works in standard single-frame mode. This means that with the built-in flash, you can only take one picture at a time. For serious shooting, especially for reporting, the ability to shoot in series is very, very important.
  2. External flash is much more powerful than the built-in. For example, guide number (power) built-in flash on the camera Nikon D5100 is 13, and guide number outbreaks S is 28. Speaking roughly, the more guide number - all the better.
  3. External flash almost always recharges fasterthan the built-in. Also, an external flash usually has a larger threshold for overheating. This means that the external flash can fire much more times before overheating and turning off. Not all external flash units have overheating sensors. You can find out about overheating in the Nikon flash review. S. Usually, the built-in flash can do 10-20 fires (depending on the pulse power) before it goes into standby mode.
  4. Normal external flash has zoom. Yes, an external flash can adjust to the focal length of the lens. The external flash lamp has the ability to zoom to fit the desired lens. For example, my flash S can zoom from 10 to 200mm. Using the zoom provides the most accurate dosing of light and maximizes the radius of the flash. The built-in flash on the camera does not have a zoom and is always fixed at a specific wide-angle position. With the built-in flash and wide-angle lens, shadows may appear in photographs from the lens itself.
  5. One can rotate the flash head in different directions. Usually an external flash consists of two parts, one of them is movable. The moving part of the flash is called the 'head'. Rotating the flash head can be used flash light reflection from walls, ceilings, etc. for softer, more natural lighting. Also, by rotating the head, you can make a low tilt for macro shooting. The built-in flash can only work in head-on mode. In this mode, the built-in flash produces a 'hard' light that is of little use for normal shooting of people.
  6. External flash does not require the use of red-eye reduction... The built-in flash almost always produces a red-eye effect when shooting people. To get rid of this effect using the built-in flash, you need to use the special flash mode for red-eye reduction. In this mode, the built-in flash makes many special preflashes, which is not always convenient. An external flash can operate normally without red-eye.
  7. External flash can use additional diffuser nozzles... This mainly concerns the diffuser card, which is often referred to as 'burdock' and diffuser hoods. If there is no card on the external flash, then it can be made like this. The built-in flash does not support original diffusers, there are only third-party nozzles, or home-made nozzles. How to make such a nozzle-diffuser can find here и here.
  8. No need to worry about charging battery cameras, because the external flash uses its own power sources. Usually these are AA batteries. The built-in flash is powered by the battery of the camera itself.
  9. External flash can be used separately from the camera in remote control mode. This means that you can take an external flash, put it in a certain place, and when shooting it can automatically fire and highlight your subject from the side / back \ from any place at any angle. This is a very, very useful feature, you can use it to create creative lighting systems with one or several flashes. I advise you to see how it works here here.
  10. If there are several external flashes, then one of them mounted on the camera, can serve as a flash master for remote control of other external flashes. Not all built-in and not all external flashes can work in this mode, in more detail here.
That's how you can shoot with a diffuser

This is how you can shoot with a diffuser to create soft light. Image from instructions for SB-910

Can be used some very useful extras. Usually these are subtle settings with difficulties for understanding:

  • An external flash may give focus backlight using a special lamp on the external flash. For example, for Nikon flashes, you can read about it. here и here.
  • External flash enables using automatic metering modeand when using the flash without using preflashes. The built-in flash of most cameras does not. Why do you need this mode, you can read here, and how the mode itself works, you can find out here.
  • External flash makes it possible to use quick sync... With some external flashes, you can take pictures even at shutter speeds equal to 1 \ 8000 seconds. But not a single built-in flash can work at shutter speeds shorter than 1 \ 500 second. This is a very significant drawback of built-in flashes. Sync with short shutter speed very very useful when photographing with flash during the day. In fact, flash is sometimes more important during the day than in low light conditions. You can find out about using the flash during the day and about fast synchronization. here.
  • External flash may use additional special color filters with automatic recognition. This allows you to achieve the right white balance, create an interesting color tone in the photo and much more. You can read more about filters here.
  • External flash for more control light filling. For example, lighting patterns CW, STD, EVEN are responsible for this in the Nikon flash. An external flash may have special modes for backlight shooting, such as BL mode for Nikon.
  • Many professional cameras are simply not have built-in flash, there it’s not cool, but you have to use an external flash. If you do not believe that expensive cameras do not have a built-in flash, you can look at the reviews Nikon D1x, D2x, D3sCanon 5D etc.
  • When using the built-in flash with super wide-angle lenses, a shadow from the lens appears in photos. With external flash the shadow from the lens appears much less often.
  • External flash for macro photography Can be attached directly to the lens and illuminate small objects as closely as possible. An example of such a flash is Meike Led Macro Ring Flash FC 100.
  • Some advanced external flash units, such as Nissin MG8000 Extreme have an extra small flash (extra flash on an external flash). Such a flash is useful in many specific cases, avoiding unwanted shadows.
  • Some external flash units may use additional battery packs that prevent the flash from being recharged for a very long time.
  • The external flash has shorter pulse duration at minimum power than the built-in. It is important for freezing shooting objects.
  • Some external flashes can be used cross-systemically, for example Nikon flash on Canon cameras.
  • Some external flash units can operate in stroboscope mode, for more information see 'RPT mode'.
  • Some flashes have a built-in radio synchronizer to control other external flashes (for example, YN560 IV). The built-in flash does not have this ability.
  • Some flashes have additional lamps to illuminate the scene with constant light, this is important, for example, during movie shooting.
  • A good external flash usually has more million very fine settings and features. These include work with studio synchronizers, indication of the working distance, fine tuning of the power of the test pulse, a smaller and more accurate step of changing the power, etc. In this article, I simply physically cannot post all the features of an external flash.
An ordinary card is an example of use. Image from instructions for SB-910

A conventional flash diffuser on an external flash is an example of use. Picture from the instructions for SB-910

Disadvantages of an external flash:

  1. Good external flash it's expensive. Usually, the functional / price ratio for all flashes is very well traced.
  2. The external flash has big weight. For example, mine S with batteries weighs more than 500 grams. Hands when working with a camera on which an external flash is mounted get tired faster. External flash requires a lot of effort during transportation, takes place in a case.
  3. The external flash also breaks. This mainly concerns the mechanical parts of the flash, the flash lamp, and the hot shoe. During my practice, on many flashes, the battery compartment covers broke off, the lamps burned, the glass melted, and the zoom wedges.
  4. Some external flashes are very noisy due to the zoom adjustment. For example, my flash S It makes a lot of noise when turned on, initialized, and when zooming.

 Personal experience

Personally, I can not imagine my work as a photographer without an external flash. When I started taking pictures, from a professional technique, I had only my flash SEverything else was amateur and I am very glad that I spent money for a good external flash. For me, in an external flash, the ability to reflect light from the ceiling, tremendous power, fast recharge, additional focus lighting, and, of course, the remote control system are very important. Usually they write only about the advantage of an external flash in terms of light reflection, but there are a lot of advantages of an external flash over an internal flash, some are described in this article. In fact, the difference between the built-in and external flash can be understood only with the direct use of the first and second. By the way, in the instructions for the flash you can find all the necessary information on setting up and shooting, for example, I just took the black and white pictures for this article from the instructions for my Nikon S. Also, I do not recommend paying much attention when choosing a flash. flash power.

From personal experience, I’ll add that you need to get used to the work of an external flash, with its help it is not immediately possible to get masterpiece photos. If the quality of photos with the built-in flash is fine, then it’s too early to buy an external flash. By the way, external flashes are very different in their functionality and to choose the right option, too, you need to work hard. My recommendations for choosing an external flash for modern cameras Nikon will find here. If it’s still difficult to understand whether you need an external flash, I advise you to take it from your friends, or find a person who can borrow a flash for a couple of days.

Comments on this post do not require registration. Anyone can leave a comment. For the selection of a variety of photographic equipment, I recommend E-Catalog, Socket и AliExpress.

Creative lighting system from several external flashes controlled by an external flash on the camera. Image from instructions for SB-910

Creative lighting system from several external flashes controlled by an external flash on the camera. Image from instructions for SB-910

conclusions

Someone wrote on my blog that you first need to decide on the light, or at least with an external flash, and then choose a camera and lenses - this is a pretty good approach for serious work. An external flash is very useful tool for the photographer. But if there is no strong need for an external flash, for example, for amateur shooting, then You can do with the built-in flash.

Material prepared Arkady Shapoval... Look for me on Youtube | Facebook | VK | Instagram | Twitter.

Add a comment: Edward

 

 

Comments: 160, on the topic: Why do I need an external flash?

  • Olga

    There is a flash. YN 560 III. I want to take a Nikon 55-200mm f / 4-5.6G ED AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens. I read in the reviews that it is “a bit dark”. Can you please tell me how the flash and this lens will work together? And will there be any? ))

    • BB

      And for a manual flash, what's the difference, in principle?

      • Olga

        Thank you)) We must take ...

  • Ksenia

    Can I get some tips on which external flash is better for the Nikon D3100?
    (as I was told, better with wireless synchronizers), but they didn’t tell the models .. Thanks in advance for the answer.

    • Maugli

      Original Nikon.

      • Ksenia

        Thank you very much)

    • chuck

      godox tt350 for nikon

  • Maugli

    You are welcome! Seriously, it all depends on how you plan to use the flash. If the camera is optimally IMHO Nikon SB 700. If the racks through the synchronizers, then a good option would be the Yongnuo YN-560 III or IV + controller YN-560 TX: convenient and affordable.

  • Dmitriy

    The cheapest option is to buy some DAF-34 for 800 rubles, plus a hot shoe extension cord. Glue a homemade reflector on the flash, buy a diffuser. For an amateur, it is enough and you can easily get by at 1500 rubles. Again, such a flash can be repaired by yourself and not as sorry as for 30000 rubles.

  • Igor

    But I have a question about shooting modes when using the flash
    Spot metering, dot matrix .. flash adjustments — how to choose and combine them competently? Is there an explanatory instruction describing these moments?

  • Edward

    Good day. I decided to buy a Nikon D90 (8500 rubles) + Nikon AF Nikkor 28-100 mm f / 3.5-5.6 G (3900 rubles) or Nikon 55-200mm f / 4-5.6G AF-S DX ED Zoom-Nikkor, 2013 (3000 rub) + maybe a staffer or fix + flash SB400 / SB600 with a set of filters, well, and a remote control. Which lens of these two do you recommend?
    I have no experience in working with a mirror (as a child I shot with the Soviet FED), but the desire to learn to eat, at the same time to teach my sons, to introduce them to photography ... Shoot portraits, children's, family and work events, parties, landscapes, macro, subject ... I don't even think about it.
    I would be grateful for any advice.
    Partly, the choice was made based on the articles of this site and the availability of goods on Avito

    • Valery A.

      Hello. "Which lens of these two would you recommend?" - in any case, not 55-200, you will not remove anything from what you plan. I would not even take 28-100 as a staff (Sh. Is understood as universal, which is almost always on the camera). 18-55 or 18-105 is more logical (and a good start) for a beginner. If you do not mind the money - you can lighten it, tamron (sigma) 17-50 / 2,8. Of the fixes 35 / 1,8G DX is good and often in demand, especially in the home. Of the sb400 flashes, I strongly advise, because of the simplicity and mobility, the 600-900 “perescopes” are cumbersome, inconvenient, (I myself have this and that) and the functionality built into them is not in demand by an amateur. Filters for the flash (and for the lens) - no, the remote control - whatever you want. This is my IMHO after 5 years of hobby. Good luck.

      • Edward

        Thank you!

  • Edward

    or still take the D40 as easier to learn? Having bought an AF 18-100G for it?

    • Denis

      I don’t know how the D90 is, but the D40, when the Auto-ISO function works, does not show in any way what value it auto-set
      unlike later models. in particular, D5100

    • Valery A.

      Yes, there are a million options. D40 is a very interesting, miniature and usable device (probably not expensive - 4-5tr.), Will surprise you with its color and sharpness. Yes, it does not show what kind of auto-iso I picked up, it only signals that the car (like all models up to 5100) is not critical, you can't keep up with all the buns in an amateur camera. The lens seems to be af-s 18-105 - good and tried too.

  • Benjamin

    I am interested in the following question: do the settings of the built-in flash affect the operation of an external flash inserted in the hot shoe of the device?
    I used the YN565EX i-TTL flash with Nikon D5100. When shooting, I changed the modes of the built-in flash, which was reflected in EXIF ​​images. But after all, the built-in flash was not used when shooting.
    How can this be explained?

    • Michael

      The built-in flash mode is TTL and M. And you're talking about just the flash mode. The choice of mode affects any active flash, both built-in and external.

      • Michael

        Badly put it. The flash mode affects any flash. But setting the flash power detection (TTL) mode from the menu only affects the built-in flash.

      • Benjamin

        I'm referring specifically to the built-in flash modes described in “Using the Built-in Flash” - p. 51 in the Nikon D5100 Owner's Manual.

        • Michael

          This is a flash mode (not built-in) which is written in the title. It's just that the section itself in the manual is called “using the built-in flash,” which is where your confusion arose. These are modes for any active flash.

          • Benjamin

            I don't think I have any confusion. This section deals specifically with the BUILT-IN Flash of Nikon D5100 - the section (p.50) is called “Using the Built-in Flash”.
            And on p. 51 are listed the modes of this flash. I changed them when using the optional YN565EX TTL flash in accordance with this table, and this was reflected in the EXIF ​​images.
            My question was precisely about the display of the modes of the BUILT-IN flash, which was NOT used at the same time.

            • Michael

              These are NOT built-in flash modes, but any. Therefore, they are reflected in EXIF. On page 51, the modes are not built-in flash, but any. I say that you were misled by the name of the section. Your external flash will change the mode of operation when changing the modes indicated on page 51. You can experiment yourself: set the shutter speed in the region of a second and change the synchronization of the front or rear curtain. You will see how your external flash will work in different modes.

              • Benjamin

                I was NOT misled by the name of the section. There it is described how to use the i button on the information screen to select the BUILT-IN flash mode, and this starts by lifting the built-in flash. Or, to select the built-in flash mode, use the arrow button on the camera.
                Additional flashes are NOT discussed here at all, but in another, special section - “Additional flashes” - see pages 202 - 205.
                Unfortunately, I did not receive an answer to the question (see).

            • Michael

              In principle, you received it. YES, the setting affects the operation of external flashes, as This setting is NOT for the built-in flash.

              • Benjamin

                The impression that you are not reading what I am writing, and those pages of the Nikon D5100 User Guide that I refer to. I cannot find any grounds for your allegations in the Republic of Poland.
                Thank you, however.

              • Michael

                I read, simply, as I said above, the RP misleads you with this paragraph. I don’t know how else to explain that the shutter sync modes apply to all flashes, both internal and external. By the answer Yes, it does. Something like this

              • Michael

                This is on ALL cameras so.

              • Benjamin

                In the Nikon DSLR User Guide - and I've looked at a dozen of them! - not a word has been said about this.
                Where can I read about it?

            • Michael

              It was easier and faster to check it in practice))) I wrote above how. I have it written in the instructions for the flash (see screenshot). Also in my manual for the D300 the section is called “Using the Flash” - I looked especially for you. The built-in flash is discussed there only in subsections. Apparently, these are modern trends in the translation of instructions ...

              • Benjamin

                Thank you.
                I’ll look.

  • anonym

    I wanted to take photos on documents, is an external flash necessary

    • NE

      not necessarily, but if we talk about an external flash for taking photos on documents, it’s better not to look at the flash, but at the lighting kit. The cost of a professional external flash is comparable to the cost of an entry-level mobile kit, but not some Chinese, but, for example, the Swiss elinchrom

  • Andrei

    Good afternoon,
    help please understand this question: d90 + flash VILTROX speedlite JY680A. I set the built-in flash as a command flash, set it to “-” mode (ie in this case it does not participate in lighting, only gives a command), in the external flash I set the SLAVE mode, set the common channel, set it at a distance of about 3m. I take a picture, I see that the external flash “fumes”, but the picture remains dark, and so 90% of all frames (10% of the frames are still light, they show that the light comes from the external flash), exposure on dark and light frames are the same (tried from 1/30 to 1/100). It turns out that the shutter and the light of the external flash fire at different times (but sometimes they still coincide), why is it that I miss?

    • Michael

      No, you don’t seem to be missing anything. My native sometimes does not blaze, only if it falls asleep.

      • Andrei

        it works exactly here, it’s burning, but the frame remains dark, it turns out it doesn’t burn at the moment when the shutter opens, why is that?

        • Michael

          The devil doesn’t know her. Apparently individual intolerance (

    • Jury

      check the built-in flash mode, set the front-curtain sync (no red-eye, slow sync, etc.)

      • Andrei

        Ok, I'll try, thanks.

  • Andrei

    Empirically, I found that it works fine only on the 2nd channel, on the rest - as luck would have it.

    • Valery A.

      Good evening. The other day I photographed a children's party of my acquaintances in a small cafe at d5100 + sb400, with white ceilings and a burdock on a flash, the result is usually satisfactory, but here it was an ambush - the ceilings turned out to be not white, but dark green, as a result, the light (filling) in the pictures was weak, color - dirty, further processing did not radically correct the situation. In this regard, the question to those who own the know-how and do not mind sharing it - how uncomfortably (without an assistant and complex devices) can you normally shoot in this case? Thanks.

  • Nikita

    Hello everyone, is it possible to somehow adapt a magnesium flash to a tszk? In sense, at least synchronize.
    I'll study materiel)

  • Victor

    Good day! Is there a Nikon d3200 device I think to buy an external recording like on an sb-800 brush? There is a desire for a little lesson in photography (a schoolchild of the event, since I work at school, and for amateur purposes) Is it worth taking it?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Why not.

  • Vlad

    Tell me, will the external flash work if the internal one does not work, or is it necessary to repair it? And what inexpensive to take for Nikon D3100?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, it will work. It is not necessary to repair. From relatives the cheapest SB-400, from non-native - any, depending on the desired functionality.

      • Vlad

        Is the shoe in Nikon and Kenon the same? (Can I put a flash from Kenon?)

        • Arkady Shapoval

          The shoe is similar, the synchronization contacts are different. You can deliver, shoot, most likely, you can only in the manual flash control mode.

          • Vlad

            Arkady, are there any from third-party manufacturers with similar synchronization contacts? Why am I asking: repairing an internal flash at a price will be like a cheap external one ... But I don't want to buy an expensive one yet, because I want to check - mine, not mine, photography

            • Arkady Shapoval

              Yes, of course there is, a lot, the main thing is that the flash is for Nikon. If you are looking for a flash with automatic operation, see that its parameters indicate the presence of TTL or i-TTL.

              • Vlad

                Thanks! Your site is doing everything to motivate you to take pictures ... Health and prosperity !!!!

  • Olzhas

    Dear experts,

    What flash do you recommend for the D1100?

    Also a question: is there a good choice of optics (link below) for the same camera?

    Link

    Thank you

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Rather 1100D. Optics is selected for the task. The specified lens is not bad. From flashes you can look at an inexpensive Canon 430EX II

  • Olga

    Thanks for the helpful article!

  • Dmitriy

    Question for experts: when using the flash, the camera pre-sets the estimated shutter speed, with f and iso set. But in fact, the light from the flash may reflect off the mirror surfaces, as well as be absorbed in black, and the picture may in fact turn out not in accordance with the expectation. And when using the on-camera lamp (maybe on a tripod separately), the camera sensor sees the current lighting and sets more accurate current settings. Question: Is the flash obsolete?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      No, not outdated. Flash shutter speed (when using the original automatic TTL flash) is usually fixed at 1/60 or 1/200 as an example (depending on the menu selection and current lighting). In TTL mode, reflected light is calculated, taking into account the exposure of all reflections. Details here.

  • Andrey Tekunov

    I tried using Yongnuo 550 puff on Nikon 568d for Nikon. Everything was OK in the manual. I tried Makropihuyongnuo MP 58 for Nikon on the same Canon, everything works in the manual. So, not only Nikon works on Canon, but vice versa.

    • Peter Sh.

      Well, how can you keep silent!
      Macropes ... A new indecent word in photography))
      Sorry for the flood)

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