January 7, 2021  |  Expertise

Give your photography some flash: It’s easier and cheaper than you think

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What’s the first thing that grabs your eye when looking at a website?

Most likely, it’s the photography, especially of people. Is it great? Terrible? Interesting? Dull? And if it’s not great, why? Bad lighting? Washed-out photos? Inconsistent colors?

Chances are, if you don’t like what you see on that site, you’ll move on rather quickly. And that’s bad for business.

As a photographer for Ideabar, I want to share how you can improve your photography by using small flashes, strobes or speedlights, and some simple modifiers that will give you that “pop” you were missing — especially when taking photos of people.

What kind of camera is best?

I believe anyone can take a great picture. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional.

But you will need to go beyond an iPhone and purchase a DSLR camera and a lens or two.

Nikon and Canon have some great starter kits at big box stores starting around $500, and they come with some decent lenses.

Which flash do I need?

Maybe you already own a nice camera, but don’t know how to get started with off-camera flash.

There are tons of flashes out there, and many are very expensive. I’m not going to tell you about those. I like to use less expensive Yongnuo YN560-III speedlights. They are very good and only $66 on Amazon as of this writing.

I use up to three for some of my assignments, but you can just use one to begin.

Next, you will need something to trigger the flash, and it’s Yongnuo to the rescue. This small commander is excellent and can control your flash from the top of your camera. And it’s only $37 on Amazon.

Modify your light!

When you use a flash with a modifier, it will soften and spread the light evenly, making your subject look more natural.

There are tons of ways to modify your flash. Some use umbrellas, which are inexpensive as well. Or you can shoot through a curtain or a bedsheet. Anything to soften the light.

I like to use softboxes made specifically for speedlights. Softboxes soften the light as well and give you more control as to where the light is going. And the closer the light to the subject, the softer it will be, meaning the shadows are less harsh and more gradual.

There are many inexpensive kits for softboxes and umbrellas, but the one I use is from Westcott, a very reputable company that sells all kinds of photography equipment.

This Rapid Box 2 Light Kit with Deflector Plate is light, durable, portable, sets up in minutes and  gets the job done beautifully. Plus, it’s a steal at $330 on Amazon.

Why do I need all of this?

  • You want to set yourself apart.
  • You want your site to look better.
  • You want to flatter your subjects.
  • You want consistency in your images.
  • You want people to stay on your site longer.

Practice, practice, practice!

Now that you have everything you need to begin, try it out.

Follow the instructions for how to set up the flash so it works with the trigger. It might seem overwhelming, but you need to practice.

Grab a friend and start shooting. As a guide, set your camera to manual. Don’t use automatic. Try F5.6, ISO 200 at 1/125s to start.

Then reduce or increase power of the flash using the trigger. Move the lightstand around and see what works best for you. The standard is the main light will be at a 45-degree angle to the subject. Here is a nice intro to using this outdoors.

And here are some examples using the Westcott Rapid Box kit and Yongnuo speedlights.