I use my external flash very rarely, but have found it has saved the day in a number of my most recent outings.
There are three scenarios in which I will take the plunge and grab my flash...
1. Shooting into the sun ☀️
Wouldn't you love to capture that awesome sunset but keep your subject well lit? Usually, shooting toward a sunset will leave your subject silhouetted. But an external flash in this situation could easily save the day!
I believe the correct term for this is "fill flash". You expose for the background and use flash to bring light back to the subject.
Tip: If you're trying this out during a shoot, let your clients know what you are trying to do. Because I'm still learning, I always try to give my clients the heads up when I pull my flash out to try this technique. I let them know that I am trying something new or ask them if they would be willing to try something a little crazy. I let them know that if I do it right, they will have a really killer shot! They will usually be grateful that you are taking an extra step for them, and they will be impressed with your camera knowledge!
If you are going to try it out, though, try not to use too much of their sitting time to mess around. If you aren't getting the hang of it within 3 - 5 shots, let them know you will have to practice more. Usually people are willing to try it out and understanding when you don't get it quite right.
Being mindful of your clients time is key, here.
2. Weddings and indoor venues 👰🏼
You will have some wiggle room here - especially during the reception and especially if you are tagging along as a second shooter! When everyone is busy socializing and dancing and you can try bouncing your flash with different intensity and off different walls. Usually after a handful of tests, you'll find your groove with it and be getting really fun photos!
3. In the studio 💡
AKA: My parents' garage!
In studio sessions you will probably only use flash and external lighting. This gives you a lot of room to experiment and try different setups with your flash to get different dramatic lighting or bright, poppy advertisement lighting.
Important Quick Tips
• I recommend trying to bounce from above as much as possible, since that is where the sun or indoor lighting will be in a real-life situation.
• Remember that when you are shooting in low light conditions, not only is your camera going to need to work harder - you do too. Your vision starts to be impaired if lights are too dim, so you'll need to triple check that your photos are sharp and in focus (at least for the must-have shots)
• I know there is a reason behind this but I can't remember. Either way keep this in your mind!
Your camera and flash might not sync up if you go above 1/200 or 1/250 shutter speed. If I shoot above 1/200 shutter speed with my flash on, I start to get black bars on the sides of my screen. If you are noticing that half of your photo is not exposed or that there is a black bar down the side of your camera screen, you will want to reduce your shutter speed. This should fix the problem.