Using Flash To Improve Your Photographs

Piet Van den Eynde

In his newest eBook, Light It Up: Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Lighting, Piet Van den Eynde teaches you not only how to use a flash, but to get it off your camera, perhaps combine it with another flash or two, and get creative with adding and modifying the light in any scene, anywhere. Light It Up! is 158 pages of Piet's tried-and-true experience, expertise, and education plus three instructional videos and five of Piet's favourite presets. Yep, all that in one beautifully lit package. 

And because we like showing as well as telling, we've made the first video available to you, absolutely free. It's that good. 

People often ask me why I take a flash to destinations like India or Indonesia; do I really need more light in notoriously bright places? The problem lies in mistaking quantity with quality. While it’s true that there’s plenty of sun in Varanasi or Borobudur, there’s often too much of it, especially on those cloudless days these countries are known for. From early in the morning to right before sunset, there is often so much sun that—unless you’re photographing in the shade—the contrast is too much to handle. A flash softens that contrast by opening up the harsh shadows created by the sun. The more powerful the flash, the more options you have: a small speedlight lets you fill in the shadows; a big strobe lets you overpower that sun to turn midday into evening. By using modifiers such as softboxes and umbrellas, you can create soft light wherever you want, even if the available light is less than ideal.

FUJIFILM X-E1 | XF 14mm f/2.8 R @ 14mm | 1/200 sec @ f/8 | ISO 200

A small flash with an umbrella (placed to camera left) filled in the shadows caused by the late afternoon sun.

FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS @ 10mm | 1/180 sec @ f/5 | ISO 200

This image of a Rajasthani couple in Jodhpur looks like it was made in the evening, but it was actually photographed around noon. I underexposed the available light heavily by choosing a narrow aperture, a relatively fast shutter speed, and a low ISO. I then directed the flash so it looked like late setting sunlight.

The Jodhpur example shows another advantage of using a flash: having control over the direction of your light. The position of the sun (and other available light sources) is out of your control. You cannot move a street lamp to a position that would better suit the composition of the photo you have in mind. But no matter where you are, you can put a flash upside down on a light stand (or hang it from a house) with a clamp and cover the head with an orange gel to simulate a light bulb.

 FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS @ 10mm | 1/3 sec @ f/4 | ISO 800

There was no streetlight where I wanted to photograph the pilgrims going to do their morning bathing rituals in Pushkar Lake, so I created my own using an orange-gelled speedlight I hung from a canopy just outside of the frame.

When discussing the quality of light, we shouldn’t so much think of it as “good” or “bad,” but rather as “hard” or “soft.” Hard light isn’t necessarily bad light; it all depends on what you want your photograph to say. When I set out to photograph the war cemetery in Langemark, Belgium, I wanted the picture of the tombstone to reflect the atrocities of war. But on that particular day, it was very cloudy; there was almost no contrast at all. Technically, ideal light to shoot just about anything, but not for what I had in mind—it was too soft, too pleasing, too . . . flattering. So I put up a flash on a tripod, zoomed the flash head to the maximum and added a grid to get a tight beam of light. The result is more dramatic light that helps to convey the atmosphere of the place much better than the available light did.

A flash and an improvised light stand were all I needed to turn the soft, ambient light (top left) into much more suitable dramatic flash light.

Piet Van den Eynde is a Belgian freelance photographer, author, and trainer specializing in Adobe Lightroom. When he's not teaching or writing, he travels the world on his bicycle photographing the people he meets along the way. See more of Piet's work on his website

Craft & Technique Piet Van den Eynde

← Older Post Newer Post →



Leave a comment

  1. Making the Image: Kathleen Clemons
  2. Night Ranger: A Word With David Kingham
  3. Understanding the Night Sky
  4. Vision Is Better, Ep.60
  5. The Value of Critique
  6. Capturing the Moment
  7. Vision Is Better, Ep.59
  8. Five Key Elements of Food Photography
  9. Using Flash That Doesn't Look Lit
  10. Vision Is Better, Ep.58
  11. Using Flash To Improve Your Photographs
  12. Five Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash
  13. Vision Is Better, Ep.57
  14. Finding Critics
  15. Street Life: A Word With Libby Holmsen
  16. Using the Frame
  17. The Photographer's Tools
  18. Backlight: The Art of Silhouettes
  19. Vision Is Better, Ep.56
  20. Understanding Perspective
  21. Vision Is Better, Ep.55
  22. In Conversation: Sharon Covert
  23. Create Projects + Collaborate
  24. Mirrors or Windows?
  25. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Varanasi, India
  26. F/ The Rules
  27. Drawing the Eye With Selective Focus
  28. C&V Fujifilm Giveaway Winner Announced
  29. In Conversation: Willem Wernsen
  30. Exposing for Highlights
  31. Using Fill Light to Create Dramatic Portraits
  32. Cameras Don't Make Photographs
  33. Shooting with Your Final Image in Mind
  34. 10 Ways to Make Better Black and White Photographs
  35. 2018 Maasai Mara Photographic Safari
  36. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Lalibela, Ethiopia
  37. Start With the Corners
  38. Creating Painterly Images with Movement and Multiple Exposures
  39. Using the Guided Upright Tool in Lightroom
  40. The Power of Photographing Icons
  41. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part II)
  42. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part I)
  43. Controlling Your Edit with Lightroom's Tone Curve
  44. Making the Image: David duChemin
  45. 3 Ways to Make More Honest Portraits
  46. The Adjective-Driven Approach to Photography
  47. In Conversation: Oded Wagenstein
  48. Making the Zone System Work for You
  49. Ten (More) Ways to Improve Your Craft
  50. Reference View: A New Way to See in the Lightroom Develop Module
  51. In Conversation: Laurent Breillat
  52. The Best 3 Filters for Landscape Photography
  53. Creating Classical Portraits with Simple Lighting
  54. Photographic Processing and Believability
  55. Visual Storytelling: An Introduction
  56. Making the Image: Piet Van den Eynde
  57. In Conversation: Satoki Nagata
  58. Use Repeating Elements for Stronger Images
  59. In Conversation: Kate Densmore
  60. One (More) Reason To Use Adobe's Creative Cloud
  61. Three Ways to Use Backlight
  62. 2017 Rome Mentor Series Workshop
  63. 2017 Venice Mentor Series Workshops
  64. Controlling Foreground to Background Presence
  65. Making the Image: David Adam Edelstein
  66. In Conversation: David Adam Edelstein
  67. Using Contrast for Stronger Images
  68. Three Ways to Make Better Portraits
  69. How to Direct the Eye in Your Photographs
  70. How to Improve Your Street Photography
  71. In Conversation: Piet Van den Eynde
  72. Starting Your Next Personal Project
  73. Five (More) Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  74. Five Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  75. Three (More) Ways To Discover Your Vision
  76. Four Ways to Discover Your Vision (Part I)
  77. Three Ways to Make Stronger Black & White Images in Lightroom
  78. In Conversation: Cristina Mittermeier
  79. How to Add Mood to Infrared (and other) Photographs
  80. In Conversation: Paul Nicklen
  81. Four Ways to Tell Stronger Stories
  82. In Conversation: John Paul Caponigro
  83. Master the Art of Seeing and Improve Your Photography
  84. Adding Light with the Radial Filter in Lightroom
  85. The Power of Abstraction
  86. In Conversation: Anja Büehrer
  87. Five Ways to Add More Depth to Your Portraits
  88. Four Ways to Make Stronger Travel Photographs
  89. In Conversation: Martin Bailey
  90. Learn to Isolate
  91. Gear Is Good
  92. In Conversation: Dave Brosha
  93. For the Love of Your Photographs
  94. Working with Target Collections in Lightroom
  95. Review: Epson P800
  96. Seeing: Receptive & Observant
  97. Better Questions
  98. Siri? Ask Lightroom!
  99. Wake Up.
  100. In Conversation: David Jackson
  101. Photographic Skills: Patience
  102. In Conversation: David duChemin
  103. 2017 Jodhpur Mentoring Workshop
  104. 2017 Maasai Mara Safari
  105. Rome 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  106. Florence 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  107. Venice 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  108. Vision Is Better, Ep.54
  109. Vision Is Better, Ep.53
  110. Vision Is Better, Ep.52
  111. Vision Is Better, Ep.51
  112. Vision Is Better, Ep.50
  113. Vision Is Better, Ep.49
  114. Vision Is Better, Ep.48
  115. Vision Is Better, Ep.47
  116. Vision Is Better, Ep.46
  117. Vision Is Better, Ep.45
  118. Vision Is Better, Ep.44
  119. Vision Is Better, Ep.43
  120. Vision Is Better, Ep.42
  121. Vision Is Better, Ep.41
  122. Vision Is Better, Ep.40
  123. Vision Is Better, Ep.39
  124. Vision Is Better, Ep.38
  125. Vision Is Better, Ep.37
  126. Vision Is Better, Ep.36
  127. Vision Is Better, Ep.35
  128. Vision Is Better, Ep.34
  129. Vision Is Better, Ep.33
  130. Vision Is Better, Ep.32
  131. Vision Is Better, Ep.31
  132. Vision Is Better, Ep.30
  133. Vision Is Better, Ep.29
  134. Vision Is Better, Ep.28
  135. Vision Is Better, Ep.27
  136. Vision Is Better, Ep.26
  137. Vision Is Better, Ep.25
  138. Vision Is Better, Ep.24
  139. Vision Is Better, Ep.23
  140. Vision is Better, Ep.22
  141. Vision is Better, Ep.21
  142. Vision is Better, Ep.20
  143. Vision is Better, Ep.19
  144. Vision is Better, Ep.18
  145. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 18
  146. Vision is Better, Ep.17
  147. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 17
  148. Vision is Better, Ep.16
  149. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 16
  150. Vision is Better, Ep.15
  151. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 15
  152. Vision Is Better, Ep.11
  153. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 14
  154. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 13
  155. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 12
  156. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 11
  157. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 10
  158. Vision Is Better, Ep.10
  159. Vision Is Better, Ep.09
  160. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 09
  161. Vision Is Better, Ep.08
  162. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 08
  163. Vision Is Better, Ep.07
  164. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 07
  165. Vision Is Better, Ep.06
  166. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 06
  167. Vision Is Better, Ep.05
  168. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 05
  169. Vision Is Better, Ep.04
  170. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 04
  171. Vision Is Better, Ep.03
  172. Vision Is Better, Ep.02
  173. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 02
  174. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 01
  175. Vision Is Better, Ep.01
  176. ABOUT THE IMAGE - EPISODE 03

Related Articles

Five Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash

Does off-camera flash feel like an unwelcome party guest? Piet Van den Eynde can help you shake hands and make...
Read more →

Related Resources


Categories
About the Image Show Adam Blasberg Adobe Andrew S. Gibson Andy Biggs Anja Büehrer Bret Edge Bruce Percy Brucy Percy Craft & Technique Creative Cloud Creativity Cristina Mittermeier Dave Brosha David Adam Edelstein David duChemin David Kingham Duncan Fawkes Guy Tal Henry Fernando Interview Jason Bradley John Paul Caponigro Kate Densmore Kathleen Clemons Laurent Breillat Libby Holmsen Lightroom & Photoshop Making the Image Martin Bailey Michael Frye Nathan Wirth Natural Light Oded Wagenstein Paul Nicklen Piet Van den Eynde Podcast Project Nimbus Rafael Rojas Satoki Nagata Sean McCormack Sharon Covert Sherri Koop Simi Jois Street Photography Susan Burnstine Vision is Better Show visual storytelling Willem Wernsen Workshop Younes Bounhar Zone System