If you’re preparing for a trip and you plan to bring your camera to take photos, you might be wondering if it is worth bringing a flash along, as well. After all, it takes up valuable suitcase space, right? Is it really that important for travel photography?
Is Flash Required For Travel Photography? Having flash allows a photographer to be more versatile, so for a lot of travel, it can be a great benefit to have flash. If a traveler is trying to take photographs at night, or of backlit subjects, or indoors, a flash is highly recommended.
Since many of us don’t know exactly what lighting situations our travels might place us in, having a flash can definitely be an advantage. However, you could argue that a flash isn’t absolutely necessary for travel, and there are certainly some situations in which you may not need to worry about packing a flash. In some scenarios, flash can make the difference between a quality photo and a flop.
Why Should I Consider Bringing Flash For My Travel Photography?
One of the terrific benefits of travel is that it lets us see new places, experience new cultures, and try new things, all of which can make for fabulous photography subjects. Whether we are looking to make professional-grade prints or just document our memories, travel photography can be very rewarding.
There are inevitably situations where you will naturally have a scene that is partially in deep shadow, partially in harsh, bright light. This can be aggravating, especially if the subject you wish to photograph is in the shadows. Using a flash helps fill in and lighten shadows without overexposing the parts of the scene that are already lit.
If you plan on photographing any moving subjects and you want clear, crisp photos, a flash can help achieve this. While other settings, such as a fast shutter speed, are also important, a flash can help freeze moving subjects. If the image is slightly underexposed, as well, a flash can help set the subject in motion apart from the background, focusing more attention on the intended subject.
Dark interior settings will pose a real challenge if you don’t have a flash at the handy. Even if you adjust other settings, such as raising your ISO setting, some dark scenes simply won’t result in a good capture without the aid of a flash.
Travel is often a time to get out and explore, and this doesn’t necessarily end when the sun goes down. A lot of places have an exciting nightlife that can be a real treat to photograph. One of the best ways to clearly capture street life at night is with a flash.
What Type Of Flash Should I Bring For Travel Photography?
You have two main options when considering bringing flash along on a trip: on-camera flash and off-camera flash. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
On-camera flash is a flash that is attached directly to your camera. It is usually a built-in pop-up flash, but some camera models have attachable flash units. The benefit of the on-camera flash is that it is great if you didn’t pack a separate flash and want to capture a shot that requires it, such as a backlit scene. It doesn’t take up valuable suitcase space.
The downside to an on-camera flash is that it isn’t all that versatile. It creates direct light which can have a harsh effect that washes out subjects and makes them look flat or washed out. An externally mounted on-camera flash is often at least a little bit better than a pop-up style on-camera flash because it can be angled to avoid the direct light flare and give you more exposure control over your scene.
Off-camera flash, as the name implies, is a flash that is located anywhere but on the camera itself. It gives greater control over how the scene is lit, but it is another piece of equipment you have to carry along, taking up space in your bag. It is mostly useful if you know you have a specific shot in mind that will require specific lighting. Otherwise, it may not be worth lugging along the way with you.
When Do I Need to Use Flash With Travel Photography?
If you are having trouble getting the right exposure on a subject because it is half in shadow, half in light, a flash can help fill in the shadows and allow for a more visible subject without overexposing the lighter areas.
If you are planning on taking portraits, such as of friends or of locals in the place you are visiting, a flash can help to truly take your photos to the next level. Flash can help set subjects apart from the background, especially if you slightly underexpose the photo and use the flash. It will make the differentiation between the subject and background more distinct.
Dim indoor settings can be very common when traveling, as there are locations where natural and artificial light may be less than ideal. In these situations, a flash is critical and can make the difference between a truly stunning capture and a scrapped attempt. A wooded forest, a tour through a ruin, or having lunch in a local’s home may all have dim lighting that needs the assistance of a flash to capture the scene.
If you want to capture the vibrancy of a city’s nightlife or photograph friends after the sun goes down, a flash is a must. Any sort of night photography that isn’t specifically astrophotography or light trails will benefit from a flash unit.
Should flash be used in every situation? Most likely not, depending on the type of photography you are looking to do. It’s important to experiment and practice with your camera in order to get a good sense of when it is appropriate to use it to obtain your desired result.
Best Flash For Outdoor Travel Photography
You know that images taken with the camera flash usually do not give favorable results to the people photographed. A basic configuration of the flash that can be triggered off-camera remotely and modified by a small softbox or umbrella.
Equipment for travel photography with off-camera flash
The flash, is a somewhat complicated photographic tool and as such requires quite a bit of knowledge and technical control of its functions. This is precisely, one of the reasons why its use is often quite frustrating for all those who begin to take their first steps in the world of flash photography. As you have probably observed, the flash when fired produces a non-continuous flash of light, which is equivalent to sunlight, this feature adds a new difficulty at the time of shooting, since we can not see the result produced, until after having taken the picture.
When you want to make use of the flash, in any of the different situations, such as daylight, interiors with artificial light or night scenes, you must take into account that in the scenes to be photographed, at least two types of main exposures will be combined, the ambient light and the one added with the flash.
Best flash for Travel Photography
In the market, there are different types of flashes, both portable and studio flashes, but in the case of travel photography, I will only mention two of them, the built-in flash and the external flash.
This device is usually included in most of the current digital cameras, both compact and reflex. This type of flash may solve some unforeseen situation during your travels, but generally to obtain photographs in which you are the one who controls the situation, it is advisable to disable it so that it does not pop up automatically and make little or no use of this lighting. They produce too hard and direct lights, the direct flash, usually produces the undesired effect of red eyes, that are produced when the light of the flash hits directly in the blood vessels of the eyeball and they do not have too much power and the produced flash, does not have enough reach, for the majority of the scenes. Best deal on Amazon.
These devices are usually mounted on a hot shoe on the camera, although they can also be used as external lighting outside the camera, triggered by cable or wireless triggers. External flashes can be manual, automatic or TTL. The latter, more technologically advanced, is the most reliable in most situations, because it establishes the connections with the speed and aperture controls automatically with the camera.
Sync speed. Check in the manual of your camera, which is the synchronization speed for flash, normally this speed corresponds to 1/125 sec. but there are cameras that allow higher speeds, reaching up to 1/250 sec. If you shoot with higher speeds than those established by the manufacturer you will only obtain a part of the photo illuminated, since the shutter would not be completely open at the moment that the flash was fired. Best deal for today on amazon.
Ring Flash In Travel Photography
A ring flash is a circular camera flash unit that is usually attached to the front of the camera’s lens. The ring flash is often used on macro photography because of its advantages for close-up photography.
The advantages for close-up photography are a lot, and mainly it is important to place the light source exactly where it is needed. A camera flash is blocked by the camera itself when the subject is only a few inches from the front of the lens. Such proximity is common with macro lenses.
They offer the same benefits as a dedicated ring light for event and travel photography because they are also portable and super lightweight. Check out the best deals for today on Amazon
What Can I Do If I Forgot To Pack a Flash For My Trip?
Oops! Maybe there was not enough room in your bags or you simply forgot it, but now you need a flash and you don’t have it. Don’t worry, with some adjustments you might be able to still get a good photo.
First of all, utilize the light available. Plan on taking photos during the times of day when the sunlight will be brightest or will be at an angle to illuminate the desired scene. If you can, move subjects in ways so that they are out of shadowy areas and better lit. Try to avoid having subjects be backlit, as this will make them less distinguishable in the photo.
In a real pinch, you can also construct a makeshift light diffuser. While there are versions you can purchase, it is another piece of equipment you have to carry so it may be easier to simply make one with available materials. Take a scarf or a shirt and cover a lamp to make its light softer and less direct. This often permits more flexibility for where your subject can then be photographed.
Feel free to get creative with reflection. Mirrors can be used to angle light back on a subject, but practically any source can be used to reflect some amount of light back on a subject. A sheet of white paper held up strategically can help illuminate a face, while the reflection of light off a body of water might aid in brightening a scene. The main thing is to enjoy your trip and not feel like your missing great shots!
Check out this article to find out if you need a model release in event photography.