flash attachments compared to built in flash for photography

Flash attachment for digital cameras for bounce flash

The camera flash attachment I use for my Canon 5D Mark II and Panasonic GX85 is a Canon speedlite 580EX. This flash is great for bounce flash photography whether indoors or outdoors. I’ve used the same canon flash for 16 years with never an issue. It’s very easy to use and mounts direct to your camera’s hot shoe mount on top of your camera, as most accessories do. It has many features for the pro photographer and full auto mode for beginners as well. This canon 580EX, which I’ve had for 16 years (OMG) is still in use today. I have photographed countless weddings, band photo shoots, real estate photography and family functions with this flash. It performs just as great today as it did the day I got it.

If you have a canon camera, be it a point and shoot such as the Canon G7X or G7X Mark II, or even a Panasonic micro four thirds, such as my Panasonic GX85, this flash will work extremely well in your photography.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash for Canon EOS Digital SLR Cameras
Canon speedlite 580EX flash for digital cameras

Many digital cameras, including DSLR cameras, come with a built-in flash, which I never use. Built in flash looks unprofessional and washes out your photos most of the time.

I’m sure many of you have taken photos resulting in your friend’s face being washed out by light? Built in camera flash will do this. It’s also not too comfortable getting flashed head-on by someone’s camera. Sure, there’s technology that aids in preventing the blinding flash from a camera and making photos look a little better, but it’s still nowhere near the quality a flash attachment gives.

camera flash lighting example
Built-in camera flash on left. Flash attachment using bounce flash on the right.

Many pro DSLR cameras do not include built-in flash because it’s simply not professional. A professional photographer will attach the additional flash to the top of their camera and never touch the built-in flash.

REASONS WHY ON-CAMERA FLASH UNITS ARE BETTER

  1. The flash unit is more powerful than built-in camera flashes
  2. the flash unit is smart. It’s a computer. It reads your camera’s settings and adjusts accordingly. There are sensors and LED displays which control settings, flash adjustment, room fill, strength of flash, etc.
  3. Bounce flash capabilities for different looks.
  4. Flash unit can be placed anywhere in the room and triggered remotely, giving different lighting from different angles. You will need to purchase remote triggers for this to work (cheap and easy to set up.)

WHAT IS BOUNCE FLASH?

Bounce flash is a technique in which the flash is directed onto a reflective surface around the subject. For example, a white ceiling or a flash umbrella, which then reflects light onto the subject. It can be used as fill-flash, or, if used indoors, as ambient lighting for the whole scene. Bounce flash creates softer, less artificial-looking illumination than direct flash that is built into a camera.

I like to aim the flash at the wall so the light bounces off, hitting the subject from the left or right, giving the photo a more natural, softer look. Moving forward or backward and adjusting the flash angle will give the desired look.

Most of my photography uses either bounce flash or no flash. Built in flash does not allow natural highlights of the hair or shadows of the face to show, as it’s a head-on blast of light. Built in flash is not natural looking at all.

camera flash attachment settings
flash attachments have settings to make your photos better.

Bounce flash with a flash attachment unit works by angling the flash on your camera to bounce light off the walls or ceilings around your subject (the flash attachment is able to rotate, raise up and down.) Your camera is pointing directly at the subject while the flash may be angled up at the ceiling and down by 45 degrees. Instead of hitting the subject head on with light, you’re bouncing light off the ceiling or wall and onto the subject. Doing this creates a softer natural light and effects.

It’s fun to experiment with flash techniques. Different angles and distances from ceiling or walls will create dramatic effects.

Bounce flash technique will not work well if walls or ceilings are dark or ceilings are too high. Dark surfaces absorb light so it can’t bounce, or it bounces back an off-color onto your subject.

A bad bounce flash environment would be a school gymnasium or a church with dark wood walls and ceilings. I have been in both situations.

Flash attachments for digital cameras will usually go through batteries quickly. You can buy a rechargeable camera flash battery pack or carry a few sets of batteries.

When I was photographing weddings, I always carried 2 camera flash battery packs by Quantum. While using one, the 2nd was always charging. These were really cool and allowed me to photograph a wedding from beginning of their day to early reception before switching to the other battery pack. I could easily take about 1,000 photos before switching to the other battery pack.

Quantum Turbo SC Camera Flash Battery Pack
My Quantum Turbo camera flash battery pack.

Although I loved the rechargeable battery packs, I started to buy packs of AA batteries to replace in the camera flash every couple of hours. No recharging and no wondering if I forgot to pack my expensive battery packs before leaving a photo shoot. Most camera flash units take 4 AA batteries.

panasonic gx85 with flash attachment
panasonic gx85 with flash attachment

 

I was very happy to find out my Canon 580EX flash unit also works with my Panasonic GX85 micro four thirds camera. The built-in flash of the Panasonic camera is something I would never use. The camera takes outstanding photos and videos and with the flash attachment, all the better. Here is my Panasonic micro four thirds camera with a friend’s flash attachment.

 

 

 

Hopefully this write-up was helpful in understanding the different between on camera flash and flash attachments. If you have any questions let me know.

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I love writing about photography, video production, my dogs and the products I use for them, along with anything else I’m into.

thanks for reading!

Steve

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