Should I buy an external flash? What’s a flash with good features and price?
If you’re in a big hurry to get an external flash, go ahead and just get the YongNuo YN-468 II for Canon or the YongNuo YN-468 II for Nikon cameras. Otherwise, keep reading to better understand why you should even care about getting this accessory.
There are lots of reasons to have at least one external flash in your camera bag. The primary reason to get something better than the built-in flash on most cameras is that built-in flashes produce in-your-face lighting that is considered unflattering, uncreative, and sometimes downright ugly. Direct flash is responsible for most cases of red eye, hard shadows on the wall behind your subject, and distracting reflections from shiny surfaces in your scene, among other problems that diminish the quality of a photo. Using an external flash gives the photographer added versatility by allowing the light to be “bounce” into the scene from a nearby wall or ceiling instead of directly from the camera’s point of view. This can result in more pleasant, softer lighting and natural-looking portraits.
With that in mind, most budding photographers probably should get an external flash that supports TTL metering, which is a kind of “auto” mode for flashes. When the external flash with TTL is mounted on the camera’s hotshoe, the camera’s computer helps calculate how much light to output through the flash at the moment that you take the photo. In TTL mode, the main control a photographer has over the flash power is to increase or decrease the flash compensation level, usually with the + or – buttons on the flash unit. For example, if you took a photo of a kid at a birthday party and the background of your photo looks good but your subject in the front is lit too brightly by the flash, you can press the – button to decrease the flash power for the scene before shooting again.
The external flash I have tried that has the best price-to-features ratio is the YongNuo YN-468 II TTL Speedlite. There is a YongNuo YN-468 II for Canon as well as a YongNuo YN-468 II for Nikon cameras. It sports a basic TTL mode as well as a Manual mode for when you want exacting control over the flash power. If I knew nothing else except that you wanted to try an external flash for your Canon or Nikon DSLR, this would be my recommendation.
If you want to save some money and you are comfortable using the Manual mode of your camera, then you may also want to investigate the YongNuo YN-468 II, which works for both Canon and Nikon. Keep in mind that it truly does not offer any “auto” mode, so you must dial in the exact flash power that you want. That’s the level of control that I want, so I appreciate the simplicity and price of this unit. I often use up to four YongNuo YN-468 II units in my professional work, but it took years of training, experimentation, and practice to consistently achieve the results that I want in my flash photography.
For a further discussion about flash photography gear, please see the “Gear for a New Strobist” article.[sc:ask]