Having a powerful flash in your camera bag can give you light when you need it. There will always be an application or an instance when a flash will be needed. You may encounter a time when your flash will be used as a fill light, main light, low-key lighting, high-key lighting, or a variety of other options. You can use your flash as part of a three-point lighting set up or use it as a backlight. If you have had some experience with lighting subjects, you may be aware and have the ability to balance ambient light with flash. You are not limited to the possibilities of using a flash as a creative source of light. There are professional photographers that rely on their speedlights (Nikon and Canon Flashes) as primary sources of light for their shoots. There are a few reasons why pros are using their speedlights on shoots. Size, portability, ease of use, power, and the ability to take them remotely with nothing more than a set of (fully charged), batteries.
Some flash manufacturers have optional battery packs available. I have used the Canon pack to provide additional power to our flashes while covering weddings. It was an invaluable purchase that allowed us to shoot for much longer with out swapping out our batteries. Nissin has their own power pack Nissin Ps300 which is similar to the Canon pack we have in our arsenal of lighting equipment. They also have a hot shoe cord which allows you to mount the flash off camera on a bracket attached to the camera itself. I am including an article written by Barry Chignell over at Free Photo Resources, a great photography blog that covers a wide range of tutorials and photography articles. His article discusses using one camera, one flash, and one cord to keep the flash off camera for a dramatic lighting set up. Subsequently his article and self portrait won him a contest. It inspired him to create his own Self Portrait contest. You can find details on his blog if you are interested.
Two nights ago I was thumbing through the pages of some photography publications when I came across the Nissin Di866 At first, because I was moving quickly through
looking for a specific article I thought it was a Nikon product. I hesitated for a moment and realized it wasnt. I read the description of the unit. To my surprise it is listed as the most powerful flash on the market. Hmmm, is it really? How does this little, not to well known, discussed flash out power the industry leaders? It is simple really. I looked for one key component in the products ad. The Guide Number. In basic terms, the higher the guide number, the more powerful the flash. The guide number measures the ability to illuminate what you are photographing. This little beauty packs quite a power. At a guide number of 60, this flash has a higher guide number than Nikons Flagship SB900. Smaller companies are now producing flashes that are just as comparable as the big name players in the industry.
A side by side comparison of both manufacturers shows similarities. Both companies offer the same features and specs. However the Di866 has one feature that the SB900 does not. In the front, just above the name Nissin, there is a smaller fill flash built in. By now you know what a fill flash is responsible for. So, how can you use this feature. Simply angle the head of the flash upwards, side ways, (left right) or even backwards, bounce the flash of any available surface. As long as the surface is close enough that it will bounce the light back. The fill flash will fill your subject while the main head will provide the key illuminating light. Sounds a little complicated, but after some practice bouncing your flash, the process is very simple.
By now I have provided enough information that should given you an idea of how this flash fairs up to the competitors. What would such a powerful piece of equipment cost? Well, the listed price I have seen thus far is mere $249.99 Which is half the cost of the SB900. When considering the purchase of a flash, keep in mind the Guide Number is what determines the power that the flash puts out. Whether you need a flash for on camera applications, or you are purchasing your flash to use off camera, you will find that Nissin and their product line is economical as well as technically sound for any lighting application you can think of. For the price of 1 SB900, you can purchase 2 Di866’s. This will give you and advantage with having a creative lighting set up for less money. There are a number of products that will enhance and help you shoot using the flash off camera. You can see a list of these products in a previous article I wrote a few months back: Lets talk flashes…
I have found a tutorial for the Di866. This tutorial will explain visually how this flash works.
Portrait photography lighting does not have to be expensive. I am currently awaiting a lighting kit and background to take my portrait photography one step further but this has not stopped me experimenting with lighting…..
I do not currently have ANY studio lighting equipment or indeed, a studio! The photo’s below were all taken in my living room using the following equipment;
1. Camera (obviously) – Canon 50d
2. Canon 430ex MK11 flash gun
3. 2 x tripod
4. Phottix Duo TTL lead
The Camera Setup
I set up the camera on one tripod (the more expensive, sturdier one) and the flashgun on the second tripod. The flash gun is connected using the Phottix Duo TTL lead. I also make sure to use the lens hood to further minimise the amount of any ambient light still left and also focus the lens to capture only the light that hits the subject (you).
Setting the flashgun up on the tripod allows me to change the angle and height of the light source meaning that the direction of the light can be any that I choose.
I then set the self timer on the camera to 10 seconds (there is also a 2 second option but this does not usually allow me enough time to position myself for the shot).
It is also helpful if your camera and flashgun have an option to illuminate the settings screen so that you can see what you are doing without needing to continuously turn the lights on and off.
The Environment Setup
The next step is to make the room as dark as possible (made a lot easier if you wait until later in the day!). In my case this means turning off the lights (obviously), the aquarium lights and the lap top. I also position the equipment in front of my full length curtains as these are darker in colour and easier to get rid of in post processing.
As you can see, there is definitely no special studio equipment used here!
You (the subject) Setup
Before taking one shot make sure that you know what kind of poses and looks you want to capture (you don’t want to be sat in the dark not knowing what pose to strike!). I tried to go for poses full of character and portraying an emotion, or a bit of mystery).
The above photo was taken with the flash (light source) diagonally in front of me and to the left, about 1 foot each way), it was also set about 1 foot above the height of my head.
This shot was taken with the flash positioned as above but level with the height of my head.
This one was taken with the flash directly to my right.
This one was taken with the flash below my face and about 1 foot in front of me.
If you have the option try playing around with the strength of the flash and also use a diffuser on some shots. Each technique will offer a slightly different effect.
For each photo I adjusted the curves in Photoshop to darken the shadows and get rid of any trace of the background. I then duplicated the layer and applied a High Pass filter.
Finally, if needed, I lightened my eyes slightly and used the burn tool to darken any part of my shoulders that were showing.
Can you distinguish what type of lighting these images create? High-key, low-key, fill light? If so, then you have learned at least one thing from this article. Although, I am hoping you are walking away with a greater idea and knowledge of why lesser common brand flashes are equally as good as the more expensive industry leading brands. In the end it comes down to power, not price. Keep this in mind and in your budget when setting out to purchase your flash.