Is the Flashgun Dead?


Most DSLRs nowadays give excellent quality at ISO 3200, with the full frame ones managing usable images beyond 12,800 as well. Why would anyone need an external flashgun anymore? Aren’t high ISOs good enough to shoot any subject now?
Sanjana Thakkar, Mumbai, via email

There is no doubt that high ISOs have revolutionised photography. They have opened up opportunities that we simply wouldn’t recognise earlier. But there is a growing trend of ignoring traditional lighting basics because of an over-reliance on high ISOs. Flashguns and other artificial light sources remain invaluable to photography, and they will continue to be so, however much high ISOs may improve in the future. That is primarily because flash is not just about the quantity of light, but also quality.

What this means basically is that one doesn’t necessarily fire the flash only to combat darkness. Flash helps fill in shadows, something that high ISOs cannot do. It can help do away with ugly colour casts that weird ambient light sources may leave, and also helps to freeze movement in the dark better than high ISOs ever can. That’s because flash is fired at a very fast speed, as quickly as 1/10,000sec.

Moreover, an external flashgun can be manipulated in several ways. It can be diffused, bounced, gelled… it can also be shifted around to control the kind of shadow play that you see in the final image.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: September, better photography, Question of the Day, flash, ISO, Flash photography, 2014, ask the expert, external flashgun, shadow play