Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quick Flash Review

If you follow my blog (and look at my photos) you know that I am not a professional photographer.  I love photography but decided I prefer shooting for myself rather than trying to make a business of it.  I think that many of you who read my blog are in the same position.

Most of my favorite images are natural light lifestyle or candid snapshots.  Sure, I love a beautiful sharp portrait of Imp or Duke, but usually the images that are dearest to me are the ones that show our daily life in all of its messy glory.  I am still amazed that I can capture a moment in time and have it forever.   However,  often these images are not technically the best.

I blogged the other day about my decision to purchase an inexpensive flash (Canon Speedlite 270EX Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras)  for my Canon Rebel T2i.  (The Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash is the Nikon version and even cheaper!) Many of my photos of my family and friends are taken in less-than-ideal lighting situations, especially during family holidays when we are indoors.  Or when I am trying to photograph my boys at the last minute for a blog post tutorial.

I do not like using my pop-up flash on my snapshots because my images usually look this:

This was a .jpg taken in Program mode
(I used this for every shot in this post) with my Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (my walk-around lens).  Red eyes, reflection on Duke's glasses, incredibly dark background.  But hey, it is in focus and I captured the moment.  (I know, this is not a real moment but rather a photographer mom annoying her kids so she can put together a post.)  However, not a great image.

So why not turn off my flash?

Oh no, I forgot to dial my ISO up from 400!  This image can not be saved.  Luckily my new camera can shoot up to 6400 ISO.

Not too bad, the background looks better. Oh no, the exposure is not long enough and Imp must have moved and is out of focus.  And I do have noise issues. I can remove noise but I will lose quite a bit of detail in Duke's face.  And I can't bring Imp back into focus. 

Now I put on my new cheapy 270EX Flash with the flash tilted up about 45 degrees and shoot at 400 ISO again.  Not bad!  The image is quite sharp, the foreground and background look decently lighted, and there is no noise.

 It is a bit yellow, so I will do a slight WB, contrast adjustment in LR2.

There you go!  Not technically or artistically perfect, but something I could stick in my album if I want to remember how I would drive my kids crazy when they were trying to watch Might Machines.

Here you can see the images side-by-side (exact same camera settings), the left one with the pop-up and the right one with the Speedlight.  It is amazing what a difference it makes bouncing a larger flash versus using a  pop-up.

I know that many professional photographers think I am crazy investing in this inexpensive speedlight.  Or even shooting with a Rebel.  But if you are a photographer like me and more interested in saving money, having lightweight idiot-proof equipment, and most concerned about capturing those candid moments only a loved one will want to put in their album; then you should consider getting this flash.

The 270EX won't replace the "pro" Speedlights by any means, but it does work in a pinch.  You can use this on compact cameras also, like the PowerShots.  And a reader told me that she bought the Phoenix P04472 SmartFlash (it was suggested by Popular Photography magazine) and she has been really pleased with it.  And it is less than $60!!!  So if  you are stuck just using your pop-up flash and bumping your ISO for indoor shots than a simple inexpensive flash like one of these will be worth every penny.

I am going to get some new actions out here in the next weeks.  I have the web actions and also my newest portrait action (still working on the name) almost finished!  And a few more tutorials and digital design freebies.  Lately I have had so many ideas of new things I want to post, and now I need the time to get it all together for you.


  1. What lense were you using with this flash?

  2. Sue, I was using my Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 . This is my favorite walk-around lens and the one I usually use for snapshots inside because it is my widest lens.

  3. I use a canon PowerShot and I just bought an inexpensive Canon speedlite..I don't care about being professional, just want to take photos that I like.
    Love what you did with your flash.
    Sadly my PowerShot SX10 does take any other lens but so far I have been totally happy with my zoom.

  4. Curious why when you bumped your ISO that your shutter slowed down. Shouldn't it be faster than at 400? I love my Rebel! Haven't gotten an external flash yet, but I do have the Light Scoop which works great too.

  5. That is the flash I use, I'm always impressed with the results I can get with it when I bounce it off the ceiling!

  6. Thank you Rita, I fit the mold, I shoot for myself and am NOT a professional photographer. Thank you for providing this information. I am having trouble with my flash photography, my images look exactly like your first image in your blog message, my wife keeps saying there is a loose nut on the end of my camera, she's right. I am using an inexpensive Promaster flash. Your information has given me a course correction. Thank you

  7. Thank you for the reminder that I'm not doing this for the money but the memories!

  8. I love that you're enjoying your new flash. I love mine too. It's great for fill light or bouncing light and it's not so big and clunky as some of those other flashes. Plus before I took my photography classes I didn't know what all those buttons and controls on the bigger flashes were for and the 270 is simple, pop it on and use, I think the only thing I do wish is that in addition to tilting up it swiveled side to side, but that is regardless I love my 270 EX.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to post this review...good to know.

    It has always been my humble opinion that it is the photographer and not necessarily the camera that makes the shot. I have seen incredible shots taken with a point and shoot camera and some not so good ones taken with expensive cameras. Depends on the "driver". :)

  10. Rita,
    I have been following your work for a couple years now and I think you are just an awesome person and you are incredibly talented. Thank for you sharing your knowledge and creations w/ us. I shoot for me and my family as well. Pro didn't work for me. And I am very happy! I really need to get around to getting an external flash on my Canon 40D. Keep up the great work!!!

  11. Great post. Thank you for the info. I really struggle with indoor photography when the light is low. Nice to know there are fairly inexpensive options.

  12. Thanks for this Rita. I too shoot for myself.

    I have a Pentax K100d and a very basic Metz Mecablitz flash (just stick it on a and switch it on). I find it gives me more options to shoot indoors.

    It doesn't swivel on the base which is limiting when you are shooting portrait but I can live with it.

    Ruthie x

  13. Hi Rita. I'm so happy that you stopped in my blog, you can't image :)
    I'm not a photographer, but I want to learn and I follow your blog I think half year. I see it by my reader.

    Well I had to see this post before.
    This weekend was a little bit crazy, because yesterday was my boy's little familiar party, and I wanted to take the photos without flash and a lot of them was awful :( at the end I took with the camera flash, I must tu save to buy a external flash, but I've just bought my lens this month and after christmas we are with money :D

    Ohh I deleted the bad photos of my camera I had to save one or two to share :D



  14. I, too, have learned it's the camera but the photographer. I am a professional and use a Rebel. I have excellent comments on my photos, and my clients are always pleased. I am upgrading this year, however, but I wouldn't trade the photos I have taken with my Rebel for anything! Thank you for this insight on this particular flash, I hate using the flash, but this looks like something I would use.
    You Rock!!

  15. Love this information. I have never loved taking photographs indoors but i am so excited to try this!

  16. Totally appreciate this post! I shoot for myself, with a rebel, AND I get lots of great feedback on my natural light images. Indoors, however, not so much!
    Thanks for the info and tips!

  17. I would have to say that some of the cheaper items in photography are actually some of the best. I own a T2i Myself and I know its considered the " 7D mini" with a few small factors that make it different but is just as good. I also Own the same lens. I really think that to many people are worried about weather you have "good stuff" or "professional stuff" for photography. There are professional approaches to photography but anyone can do it with the right knowledge and a little money. I think its awesome you are using a older flash. If it works no need to change it... at least not right now :)

  18. I hsve thatnflash and love it, but will end up upgrading.