Do you use your flash while traveling?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by allan_martin, Jun 19, 2013.

  1. Hello!
    Im an amateur photographer and the time I use my camera the most is when im traveling.
    I have a d7000 and the next thing on the list was a flash.
    I know it's good to have one for portraits, indoor and and to soften shadows.
    Now im asking myself, before I actually buy it, am I going to really use a flash for general travel photography?
  2. I dont travel w/out my speedlight. I use it in low light situations or for fill. I also dont travel w/out a tripod, but I do a lot of long exposures.
  3. I use flash all the time to fill shadows and for back-lighted portraits. Don't leave home without it.
  4. Depends on whether you're willing to carry the extra weight and bulk in exchange for better flash photos. I like to travel light and would just use the pop-up flash if necessary. The pop-up works well as a fill flash, just dial in a bit of negative flash exposure compensation as required.
  5. When I first bought a 35mm-sensor model without a built in flash, I bought the matching flash unit.
    I have taken it on every trip since, over the last several years.
    Times actually used (except to see if it worked, it did): 0
    Some of us just prefer available light. I'm sure that someday I will need it, but not so far.
    I very much respect my friends and colleagues who use flash effectively, however; and I am not saying everyone should avoid flash.
    In the end, only you can answer your question.
  6. Just thinking about a recent trip, my flash came in handy when wandering around inside forts, primitive ruins in the southwest and heavily wooded areas where the lighting was not very good. Many times I will snap a shot w/out flash and one w/flash, so I have a choice of which I like better. It can go either way, but at least I have the option.

    Like Alan mentioned the flash comes in handy for back-lighted portraits/subjects...especially at sunset/sunrise. I have used the pop-up flash but I would rather have more fill light available if needed.

    As JDM said, it is kind of a personal choice. I probably use mine on occasion during every trip.
  7. I'm sure a flash is an excellent thing in the right hands but I haven't owned one for a number of years now as I have come to prefer available light. That seems to be particularly true these days when high ISO settings are possible.
  8. If a flash comes in handy is only a question when you like the effect. I prefer available light, so I never travel with a flash. I use flash only for the occasional snapshot at parties.
    Only you can decide if there will be situations that justify the extra weigth and space of the flash.
  9. Occasionally - as John Hill above notes it can be useful inside ruins; especially if its a bright day outside the and contrast is going to be daunting. But I've only used it a handful of times in the past few years.
  10. If you don't have a fast prime for low light situations, I personally think that would be a better investment for travel photography.
  11. If you know how to effectively use a flash, by all means bring it. If you don't know how to effectively use it, learn how to use it and then bring it. When you know how to effectively use it, you will know that you will want to bring it.
  12. " I have come to prefer available light. That seems to be particularly true these days when high ISO settings are possible."
    Not arguing with what works for you, but high ISO settings have little effect on subjects lit with harsh, midday available light. If pleasing available light is present, I will choose that every time, but I find that this is seldom the case. More often, I find that it is the available light itself which requires the use of flash for fill. I carry a flash with me (and use it quite often) to remedy poor light, not to increase my shutter speeds.
  13. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Not arguing with what works for you, but high ISO settings have little effect on subjects lit with harsh, midday available light.​

    Eric makes the right point. I would add that it's also an issue with dull flat light, which is also a problem.

    I look at a lot of portfolios from people. When I hear "I only shoot with available light," I'm pretty certain I am going to see a fair number of poorly lit faces that ruin what would otherwise be a good photo. Far better to use all the tools to get the best results.
    When you know how to effectively use it, you will know that you will want to bring it.​

    Exactly. I spend a huge proportion of the time I spend with new photographers, and sometimes ones who have been shooting for quite a while, teaching them how to use flash.

    I travel with a small flash that results in almost no "extra weight and bulk." It is more powerful and more controllable than the on-camera flash. There are similar products for every camera.
  14. am I going to really use a flash for general travel photography?​

    If "general travel photography" means landscapes, then probably not.
  15. To a limited extent. Most of my travel photography is done without flash, but I'll use it to freeze motion and fill shadows on
    people sometimes.
  16. I use flash in a wide variety of situations, including when traveling. When on vacation, I usually carry just a point and shoot unless I'm there to actually shoot a job. With P&S I leave the built-in flash turned on almost all the time since the fill light in outdoor shots is useful more times than it's a problem.
  17. I never use flash since I switched from SLR to rangefinder cameras. A natural look works better for me.
  18. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Flash used properly once mastered does not give an "unnatural" look.
  19. eric, yes, apologies, the discussion at that point in the thread was about use of flash to light inside dark buildings hence my high ISO comment. I should have been more specific to avoid any misunderstanding.

    Jeff, I've been thinking about this discussion and why I do not use flash. To me one of the attractions of natural light (including 'found' artificial light) is that it is always different. I find as a personal preference that with flash the results often look rather similar to each other. Pretty good, as often as not, but all a bit similar. I can understand that for a professional photographer that flash is essential where the priority is a usable shot. As an amateur I do not have that priority. I can choose to use flash or not. If I choose not to use flash then I have to accept that I will miss some shots because the available light isn't right. But to me that doesn't really matter. Instead I will look for the shot that is possible, or interesting, with natural light. As ever with matters of aesthetics there is no right answer - just personal preference.

    Raid, why did the R/F cause you to abandon flash?
  20. it


    I use flash for people shots outside in midday sun. As Jeff says, if you actually know how to use flash correctly it looks fine.
    That said, I haven't used flash in a couple of years and I make my living as a people photographer.
  21. I never travel without a flash. Most recently I bought the baby Canon 270 to be lighter, but because it limits shutter speed to 1/200s (no high speed shutter capability) I find myself going back to packing the 430 or the 580 as most of the use is for fill-in where I am probably using natural daylight and wide apertures.

    The downside is that it draws attention to you when you use it and people can become very self conscious. If you use it, be prepared to make the first shot count.

    The opposite is also true that it can set you apart from being just another pesky tourist grabbing sneaky shots. If you behave like a pro, people generally treat you like a pro. A perfect 'local' shot for me is when I take one shot with the flash, show it to them and then ask if I can take another. The level of engagement is then very different.

    The attached shot is not actually mine, but is my wife's and she uses the same approach. She's much better at it than me though :)
  22. Depends what you shoot when traveling. when my wife and I travel we like to go to the historical sites and a lot of them do not allow flash so I end up increasing iso to get the pic.
  23. I shoot a Canon 5DIII, which does not have a pop-up flash. When I go out to shoot landscapes I take the kit, 5DIII, Tripod, 16-35L, 24-70L (optional) 70-200L, 2X extender (for the 70-200L) & 580EXII (flash) it gets heavy but you got everything. Very rarely use flash
    If I need or want to travel light I take the 5DIII, 24-105L & Canon 220EX (flash) for fill which is small and can go in your pocket. I was on a cruse a couple of years ago and needed some light, didn't have any. Went out and bought the 220EX (E-TTL) works great for those times.
    The other thing, if you have good high ISO is to shoot auto ISO, great on the 5DII & RX100. The RX100 is my new favorite "everyday" camera.
  24. A valid question and one that can be asked about every piece of photo gear when travelling. Do you want to cover all possibilities? If so, bring everything including all your lenses, back-up bodies, tripods, flashes, etc. Sometimes one of the primary purposes of travel is an opportunity to go make stunning images. In that case I error on the side of bringing too much gear.
    That's what I used to do on every trip a few years ago. These days, photography is no longer one of my primary goals when travelling and I travel with as little gear as possible. My last couple trips were done with just a Sony RX100 + polarizer + Gorillapod + spare battery + Lens Pen. It can all fit in two pants pockets or one jacket pocket/small camera case. Did I miss a few photos that I could have gotten with a backpack full of gear? Probably. Do I care? Not at all. I now love the freedom of not carrying a pack full of camera gear and worry more about enjoying the journey, my surroundings and the people I'm with rather than coming back with the best images possible. In this way I enjoy the travel more and still am thrilled with the photos I captured when I return home.
    As for flash, I occasionally use the pop-up flash built-in to my cameras. For me it's the RX100 which can even do bounce flash or the one in the Pentax K5; I believe the D7000 is similar to the K5 in that regard. I also find that most of the time my images are robust enough (if exposed properly) and post-processing software is good enough to easily lift up the shadows in post-processing if need be. It's a little extra work but does work well when needed.
    I no longer bring an external flash and rarely regret that choice. If I didn't have a built-in flash, then I probably would look for a small pocketable option as some previous posters have mentioned.
    So, no right answer. Figure out what your priorities are and I think your answer will become apparent.
  25. Not long ago I would have said many of the things that I have read others say here, but when traveling now -- and the fact that now I shoot everything in RAW format -- I have found that it is not worth the weight and space. Adobe Camera Raw's fill light is astonishing, along with all its other features. And modern digital cameras have such high quality with high ISO speeds, that I wonder when the day will come that built-in flashes become a thing of the past. Even years ago, I went down into a kiva at Mesa Verde National Park, where is was dark as a dungeon inside, and shot at ISO 3200, being amazed at the results. A flash down there would have ruined the shot.
  26. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I wonder when the day will come that built-in flashes become a thing of the past.​

    Unless you're creating catch lights in the eyes in an editing program, there is never going to be a day when high ISO does it all. And how do you use high ISO to capture the ambient scene behind the subject and a well-lit subject? High ISO does that?
  27. Like many above, I try and shoot most of my photos with natural light, even indoors, I prefer tripods over a flash whenever
    possible, however there are times when a flash is truly indispensable.


    Late night shots of people

    Daytime shots of people where fill light is needed
  28. I don't bring a flash along when I'm traveling for photography. Since I am not forced to choose any particular subject when I'm traveling, I will simply choose to photograph subjects that are in good light without myself having to bring it with me. The available light is a part of the character of that location. Even mid day light is rarely an issue nowadays with the vastly increased dynamic range of the best sensors. There is shadow detail and tonal variation and it looks good, if you shoot from the right direction. By introducing direct flash the tonal variation would disappear in the shadows, which makes a nice 3D looking image (the brain interprets tonal variation as cues for the 3D shape of the subject) into a flat xerox copy machine 2D look it's as if the subject were not a real person but a cardboard mockery of a person. That's what direct flash from the camera direction does. It also enhances the visibility of skin blemishes and wrinkles, since the local tonal variation due to lighting is taken out, the human brain sees the dimples, wrinkles etc. as much more prominent part of that person's face than they were if natural gradation of light and shadow were left to shape the subject's appearance in the photo.
    I do use flash in the studio, and indoors when I need it, especially with white walled modern (office and home) interiors. But when I travel, I usually go to places where there are medieval buildings and those usually have colored and sometimes dark walls and ceilings, and I can't bounce from those, and I don't want to bring stands and big modifiers with me on travels either, so I use available light and choose my subjects and time of shooting so that it looks good in the existing light.
  29. I have to agree with the folks who bring the flash. I am frugal, and every day and hour spent on a trip costs me money. I wince when people throw out all the hours in the middle of the day.
    As a studio photographer, I have learned to use flash, and it is not that hard for everyone to learn a few techniques for using it in otherwise difficult photographic situations.
    If you are not comfortable with strobes, take a walk every day and stop in places where you were passing up shots before. Learn when the flash can save you, and you will always have it in your arsenal.
    As with any photography, the process comes down to problem solving. You can use your time either finding the perfect available light or making appealing light. It's a personal cost/benefit equation, but for me, always being able to get the shot, whether with natural or created light, trumps all.
  30. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    There are a raft of opportunities available to extend your Photographic Experiences when you are travelling – oft - just the fact one is travelling creates the enthusiasm or reduces the anxiety to get out and have a go at projects which one might never consider in the daily activity “at home”. . .
    It matters not whether I or anyone else travels with a flash or not: YOU are in the process of “beginning learning” and by your own words the next item on your list is a Flash – so buy one; learn how to use it and take it with you – it will be no hardship to carry around.
    To answer your question specifically – sometimes I do take a flash with me when I travel for pleasure: and if I do, I take a little one.

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