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Basic concepts and use of flash you should know

You have an external flash but some tips and additional information on how it works would be nice, right? In this post we will try together to get the most out of your little gem of technology. So that using your external flash is no longer a mystery to you.

To understand and then be able to apply the few tips that I will repeat here, I will first recall the definition of flash (briefly, don’t worry) and the different models that you can find on the market.

The different types of flashes

A flash is an electronic device that allows us to generate artificial light in a controlled way. This last word, “controlled”, is the key to the flash because it is through a series of parameters that we can control the light we need to illuminate our main element. Depending on the type of flashes we use, we can modify the light, a little, a lot, passionately, not at all.

The built-in flash

In theory, the built-in flashes are located in the upper part of the camera, with the exception of many high-end or professional models which do not include it.

They are generally quite limited in terms of power and you will certainly tire of correcting the tedious “red-eye” and other small details, faithful companions of your built-in flashes. When you see the photos taken with an external flashes, they will quickly win you over.

Why do red eyes appear? A little explanation is in order. The color red is the effect of light reflecting in the eyes, the retina of which is irrigated with blood. This effect occurs when the light diffused: interiors, cloudy days or dark places with little light. To accommodate this lower light, the pupils dilate to let in more light. If we take a photo at this time using our built-in flash and at a short distance, the light from the flash will hit the subject’s eyes frontally and produce this “red-eye” effect.

Even if a cobra flash does not solve everything, it already helps us find solutions, for this problem and many others. You will tell me that you know a double flash method that prevents red eyes but, between us, even with this trick, the results are not pretty pretty.

Another thing to remember with built-in flashes is that, despite their limited range, they can sometimes produce a (too) large dose of light. Which photographer has never projected a super flash on one of his subjects to obtain one of these dazzling white images?

To obtain minimal aesthetic effects, it is advisable to rely on a cobra flash, portable, torch or whatever you prefer to call it. A flash combined with a light modifier can do wonders. Check for more here.

External flash

For a long time now, cobra, portable or torches have kept the same design. You will always find 3 elements on your flash.

The torch

It is located in the upper part of the flash and it houses the light pipe. When activated, the flash emits a Xenon discharge, to produce white light. By white light, we mean a light whose color temperature is 5600ºK. The higher the quality of the flash, the better it adapts to the temperature. The light produced by the flash is theoretically hard, directed and low in calories, which explains why it can emit a large quantity of flashes during its lifetime. The light from the flashes generally produces a low calorie light but in some cases it can also produce overheating and to avoid this effect. Many flashes come with a thermostat which regulates the flashes when the temperature limit exceeded.


The set of electronic circuits that control and communicate with the flashes. The generator houses a capacitor that stores energy from the battery and injects it into the light pipe when the flashes is activated.


It is possible to use almost all modern flashes with cameras of different brands but only in manual mode. Except at Sony, the brands have the same central claw on the shoe. For this reason, if you look at manual flashes, they only have one hot shoe. For others, the different claws are responsible for passing information between the camera and the flash, the design and the voltage of these different claws vary from one brand to another.

  • Controls  : You will of course find the essential control buttons, which will allow you to configure the power of the flash, the level of the zoom, the mode of operation (manual, TTL, High speed, repetition flash…).

Studio flashes

Studio flashes are similar to projectors and generally project a higher flash output than an external flash. For this reason, they will be powered by different current sources, which will limit their mobility. To counter this impracticality, models of studio flashes with lithium batteries connected to external power sources have appeared, allowing comfortable transport and outdoor photo shoots.

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