Since most of our lives are spent indoors, most of our family pictures are taken inside. Unfortunately, we have to rely on our built in flashes to get the picture. These pictures include family portraits, table shots, fun gatherings, local indoor events, parties, and social events, to say nothing of the thousands of baby pictures and pet portraits. The built in flash often has enough power to light a subject no further than 12 feet from the camera. The resulting flash picture is flatly lit and must be printed with higher contrast than normal. Pictures taken with subjects further away are dimly lit, low in contrast and have little inherent color. While you may increase the ISO sensitivity to the highest setting, this often results in an image with a large number of artifacts, looking less sharp and grainy.
All these family occasions would be improved with better lighting. An old fashioned PC corded flash will not help you since your digital camera probably doesn’t have a PC socket or hot shoe and even if it does, the red eye pre flash would trigger the accessory flash too soon to synchronize. What you need is an accessory flash that ignores your preflashes and synchronizes with your shutter without wires. The Vivitar DF200 is such a flash.
Other features of this flash are the ability to mount to any camera with a tripod socket, full capability to swivel to the rear and angle up to the ceiling. With plenty of power on hand for good bounce lighting, the swivel feature is important. Another good feature is the ability to operate at a distance. The unit can be placed on a side board aimed at a white wall for a side light or placed high aimed towards a white ceiling for a broad source of light. The advantages of this broad source are a three dimensional look to the picture, reduced glare, more intense color and a sharper, better exposed image. The built in flash acts as the light trigger as well as supplying a fill light for shadow control.
Experiment with different camera and accessory flash settings for the best exposure and balance. A large room can be fully lit using the highest power setting while a closer, smaller area may only need the ¼ power setting for good results. The only con with the Vivitar DF200 flash is that it is all plastic and put together inexpensively without screws. There are a few better built alternatives out there but they cost upward of $400. You just have to be careful not to drop the flash or knock it about too much. The excellent results are worth the extra care.
Article by Kenneth J Hoffman
See also: Photography Tips