A little over a year ago I attended a Going Digital course aimed at teaching people how to take better portraits of friends and family when using flash.It was an excellent 1 day course that taught me a lot about the various settings available on my speedlight and how to use them to get the most out of my flash. The most important thing I learnt was to stop thinking of flash as a light source for lighting a subject in a dark room but to regard it as a creative light source that can be used to complement the existing light instead (also known as fill flash).
During the course, our tutor gave us a number of resources as further reading to supplement our knowledge of flash photography techniques. Among these was the extremely useful site by Niel van Niekerk – Tangents. He has written a series of 18 articles on flash photography techniques that deliver a clear guide to understanding the benefits of using flash. Most importantly, he shares his techniques for taking portraits using flash to create images where it is hard to tell that flash has been used at all. Instead, the photos look like they were shot in great natural light.
Having read and re-read his articles a couple of times, I am now starting to get to grips with the technique of balancing fill flash with the ambient light and bouncing the flash to give directional light. All of this has gone a long way to improving the portraits I take of my friends and relatives, a few examples of which I have posted below.