As every photographer knows, photographs only happen with light. No light, no picture…it doesn’t matter how cool the subject is. So it makes sense that bringing a tool that can change or create light is very important to any photographer. During workshops I see a lot of hesitation on the part of photographers on using a speedlight. Today’s flashes are incredibly powerful, yet simple to use. I was in Costa Rica recently photographing monkeys and birds; if we weren’t using a speedlight, we would have missed many shots. The jungle canopy is dark; adding some fill flash is just what our subjects needed. I use my trusty Nikon SB900. All I have to do for simple fill flash is to put it in TTL mode and dial down the flash about 1-2 stops depending on the subject. That is all there is to it. If I want to get more creative, I use a wireless transmitter and shoot the flash off camera for more creative lighting effects.
I just returned from Peru. The local people are very friendly, and great subjects for portraits. The woman in this image was selling various items at a park above Cusco. I could have photographed her using available light, but the background would have been over exposed. The simple solution here was to use a speedlight. In this case, I manually set the background exposure 1 spot underexposed, and had the speedlight illuminating her from the right to cast some shadow on her face. All told, this shot took about 1 minute to set the exposure and shoot. In post I desaturated the color for a vintage look. Bring a flash on your travels!