I love shooting with flash – but it used to scare the pants off me

Profoto A2
(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

When I first started out as a photographer, the idea of shooting with anything but the pop-up flash on my Nikon D3200 terrified me. Studio setups looked so complex, with so many things going on and so much to get wrong. 

People would mention things like Rembrandt lighting or high-key photography, and a shudder would be sent down my spine. For years I avoided it like the plague, choosing to use my trusty reflector instead, but as soon as I stopped letting anxiety get the better of me, I fell in love with flash photography. 

• These are the best photography lighting kits that you can use in the studio or on location

When shooting with flash, there are a lot more things to think about than if you're just using natural lights. You have to consider light and shadow so much more, since you are using tools that create both of those things. Shooting with flash also requires more planning; you need to think about how many lights will you need, if you want to use colored gels, and what light-shaping tools will give you the desired aesthetic you want. 

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

Honestly, the best thing you can do when you first start out is just do it. Don't spend ages faffing about with light meters or watching YouTube tutorials (although this is very handy for getting to grips with the absolute basics), just experiment. Getting things wrong is the best way of learning and, if you rope in the help of your friends or family, no one is going to judge you if things don't turn out quite right. 

I used to think that using flash would make my photos look too try-hard or too overexposed but in reality, when you know how to use flash properly, you can make it look extremely natural. Just because you have a light that can shoot at 500 watts doesn't mean you need to shoot at that power all the time. 

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

Shooting with flash makes your images look incredibly clean – and it also means that you can shoot in poorly lit environments without pushing your ISO, which results in more noise in your images. 

For some shoots this can be the desired aesthetic but, if you're shooting an editorial or beauty / fashion content, you'll want that polished, high-end finish you see in Vogue or Vanity Fair. That can pretty much only be achieved by using flash or shooting in bright sunlight – and depending on where you live, the latter is not a given even in summer. 

Here are some shots I've taken, using flash in different ways. Even though it may have been intimidating at first, it's enabled me to push my photography and ways I simply couldn't have imagined without it.

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

Check out the best flashgun or strobe for shooting on-camera flash – perfect for events and weddings when you need to be on the move. Take a look at the best triggers for flash, too, so you can get really creative with off-camera flash. 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.