New Jersey photographer Neil van Niekerk is a flash wonk. As in the flash on your camera.
He’s recognized by his peers as an expert on the use of flash, is frequently invited to speak on the topic at professional photography conferences, tutors other photographers, gives workshops on flash photography, maintains a blog specifically dedicated to flash techniques, and has a flickr group (with over a thousand members), again specifically dedicated to flash photography techniques.
And, if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he’s days away from releasing a book titled On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography. Phew, that’s a mouthful! The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.
Despite the title, mastering the use of a flash isn’t just an issue for wedding and portrait photographers. Or even just for pros. Instead, the topic is important for anyone who wants to take better pictures. Which is great, because Neil writes (and speaks) in a straightforward style. Rank beginners can benefit from Neil’s expertise alongside the seasoned pros.
Like Neil, I first started using flashes back in the late 70s. That’s code for “before you could set everything on automatic.” And, I suspect that Neil, like me, got his start as a slide film shooter. That’s code for “your exposure had to be pretty much dead-on or your film was useless.” These were both great training grounds for beginner photographers; we couldn’t depend on the camera to pick the setting for us, we had to actually learn how to operate our camera (and flash) manually.
Most (all?) of today’s cameras and flashes can be used on automatic, and using automatic mode gives the user great results a high percentage of the time. That’s a good thing insofar as it’s improved the quality of photography overall. However, the drawback is that many users never explore all the capabilities of their equipment. They don’t learn what to do when automatic fails them. And, they don’t learn how to tweak automatic for even better results.
If you need help with your use of flash, get to know Neil–his blog, his flickr site and now his new book.
Hmmm, I wonder if he’ll autograph my copy now that I’ve flattered him?