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Chapter 3. Beyond the Simple Snapshot > Photographing Objects

3.15. Photographing Objects

Most people usually photograph people and places. Every now and then, however, you'll need to photograph things: stuff you plan to sell on eBay, illustrations for a report, your personal belongings for insurance purposes, and so on.

Built-In Flash vs. External Flash

More expensive digital cameras offer serious photographers a wonderful feature: a place to plug in an external flash attachment.

An external flash moves the light source away from the lens, which reduces red-eye, especially if the flash is on its own separate bracket rather than a hot shoe right on the camera. The external flash makes your camera's battery last longer, too, because it has its own batteries. You'll be grateful during long events like weddings.

The most versatile way to attach an external flash is with a standard hot shoe right on top of the camera, as shown here. You can either connect the flash directly, or you can use a dedicated flash cord that allows you to move the flash away from the camera, but still retain communication between the two.

Some cameras just aren't big enough to accommodate a hot shoe. To circumvent this problem, some camera makers have engineered a system that uses a tiny socket on the camera that connects to the flash via a proprietary cord and bracket. This system isn't the height of versatility, but it does allow you the flexibility of an external flash on a very compact camera.

A wedding is one key example of a situation where you'll find this useful. When you're not the primary photographer, you won't get the prime shooting locations during big events (like the cake cutting). Therefore, you'll need all the flash power possible to get the shots even when you're out of position–another advantage of an external flash unit.

Finally, a detached flash attachment gives you more flexibility, because you can use it to bounce light off the wall or ceiling to provide fill lighting for certain shots.

A good external flash with a dedicated cord costs at least $200, and, of course, only the fancier digital cameras can accommodate them. But as you become more serious with your photographic pastime, you'll find that external flashes help you capture shots that on-camera flashes just can't get.



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