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| p.1 #4 · Starter Strobist Kit for $100 - what am i missing? |
With one flash as "key" and no fill you'll need to use strategies that create a lot of "spill fill" off ceiling and walls: bouncing, shoot-through white umbrella, etc. It's possible to get very pleasing lighting, but controlling the look at will is more difficult than with two flashes.
When a separate fill source with independent power control is placed near the camera to create an even "foundation" of open shadow under the highlights the key light it is possible to "dial in the mood" of the lighting with the fill. More fill = lighter core shadows = lighter implied mood. Less fill = darker core shadow = darker/more serious implied mood.
The advantage of a iTTL system flash system vs. the manual route you are heading down is convenience in setting the ratio "on the fly" at an event or PJ assignment shot-to-shot without needing to walk around changing power on the lights an hand metering. With system flash you start by setting the ratio (implied shadow tone mood) and the metering takes care of setting the power needed to create it automatically regardless of light placement, bouncing, etc. The overall exposure is monitored / controlled via the clipping warning and the FEC (flash exposure compensation) if the metering doesn't guess right.
The iTTL system can also be used in Manual mode providing all the advantages of a dedicated manual flash with the convenience of being able to remotely control the power of each flash from the camera.
What a iTTL flash can do a manual can't is High Speed Sync. Outdoors in the sun flash sync limits shutter speed (1/200 - 1/250 on most cameras. That in turn limits aperture to around f/11 @ ISO100 to prevent blown highlights. HSS pulses the flash allowing higher shutter speeds with in turn allows using wide apertures to blur distracting backgrounds. That's the feature that convinced me to switch to a pair of Canon's 580ex flashes in 2004 after 30 years of using a pair of Vivitars manually.
Starting with a system flash is more expensive, and limits "creative" options, but there's something to be said for learning how to use a single flash on a camera bracket to maximum advantage first before starting to move the flash off to the side on a stand. You'll find there a many situations where only one flash is logistically feasible and that in some cases, like outdoor people shots in backlight, a single flash on a bracket fill provide more flattering results than an unfilled off axis light.
When you do get the second flash and move it off axis the one on the bracket you started with is nearly ideally placed to provide the even foundation of fill that controls the mood in a Key-over-Fill lighting scenario. You might think of fill being placed on the opposite side from the key but where you need it places is where from the POV of the camera it is shadowless. If the fill source creates shadows it's not doing it's job and there will be dark void in the lighting pattern where it is missing. See my tutorials for examples of what can be done with that strategy: http://photo.nova.org