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Should I Buy an External Flash or Get a Fast Lens?

Remember, We’re Talking Lower Light Levels

I need to reiterate that this post is for most users who are seeking a solution to low-light shooting.

If you’re shooting landscapes, macro, outdoor most of the time, obviously, this post will be invalid. I’m referring to hobbyists who thinks a fast, expensive lens for low-light usage is the only solution, I’m pointing out that it’s not the case. Relying on wide-open aperture to get enough light in is a valid use but often abused and misused.

You see a lot poorly executed, thin DOF even if not necessary all in the name of getting a shot in low-light when creating your own light is a much better way to go. Even with today’s superior high-ISO noise control of DSLRs, you still won’t address the issue of where the lighting is coming from.

High ISO + wide aperture will get more light in, but it won’t create DIRECTIONAL lighting that’ll make your photos pop.This post is only for those considering a fast lens for low-light purposes.

Naturally, if creating your own light isn’t an issue or your main purpose is to get a shallow DOF, of course getting a fast tele is the way to go.

Bottom line is, photography is about light. The more light that’s available for you to control and direct, the better your photographic options will be. If budget forces you to choose between a flashgun and a fast lens, I’d recommend a flash unless you:

A) shoot solo portraits for the most part where DOF isn’t a priority.
B) If you’re a landscape or still life artist, then this post is not for you, you either don’t need a flash, or you’ll need multiple, external light sources.
C) If you’re an experienced photographer who shoots when daylight is available and knows how to read available light and manipulate it, then a flash may not be as important as well.

But if you’re like me who shoots indoor and low-light most of the time, and often need to stop down the aperture for adequate DOF, then a flash is indispensable, even if you’re just taking photos of your love ones 90% of the time.

A flash allows you to direct where light is coming from and makes sure you have ENOUGH light without sacrificing depth-of-field and noise. It also acts as an immediate fill-light source if harsh shadows contrast is too high.

Get an external flash gun first, then master the use of flash and you’ll maximize your skill with good lenses. Photography is about lighting, first and foremost after all.

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