When you see that pop-up flash built into your sexy new digital SLR, it's easy to imagine that you've got your lighting bases covered. However, you'd only be half-right. A built-in flash, no matter how short its throw or arrow its angle of coverage, is better than no flash at all. Built-ins are useful in emergencies. They're also great when you want just a touch of fill-say, a glint in a portrait subject's eye-or for triggering slave-activated, off-camera strobes quickly and conveniently.
While built-in flash units serve a purpose, they're not enough. Their shortcomings are many and completely obvious to anyone who's shot with one for any length of time.
So what's the good news? You can very easily make up for the deficiencies of even the best pop-up flash by throwing an accessory hot-shoe flash in your bag. Articulated shoe-mount flashes are not neces- sarily expensive, heavy, or any more awkward to use than a built-in flash. Moreover, they offer half a dozen clear-cut advantages over built-ins, including…
1. More power The extra light that's thrown by a hot-shoe flash will reach more distant subjects and/or let you shoot at smaller apertures, thereby ensuring that more of the scene is rendered sharply.
2. Bounceability Being able to tilt a shoe-mount flash up toward a low ceiling or swivel it to bounce light off a nearby wall can easily make the difference between flat, harshly lit, unflattering people pictures, and real portraits-with subtle modeling of facial features, three-dimensional drape to clothing, more flattering contrast levels, and overall longer, richer tonal scales.