Q&A: Good beginner flash? | Montreal Photographer


My niece’s birthday is coming up. She loves photography–she currently has a Canon 60D. What is a good versatile flash for an amateur photographer. I believe she has a 18-200 lens. 

However, I think she would probably enjoy Adobe Photoshop but there are so many.

Any suggestions Pierre? Much appreciated.



As with everything photography, there is a huge range in Canon flashes that go from $200 up to $700.  As this is her first flash, I’d suggest the mid level Canon 430 EX II.

Image from Canon.ca
Image from Canon.ca

It is slightly less powerful than the higher end models, but to start with, I think it’s a good value .  Later on, if she wants to push her flash photography, she can use this as a secondary flash so the intial investment is not lost.  If you have the budget, getting something like the the 600 EX-RT ($550) or a used Canon 580 EX II (the older version of the 600), go for that.  I started with a 430 EX II and still have it with me on shoots as a backup flash.

I do highly recommend going with Canon flashes and not third party flashes at first.  I feel every photographer needs at least 1 good brand flash that speaks with the camera, as we don’t always have the time to set things manually.  There is still lots of learning with on camera flash to be done… bouncing, metering, diffusing,… Brand flashes use what is called Through the Lens (TTL) to speak to the camera and set proper exposure, which is great for run and gun situations like parties, events and wedding receptions.

Some key things to look for in an entry level flash:

  • Swivel head.  The ability to move the head side to side and at angles will help bounce the light.  I’m not a fan of tiny pocket flashes that are fixed
  • Auto control (TTL) and manual control options.  Will allow for some learning and experimenti

Flash photography isn’t for everyone, but I feel every photographer should know how to properly use a flash on and off camera (ie not connected to the top of the camera).  Many say they are “natural light only” photographers, and while I love shooting with natural light, many just say that as an excuse to  not learn how to light with flashes.  Just as sound in video can make or break your…uh…video, light can make or break your photo.  Just my opinion though 😉

When and if she wants to pursue lighting with off camera flashes, then she can start investing in third party flashes that are cheaper, but don’t speak with the camera and are all manual… like the Lumopro LP180.  But I’ll save the whole basic kit for off camera flash for another question.


Ok… second part… software.  I’ll make it quick 🙂

What software does she have? If she is more into pure photos and not much image manipulation, skip photoshop. Its an awesome tool, but for most photography needs, it’s like killing an ant with a bazooka!  I’d highly suggest adobe Lightroom instead. It sells for around $150 but they often have discounts going on.  I think some sites have it at $109 right now and it was $75 a few months ago.

Image from BHPhoto
Image from BHPhoto


Same processing algorithms as photoshop, but made for photographers. Its what i use for 99% of my work.   Not dissing photoshop in any way, if you want to create things digitally, make composites and so on, there is nothing better.  A free software, that is photoshop-like, is Gimp.  She can have a look at that as well.




Hope this helps!

If you have a question about photography or anything else (trust me, I can easily get verbal diarrhea on many subjects), feel free to drop me a line on my Facebook page! 🙂