Do You Need Flash For Travel Photography?

August 13, 2023

Village, Tshangkha, BhutanVillage, Tshangkha, BhutanBhutan

Village, Tshangkha, Bhutan. Photographed with studio flash on location.
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f8 @ 1/100 second, ISO 50.

You don’t need flash for travel photography! Okay, so now I’ve offended some readers, but I stand by my comment: you don’t NEED flash for travel photography, but you may choose to use it.

Modern cameras have such great ISO sensitivity that there are few places you can’t shoot without flash. There’s always enough light to capture something. Sure, at ISO 6400 you might have a little noise to deal with, but this can be satisfactorily addressed in post-production or, like me, you may actually think the noise adds to the image’s appeal.

The advantage of not using flash in a travel situation is that you don’t change the ambience with a sterile 6000K burst of blue light! If your aim is to photograph a travel environment as it is, then an on-camera flash is not going to maintain the ambience. Sure, used on low power, off camera and maybe with a colour gel, flash could fill in the shadows and retain the overall lighting, but generally speaking, the shadow slider in Lightroom etc can do much the same. Rarely do you need flash.

On the other hand, I’ve been known to travel with flash and love shooting portraits with it. Creating a formal photography session with one or two flash units and using the locals as subjects is great fun and creates images with a difference. You can also use flash in daylight, underexposing the background and emphasising your subject, but whether this is the best way to truly capture a travel location is up for debate.

What I like most about not shooting flash when travelling is that it’s one less piece of equipment to carry and recharge! And for my approach to travel photography, I can get by without it.

Join Peter Eastway & David Oliver for their next trip to Amazing Bhutan and Ladakh in 2024, click here for details.


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