You did it! You made the decision to jump in and start shooting with off-camera flash.
You’ve ordered your gear and waited patiently for it to be delivered.
It’s finally here and you can hardly wait to get out there and start shooting.
I know the feeling!
You double check your camera bag to make sure you’ve got everything.
Light stands? Check.
Light diffusing umbrellas? Check.
Then, you see it: You’ve got three flash units and no batteries. What a bummer!
But, no big deal, just run to the store and grab twelve of your standard copper top batteries, right?
Surprisingly, that may not be your best option.
“Why not?” You may ask.
Here’s the short answer:
I prefer rechargeable batteries, specifically Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). For a breakdown of why I think these are the best batteries to power your speedlites, keep reading!
When I first started shooting with flash, I honestly never even considered any other option besides single use batteries.
I had heard about rechargeable batteries, but I didn’t think they could possibly outperform the grocery store brand names I was familiar with.
So, then, why aren’t single use batteries the best?
First, the cost.
Most flash units run using four AA batteries. Speedlites are high drain devices, so you’ll probably get around 200 individual flash bursts before you need to switch your batteries out for new ones.
If you’re just shooting recreationally when your sessions are few and far in between, this might not be a major concern.
However, if you’re in a situation where you’ll be using your flash for long periods of time, regular alkaline batteries can get expensive pretty quickly.
Another factor is how they can affect your images.
Because alkaline batteries usually drain slowly, your flash burst will get weaker as you get closer to the end of the battery’s life.
As you can imagine, a fluctuating amount of light does not help you in your quest for consistent images!
This is probably one of the biggest drawbacks for me personally. I am using flash because I want consistently bright, light, beautiful results.
If I can’t trust my batteries to provide the light for me that I need to do that, then I don’t want to use them.
Alkaline batteries also have a significantly longer flash recycle time.
What is “recycle time?”
Recycle time refers to the amount of time between an initial flash burst to when the flash has drawn enough power from the batteries and is ready to fire again.
Since most of us want to take as many pictures as possible as quickly as possible, alkaline batteries usually just don’t cut it.
Here’s where NiMH batteries come in.
The first benefit is that they are rechargeable!
When you pick up a package, you’ll probably notice the higher price tag. But don’t let that scare you off!
What you have to keep in mind is that these batteries can last you multiple years of use. So, while there is a little bit of a front-end investment, it will pay for itself.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMh) batteries are my preferred type for speedlites.
Unlike alkaline batteries, they operate at full capacity to the end of their charge and then just quit, instead of slowly running out of juice like we mentioned earlier.
This means a predictable result in terms of flash power and image consistency.
Also, they have shorter recycle times.
That means that you can capture more images, and nail those once in a lifetime shots that you run the potential of missing when using batteries with longer recycle times.
HERE is a brand that performs really well.
It’s important to realize that NiMh batteries don’t hold their charge well over a prolonged period of time.
If left to sit with stored charge, in a few months, it’ll be like you never charged them.
You just have to be aware of this and be prepared to charge them before each session.
If this is a major drawback for you, then look for packages that are labeled low self-discharge or pre-charged, like these ones here. This is a newer type of NiMh that generally holds at least about 70% of its charge for months.
But please make sure you invest in a good charger!
If you decide to purchase some NiMH batteries, but then skimp on a charger, you probably won’t be happy with their performance, but it’s not necessarily the fault of the batteries..
You need a charger that will charge each battery individually.
Otherwise, it may just charge one battery to max capacity, and tell you they’re done, when in reality, the others haven’t reached full charge yet.
Look for it to say smart charger like this one HERE.
It will be an investment, but it makes all the difference in how long your batteries will last and their overall performance.
I know in the grand scheme of things, batteries seem of little importance.
But, how you choose to power your speedlites can save you money and can have a huge impact on the final gallery of images that you are sending to your clients!
After all the research, time and money you invested in a flash setup, you want to enjoy shooting with it.
If you’re a nerd like me and enjoy charts and visual breakdowns, HERE is a great comparison of how different battery options perform.
This is just what I use and experience from the research that I have done.
What are the best batteries that you’ve found for your speedlites?
I’d love to hear your favorites, and any pros and cons in the comments below!
Is there something else that you’d like to see discussed here? Let me know!