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Working with a speedlight off-camera

From: Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash

Video: Working with a speedlight off-camera

We live in a world of off axis light. Natural sunlight and even our household lights illuminate us in our environment from different angles. Yet, a lot of flash photos appear bland and flat. Why? Because the flash is located on camera at the same axis as the lens. So how do you create a dynamic image with dimension and form? Well, you just move the flash off camera. Now it does take a little getting used to.

Working with a speedlight off-camera

We live in a world of off axis light. Natural sunlight and even our household lights illuminate us in our environment from different angles. Yet, a lot of flash photos appear bland and flat. Why? Because the flash is located on camera at the same axis as the lens. So how do you create a dynamic image with dimension and form? Well, you just move the flash off camera. Now it does take a little getting used to.

But once you take the leap to lighting this way, a whole new world of creativity opens up. Once you remove the speed light from your camera, you have to come up with a way to fire the flash. Now there are two basic ways a camera can communicate with the flash, with a cable or with a wireless signal. In this movie I'll be focusing on using wireless connectivity to fire the flash. Now, a lot of the newer DSLR cameras have the ability to activate your off camera flash unit with your camera's flash and a built in wireless transmitter.

Now I'm using the Canon 7D. All cameras vary. If you have an older model or a camera without a built-in flash you may need to purchase an external transmitter or another flash unit to attach to your camera that acts as a master flash. And that's how it works, your camera's little flash is the master flash that now tells your speed light, the slave, what to do. Now here's how to set it up. First you want to activate your cameras on camera flash, and I will pop that up, like so.

Then you want to go your camera's menu setting and activate the built-in transmitter for wireless flash. Next, you want to set your speed light to slave. Now, when you press the shutter on your camera, the pre flash trigger on your camera is going to activate your speed light from a maximum distance of about 30 to 40 feet. And I'll show you how that's done. Right now we're going to take some pictures of my fabulous model, Christina. Hey Christina. >> Hello. >> Thanks for helping out today. >> Sure. >> Now I'm going to take a few different pictures of you and they're going to look much more dramatic.

Than say, a photograph with this on camera. In fact why don't I start with that, I'm going to take one shot of you just straight on with the camera and then Then I'm going to take a picture of you from the side. And looking great. Okay, this looks pretty good, I mean you look great in all photographs. But this picture of you is, the light's a little flat. So now what I want to do is create some more dimension.

And I'm going to do that by taking my flash off camera. And, I'm going to put it, this, here on a little shoe mount. And this is on top of my light stand. So the shoe mount allows me to mount the bottom of my speed light to this, and I just want to make sure that that's in there, snug. And tight, so it doesn't fall off. And you want to make sure when you purchase any kind of, get this in here the right way, any kind of shoe mount, that it is.

Preferably metal, because once you have a flash on top of a shoe mount, you know, you've invested some money in your flash. And you want to make sure that it doesn't fall off. So try not to use the plastic ones, get something that's metal. And make sure it's in there tightly. What's also great about the shoe mount is I can kind of move it around, if I want to adjust the angle. And remember our swivel, here on top of the speed light, allows me to swivel the light any way I want. Now I've got this positioned at an angle to her, and I want to make sure when I turn on my flash here and set it to slave.

Now do you see this red light blinking here? This is actually going to be communicating with my camera. So I've got the flash popped up. And this is what's going to activate this. So this is line of sight. You want to make sure that your camera is always seeing this blinking red light. So now I'm going to take another shot of you. And. Looking great. this looks so much better because now I have a directional side light falling on her face. And I am using a soft box that's softening the light a little bit.

So now I have ultimate freedom to really move this around. And get any other kind of lighting and lighting pattern that I choose and really mix up the look. I mean isn't this so much nicer than just standing there with your camera on your flash. Now you can really get creative. Looks great. Okay. So the drawback of working with these optical triggers, is that they do rely on an unobstructive line of sight for successful communication.

And they have a limited range of about 30 to 40 feet. And spotty performance in bright sunlight. Now if the master and slave configuration isn't working for you, or if your camera doesn't have a builtin flash. You can try radio triggers. Now, these don't have those limitations. Their signals pass easily through walls, doors, windows, and can travel around corners and much longer distances. Now the radio communication is much more reliable for wireless off camera flash.

But depending on the Model and features you decide to purchase, they are also a little bit more expensive than working with a built-in optical wireless system.

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