Introductory to off camera flash

September 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

As people learn about photography, there are different phases that most newbies go through. Often, people get a dslr and go out to conquer the world of photography shooting in automatic mode. Later, they learn about the other modes on their camera and experiment with them as well. There are people that want to just shoot "natural light"  (usually because they don't understand how to use artificial light or they were using the flash that is built in to their cameras and realize it sucks). Then, at some point people hear about Off Camera Flash. Then their ears perk up and their interest is peaked and they wonder, what is that magical term and how do I do it? Well, I am here to hopefully help someone out with the answers to your questions. I use ocf the majority of the time when shooting. As I have talked about in a previous blog, I use Yongnuo speedlights. I currently use a Canon 5d Mark II for my photography and since it does not have a built in triggering system for OCF, I have to use triggers to fire my speedlights. A trigger is a device that tells the flash/speedlight when to fire. The triggers I use are the Yongnuo YN-622c. These are also made for Nikon, which would be the 622n. But, since everyone knows that the best photographers only shoot Canon, I will only talk about the Canon system today. But seriously, the triggers aren't really the most important part, I only mention what I use so that if you want to use the same thing and ask me questions, I can answer them for you. 

Ok, so OCF...where to start..how deep to delve into this subject??? I will keep this simple, hopefully. I am going to talk about speedlights. In this blog I will be talking about the Yongnuo 565ex speedlights. Yes, there are other lights/flashes you can use off-camera but I need to keep it easy to start...

So, you just got a fancy new speedlight. You may have spent several hundred dollars on one because you didn't read my blog on speedlights. Or, you may have made a wise choice and purchased one that I recommended. Either way, you are on the right track to creating better images already. You have taken your speedlight and put it in the hot shoe on top of your camera and you have taken a ton of photos only to see that they just don't have that 'it' factor you are wanting and the light is harsh on your subject and you are at your wits end wondering if you made a mistake. Don't worry, you haven't. I already said you were on the right track, so relax...

There are a few other things that you are going to need in order to use your speedlight off-camera. If you are like me and your camera doesn't have remote speedlight triggering/control built into it, you will need triggers. As I stated before, I use the YN-622c triggers. They are actually called transceivers, meaning they can transmit and receive information. You will need a minimum of 2. One to put on top of your camera and one to mount your speedlight on. There are many types of triggers/transceivers that can do the job. In fact, Yongnuo makes a great manual trigger that can work with just about any speedlight. The YN-603c (again, the c stands for Canon.) These are relatively inexpensive ($30.00 or so per pair). I would recommend that you also purchase a light stand and a shoot through umbrella. You will also need an umbrella mount. I prefer the type E or type B hotshoe umbrella mount. These make it easy to make angular adjustments. They fit right on top of your light stand, your speedlight mounts on top of the bracket and your umbrella slides right into place. 

Once you have your speedlight and your triggers the fun begins. (From this point on, I will be referring only to the 622c transceivers but other models work in much the same way) Mount a transceiver to the top of your camera in the hot shoe. Mount your flash into the hot shoe on the other transceiver. Place the speedlight/transceiver into the hot shoe umbrella mount on top of your light stand. Turn them all on and it is time to take some photos. 

First, make sure that your transceivers are all set to the same channel. I typically use the first channel available. Then, make sure that the one with the speedlight on it is set to a controllable group, in this case use group A. Next, power on your camera and scroll through the menu until you come across an external speedlight control option. From here, you will be able to control the power output of the speedlight.

Many people use light meters to decide the power to set their speedlights on to properly expose their subject. I typically make some quick adjustments as I go by taking a couple of test shots to get to the exposure level that I want.  The more you play with your speedlights the more familiar you will become with them and the easier it will be to get your settings right. 

In my next installment, I will go deeper into the subject and help you with a simple set up. 


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