If you are looking for a n uncomplicated guide to off camera flash photography, look no further! I know that breaking down the seemingly convoluted art of wireless flash photography may seem a bit daunting, but I think I’ve nailed it. Check it out…
The first time I witnessed a wireless flash in action, I was a twelve-year-old at some relative’s indoor wedding. As a young budding photographer, I was astounded at how intricate and fancy the system appeared. Two massive bulbs set atop black metal stands would flash at seemingly random times and flood the ballroom with light.
Where was the actual photographer? Did he build an automated robot that decided when the flashes would activate? Was I witnessing a super-photographer from the future who decided to capture my drunk dancing aunts and uncles for the entertainment of civilizations to come?
To me, it was a form of dark magic that I would never understand. Even a couple of years ago I thought it would be impossible to wrap my head around the craft. Fortunately, I learned my way around off-camera flash photography; now I am here to demystify what I previously regarded as strange, complicated, and borderline terrifying.
What kind of equipment are we talking here?
Surprisingly, off-camera flash is actually quite simple. All you need to fire a remote flash is a speedlight flash, a trigger or receiver to wirelessly activate the flash, and— not to scare you—your camera. (Burr…)
What is a speedlight flash, you might ask? Basically, a speedlight is a small flash that can either attach to the hot shoe of your camera or fire remotely from a distance. They range from a mere $30 to a whopping $600 for the fancier stuff.
Once you get your hands on a decent speedlight, you’ll need a device to make the flash fire. Your options are as follows: You can rely on built-in capabilities, an infrared trigger/receiver, or a radio trigger/receiver. Check out the specs of your speedlight to decide which options are possible and which methods are best for your equipment.
Personally, I prefer the radio trigger. They are wonderfully consistent and can operate in a variety of conditions. Radio triggers can illuminate an outdoor setting from two-hundred yards away, which is a further distance than even necessary.
It can’t be that simple; what else do I need?
Quite honestly, you don’t NEED anything else to fire your off-camera flash. The rest pretty much comes down to your particular needs and goals. Most photographers use a light stand for the flash; some people throw in light modifiers such as softboxes or umbrellas to manipulate the light as they please. If you find yourself with a harsher speedlight, these items are a must.
If you decide to use a light stand, you will need a special flash bracket to connect the two. Check out the best- selling flash brackets here on Amazon.
Why do I even want to do this? Should I give up and binge-watch Shameless on Netflix?
Yes, you should binge-watch Shameless on Netflix, but you should also understand the vast number of benefits to using an off-camera flash.
Let’s be real; every photographer has avoided certain lighting situations, from crappy indoor scenes to mid-day direct sunlight.
Remote flashes allow you to photograph pretty much any given environment without limitations. You can shoot at noon, after peak sunlight, or outside during the middle of the night.
Furthermore, you can manipulate and experiment with your equipment to create a gorgeous-shaped light around your subject.
The photographers out there who fear off-camera flashes must resort to post-processing to obtain such an effect, which usually ends up looking tacky and artificial.
Even if you decide to use remote flashes for exclusive situations, you should learn your way around the craft and know in your heart that you have it under your tool belt of photographic tricks.
Wedding photographers, portrait photographers, and food photographers alike cannot function without special flashes. Off-camera flash photography gives you total control over the lighting of your environment and forces you to dig deep into the limitless science of lighting.
So, my friend, get out there and start triggering some fancy flashes!