How do you use wireless off-camera flash?

February 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by

I have read a lot about wireless off-camera flash and I’m wondering how does it work exactly? I own a D7000 and am ready to buy an accessory Speedlight. I would like to know how to shoot without connecting the flash to the camera with an optional SC-28 cable. If it’s complicated, I would rather buy the cable too since it’s only $80.
—Roger D.

Most DSLR camera systems allow for wireless remote TTL flash photography with certain flash units, and the technique is quite straightforward with most of them, Roger. The good news is that your camera (as well as the D90, D300, D300s, D7000 and D700) is ideal for this technique because the built-in flash can trigger the remote Speedlight. There’s no need to buy a commander accessory as long as you use one or more of the following flash unit(s): SB-600, SB-900 or SB-901.

With a Nikon camera, start by accessing the Custom Function menu, section e, and scroll to e3, Flash Control for Built-in Flash. Press the OK button, scroll down to CMD-Commander mode and press OK again. That will set the built-in flash to act as a commander and automatically trigger one or more remote Speedlights. The method for setting the flash unit for remote operation differs, but with my SB-900, it simply requires turning the On/Off switch (while depressing its central button) to the REMOTE option. Afterwards, when the built-in flash is popped up, and a remote Speedlight is on, both will fire whenever you take a photo.

That allows for the most simple method but the Nikon system offers a great deal more versatility since you can preset various features and use several remote flash units, for example. All of this is described in an informative brochure available for free download from Nikon’s Website.

While off-camera flash is even more valuable for professional-looking effects in dark locations, I also use it outdoors for photos of people and flowers. Even the simple method discussed in the text can simulate side lighting from the sun but it also adds a catch light to a person’s eyes.

I definitely recommend using off-camera flash (whether connected with a TTL cable or with the wireless technique), for people pictures. Simply hold the remote unit above and to the side of the subject for the most natural-looking effect. This technique causes shadows to fall below the subject, and not on the wall directly behind a person, so they will not be obvious in the pictures. It also prevents the shadows in eye sockets and the flat, low-contrast lighting that you’d get when bouncing light from the ceiling. There’s only one disadvantage: it’s very awkward to hold a camera and a remote flash unit simultaneously. The solution is simple: ask a friend to act as an assistant and take several shots, with the flash at a slightly different location for each one.

4 Comments

  1. Ian / February 2, 2012 at 10:53 pm /

    How timely is this article! I just bought two flash stands and was researching placement … as I said before, how timely!

  2. Robert Roaldi / March 3, 2012 at 6:39 am /

    Hi,

    There seems to be an incorrect link here. When I click on the link about photographing captive animals, I come to a page about wireless flash.

    Robert

    • Jenny / March 5, 2012 at 9:26 am /

      Robert,

      Yes, there was an incorrect link in the newsletter; here’s the address for the article you were looking for:
      https://www.photolife.com/?p=6357

      Jenny

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