Using flash can be one of the most challenging things to learn as a new photographer. Getting into off-camera flash can seem infinitely complicated and confusing but it's not really. I've found three good videos on this topic to help you out.
5 Steps to set up off-camera flash
In this first video, the photographer, Eric Rossi, goes over the gear you need to get set up to do off-camera flash. He mentions the Yongnuo transceivers, I happen to use the same brand. I find them pretty reliable and I've even managed to make the ones that I originally bought to use with my Canon gear work with my Fuji cameras as well.
Let's have a look at the video, and setting up off-camera flash in five easy steps.
Here is a link to the Yongnuo transceivers:
- Yongnuo YN-622N E-TTL for Nikon
- The Yongnuo YN-622N-Kit (one controller and one transceiver) for Nikon
- Yongnuo YN-622C E-TTL for Canon
- Yongnuo YN-622C-Kit (one controller and one transceiver) for Canon
They also offer a wide range of Speedlites as well if you do not have a flash. If you haven't bought a flash before, just look for one that swivels 180 degrees, tilts up and even back, and is compatible with your camera brand and model. Godox is another third-party manufacturer that makes great flashes and flash accessories.
Off-camera flash for beginners
In this next video, Mike from Creative Photography takes you outdoors to see how to apply using off-camera flash in combination with the ambient or natural light.
You'll notice that he's applied an umbrella to the off-camera flash. That is to change the quality of light from a hard light source (the bare flash) to one that is much softer and more flattering for the model. You don't have to spend a lot to get an umbrella, here are a few good choices for you to get started:
- Westcott 32″ white umbrella with black cover – $22.55
- Westcott 45″ white umbrella with black cover – $42
- Photoflex convertible 45″ umbrella (round, oval, or square, white shoot-through or with black cover – $29.99
- Neewer 36″ black/silver umbrella – $13.99
- Promaster Professional Series 36″ Soft Light Umbrella – $16.99
3 Steps to balancing ambient light and off-camera flash
Finally, in this video Bert Stephani gives you his three-step process for how to balance natural light and off-camera flash in the same shot. Too much flash and it will look overdone, too little and the subject will be underexposed.
His three steps:
- Set your exposure for the background using the natural light first.
- Add flash
- Shoot and adjust as needed
I love how he gives little tips as he goes along like tell your model you're just testing so they don't waste energy, and point one leg of the light stand toward the model so it can't tip over on her. He even gives tips on what to do when you get stuck for ideas.
He uses the same method I teach when using flash off-camera which is using the flash in manual mode. It's really simple to use and adjust this way. Just take your first test shot and decide if the flash is too bright or too low. If it's too bright you have two choices – turn down the flash power, or move it back a little bit (make note that also alters the quality of light – it gets harsher the farther you move it from the subject). If it's too dim turn up the power or move it closer to the subject.
More flash tips
If you want more reading and tips for using flash and off-camera flash, check out these other DPM articles:
- Working with Flash – How to Use Bounce Flash for Better Photos
- How to Use Off-Camera Flash to Create a Dramatic Night Portrait
- How to Use Off-Camera Flash for Outdoor Portraits
- Balancing flash and natural light
- Off Camera Flash Techniques For Dramatic Portrait Lighting
- Portrait Fundamentals: Lesson 7 Lighting Patterns – this is a lesson from my online course Portrait Fundamentals. While it's not about flash particularly it is about lighting patterns, something which you need to know and apply when using flash. You can watch this lesson for free.
- Camera Settings for Portrait Photography
I hope these tips give you a bit better understanding of how to set up and use off-camera flash. If you want more help with using flash and lighting, check out our course Portrait Fundamentals.