When it comes to capturing images, a good number of photographers stray away from using off-camera flashes to illuminate their subjects. Some prefer maximizing the benefits of using ambient light to get the photos they’re aiming for. On the other hand, these same people would not even consider using one or several flashes to obtain proper lighting in challenging situations. Shown below are several reasons why you should incorporate these off-camera flash skills, the challenges that come along with it, and how to achieve the right kind of setup, among others.
The Importance of Off-Camera Flash Photography
A photographer’s usage and expertise of light play an important role in capturing amazing images. Illuminating our subjects, whether they’re people or still objects, can be quite a challenge if there is not enough light to help us out. It’s great if you’re used to taking photos using ambient lighting conditions, such as utilizing sunlight during daytime. Although this may be the case most of the time, there will be instances when you won’t have enough light to illuminate your subjects. This is where off-camera flash photography comes in.
As the name suggests, this kind of photography calls for one or several flashes to be set up in key locations to get the lighting you’re aiming for. As a result, you get to illuminate your subject without any worries. This benefit will come in handy when you have no ambient light to use, or you frequent dimly-lit places for your preferred images. Moreover, you can readily use off-camera flashes for any kind of photography, such as portraiture and stills, among others.
Off – Camera Flash Accessories
The disadvantages of using an off-camera flash photography setup
Although there are various benefits to be gained from off camera flash photography, there are also certain disadvantages to it. Here are some prominent reasons why you should not use off camera flashes for your photography pursuits.
Setting off-camera flashes take a lot of time. There are times when you just want to take your camera gear and shoot your subject away. You’d just want to explore that open field during the golden hour and be smitten by the incredible photos you might produce. But when the sun goes down, there’s little to nothing more you can do. This is where you can optimize off-camera flash photography to your advantage.
One of the downsides you need to live with is to allocate a significant amount of time to achieve the off-camera flash setup you’re gunning for. You need to attach your speed-lights to their corresponding light stands and place them in strategic locations. Plus, you have to dial in the appropriate output from these flashes so you won’t end up with an overexposed shot. If you have light modifiers, you also need to spend time setting up those things. All in all, you need to compensate for this additional time by planning ahead. In this way, you won’t run out of time when you’re shooting.
Adding this additional equipment costs a lot. Let’s face it. Any piece of photography equipment will most likely cost a significant amount of money. From the camera body to the lenses, these items will surely take up a portion of your budget. The same can be said for off camera flash gear. You need to invest in the primary requirements, such as additional speed-lights, light stands, and wireless triggers. You’ll also find the need for extra batteries, and chargers for this kind of photography. You’re going to be surprised when you’ve added the cost of all these things.
You’ll be carrying additional weight with you. Apart from the extra cost and effort in setting your off camera flash setup, you’ll also have to deal with its added weight. Just imagine carrying a set of light stands and flashes along with your usual camera bag when going from one spot to the next. If you don’t have an assistant or friend to help you carry these things, you’ll be exhausted by the time you start shooting.
Recommended off-camera flash photography gear
Taking photos using an off camera flash setup entails the addition of several items to your photography gear. Shown below are some of the required equipment you should consider.
The main proponent in capturing incredible images using several flashes is the camera body. This is the central part of your setup that connects to your other tools, such as a lens and wireless triggers. It’s imperative to choose a camera body that allows you to manually control the settings. This is crucial because you need to calculate the correct exposure by coming up with the corresponding shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Gaining a way to set the white balance is also a plus when using a camera that allows you to do so.
When choosing a camera body, keep in mind to get one that allows you to use wireless triggers. Again, this is a very important element to your off-camera flash setup. The ability to attach these triggers to the body permits you to fire one or several flashes without the need for a wired connection. As a result, you can achieve a well-illuminated look for your images using this method.
Another integral requirement to your off camera flash setup is the lens. This piece of camera gear permits you to attain the kind of images you want to achieve. For this kind of photography, you should consider getting a lens that falls between 50mm and 200mm. The longer your lens is, the more compressed separated your subject is going to be from the background. This will render a beautiful and more flattering effect on the person you’re shooting. At the same time, a longer lens will allow you to shoot from a distance so you won’t be blocking the light from your remote speedlights.
When choosing a lens for your off camera flash setup, you should also think about getting a zoom or a prime. In most instances, you’re going to stop down the aperture to compensate for the additional illumination produced by the flashes. Lenses with variable apertures, such as a zoom lens, might come in handy, especially in tight spots. On the other hand, prime lenses offer an extra stop and a sharper output. The best course of action is to determine your shooting style and the location you’re going to be in to help you decide on what kind of lens to bring.
Getting the kind of lighting you want won’t be possible if you’re not going to use a flash. This device is powered by batteries to deliver a short burst of light that will illuminate your subject. When getting one, it’s better to go with a flash that’s fully compatible with your camera system. For example, pairing your Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon 600EX II-RT is better than using a flash from a third-party company. The same goes with those who use Nikon, Sony, and Fuji, among others. Choosing an off camera flash setup that’s compatible with your preferred system will reduce the chances of any gear difficulty in the future.
In order for your flash to fire remotely, you would need a wireless trigger to help you out.. Basically, you are going to get a transmitter and a receiver when purchasing a wireless trigger. Attach the former to your camera’s hotshoe and connect the latter to the flash. Once you’ve figured out the essential wireless channel, you can start firing your flashes remotely. You can also consider getting high-end wireless triggers that allow you to control the output of your speedlights via the transmitter itself. In this way, you won’t have to approach your flashes and manually change the settings from time to time. This will help you be more efficient when shooting with off camera flashes.
Placing your speedlights in a position you want would be hard if you don’t use light stands. This particular item resembles a long metal rod with feet on one end and a bracket that will hold your flash on the other. They can usually extend to provide more reach for your speedlights. When choosing a light stand, it’s important to get those that can endure a lot of punishment. This trait is important because the durability of these stands will help you get more value for your money in the long run. Light stands that come with a carrying case and can securely hold your flash in place are also a must.
Last on the list is the light modifier. These things help shape the kind of light your speed lights release so they can create a different and better feel for your off-camera flash shots. You can opt for conventional lightboxes or go for snoots for a different effect. What’s important is you know how light is changed because of these modifiers and how they can contribute to the overall improvement of your shots.
Off-camera Flash Photography Setup Guide
Now that you’ve got your off camera flash gear ready, it’s time to go and try taking shots with your off camera flash gear. Let’s say you’re going for a three-point lighting setup to illuminate the person you’re taking photos of. Here are the three roles your flashes are going to fulfill.
Key Light. This is the main source of illumination for your photos. In order to set up your off-camera flash as the key light, place the light stand 45 degrees from your subject’s preferred angle It should also be positioned higher than your subject with the direction of light pointing downwards. The use of a softbox will create a softer light and produce a flattering light.
Fill Light. Using the key light alone will create more shadows on the profile of your subject. It will also increase the overall contrast of your images. To counter these challenges, you would need to place an off-camera flash on the opposite side of the key light. This is known as the fill light, and as the name implies, it fills the shadows created by the key light.
The presence of a fill light helps create a clearer look for your off camera flash images. Keep in mind to set your fill light’s output lower than the key light to create a balanced look.
Back Light. When taking photos using an off camera flash setup, you would notice how unreal they may look. A quick solution is to place a camera flash light on your subjects back. This is known as the back light, and it creates separation from the background.
It also makes your photos look more natural and enticing to the eye. Again, the output of your back light should be enough to distinguish the person’s shape from the background and not overpower the key light.
Once you’ve positioned your off-camera flashes in these spots, you should try to adjust their power output until you get the right kind of exposure. Be patient as you test your lighting setup so you can get it right in the end.
Additional off-camera Flash Photography Tips
- Make sure you get to charge your batteries completely before heading out for a shoot. When you’re out there, it’s going to be hard to charge your batteries while shooting your subjects.
- You can entertain the idea of shooting a subject using your on camera flash when the sun is at its highest. In doing so, the flash will act as a fill light against the sun’s harsh rays. The result won’t be spectacular, but it will certainly be useful in this kind of environment.
- Be mindful of where your camera flash light will bounce off from because it might affect your subject’s skin tone. If you’re indoors and the walls are painted with harsh colors, such as magenta or different shades of green, you would have a hard time editing your images. If this is the situation you’re facing, the wisest course of action is to place colored filters on your flashes to balance these colors.
Off – Camera Flash Accessories