Nikon’s Cre­ative Light­ing Sys­tem

Nikon has de­signed a highly so­phis­ti­cated off-cam­era flash sys­tem for its Speed­light flash­guns

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The Cre­ative Light­ing Sys­tem (CLS) uses in­frared so the units need to be ar­ranged in line of sight in or­der to ‘see’ each other. This can re­strict your light­ing setup


The max­i­mum range is ten me­tres and the an­gle of cov­er­age is 30 de­grees, though this is wider if the dis­tance is re­duced. Ra­dio-based flash sys­tems of­fer a longer range.


Low-level pre-flashes are used to trans­mit out­put lev­els and ex­po­sure in­for­ma­tion ahead of the main flash. Th­ese are used to set the ex­po­sure and flash lev­els.


The mas­ter unit may be the cam­era it­self or a suit­able Nikon Speed­light unit (see be­low). The mas­ter flash can be dis­abled if you don’t want it as part of the light­ing.

How ‘Groups’ work

The Cre­ative Light­ing Sys­tem’s flex­i­bil­ity lies in the way you can com­bine mul­ti­ple Speed­lights to cre­ate your light­ing ef­fects • You can cre­ate up to three ‘groups’ (A, B and C), each of which can con­tain any num­ber of Nikon Speed­lights. • Each group func­tions as a sin­gle unit, but the greater the num­ber of Speed­lights in that group, the more power it will pro­duce. • You can ad­just the set­tings and the power out­put for each group in­di­vid­u­ally from the ‘mas­ter’ unit. This could be your cam­era, if it has a built-in Com­man­der mode (see be­low) or an ex­ter­nal Speed­light (with Com­man­der ca­pa­bil­ity) at­tached to your cam­era. The Cre­ative Light­ing Sys­tem does have dis­ad­van­tages. To light big ar­eas you’ll need a lot of Speed­lights, for ex­am­ple.

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