Be a bit flash
James Paterson reveals how to use a Speedlight off-camera to add drama to your portraits when shooting outdoors. It’s easier than it sounds!
Use a flashgun off-camera to add extra depth and drama to outdoor portraits
One of the most creative things you can do with your Speedlights is to get them off your camera’s hotshoe and learn how to fire them remotely. This way, you can light your subjects from any direction you choose. You have the freedom either to subtly augment the natural light, or to transform the look of the scene entirely with flash.
There are several ways to trigger an off-camera Speedlight. Some cameras and flashguns can be linked wirelessly so the flash is triggered by the camera’s pop-up flash. This technique is a little limited in that the flash and camera need to be compatible, and there also needs to be a good line of sight between them.
Another option is to use a so-called sync lead – essentially a cable linking your Speedlight to your camera. As you can imagine, the down side of this is that you’re then limited by the length of the lead.
A third option is to use a radio transmitter. This is the most reliable and convenient way to trigger a Speedlight, requiring neither leads nor line of sight. Radio transmitters come
You can light your subjects from any direction you choose… you have the freedom either to subtly augment the natural light, or to transform the scene entirely with flash
in a variety of models to suit your budget (see our Christmas Gift Guide on page 106, and remote triggers test on page 112). The Hähnel triggers we’ve used here are a reliable, inexpensive option, but because they’re not TTL-compatible, you’ll have to set the power manually. Don’t be worried about this, though – it actually makes things more intuitive, not less.
In our tutorial we’ll show you how to create a moody, dramatic look in an outdoor portrait by under-exposing the natural, ambient light, then using carefully positioned flash to pick out the subject. Learning how to fire a flash off-camera like this will open up many more doors to creative, stylish portraits. Give it a go and you’ll soon be hooked on the technique.