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!

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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.

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