Video Q & A – Beginner Flash and Wireless Triggers

Video Q & A – Beginner Flash and Wireless Triggers

Here is a video Q & A for those of you photogs who want to start flirting with off-camera flash. This isn’t a video about how to use lighting and everything that goes with it. It’s a simple recommendation on the starting block gear to acquire to start your lighting journey. The good news is that TTL will help you ease into this journey (if you are using hot shoe lights), so you don’t have to be an absolute lighting wizard to pull of simple lighting execution.

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Some details about things I cover in the video:

Hot shoe flash – those flash lights you can buy that mount in the hot shoe of your camera (hence the name). They can do much more than just sit on top of your camera. There is a huge movement with even high profile photographers using these in their everyday work, so don’t underestimate them.

Wireless Trigger – a method used to trigger the off-camera lighting at the same time you click the shutter, providing flash lighting for your exposure.

TTL – Essentially a way for you to shoot off-camera lighting without needing a bunch of knowledge about lighting. Think of it as the automatic mode of the lighting world, much like the way all of the automatic modes on your camera help novices take photos. Good for people who are lacking in lighting knowledge, or if you are working in a hurried environment. For real control over lighting, advanced knowledge is required and manual light control is the way to go.

Infrared – The technology the hot shoe flashes have right-out-of-the-box. The same tech that your TV remotes use, it’s a short-range technology that allows your camera and flashes to “talk” to each other. Not only does it accomplish triggering your flashes wirelessly, they also transmit TTL from the camera to lights on-the-fly, making it a very dynamic lighting solution. IR does have a few flaws. Just like your TV remote, it requires direct line-of-sight from camera to light. It’s inconsistent, and it gets worse the further the distance is between the camera and light. Bright daylight also can play havoc with the IR tech. If you are not in bright sunlight, and you are usually shooting within 20 feet of your lights, AND you are in direct line-of-sight, it works pretty good.

Optical – One line-of-sight method I did not mention is optical, meaning a light trigger. Just like IR, it works on line-of-sight, so your lighting setup will need to accommodate that requirement. It will work great in a close range, smaller sized rooms, or where the light has surfaces to bounce off of. It will struggle in very bright daylight, and cut down the range of this trigger. It can communicate TTL just like IR as well.

PocketWizard – The professional standard for wireless triggering in photography. Instead of using IR to trigger lights, you are using radio transmission. It’s consistent, long-range, and still retain the capabilities of using TTL between the camera and hot shoe lights. The downside – over 200 bucks a pop, and you need two of them.

Sync Cable – A cable that attaches from camera to flash, which does not carry TTL info, just a simple signal to trigger the flash to fire when the shutter button is pressed.

Cheap Radio Triggers – I briefly hit on a “cheap radio trigger” solution. This is actually what I started using when I got into wireless triggers, scored my set for 40 bucks. These are typically no-name devices you can pickup from various websites. Do not carry TTL info, just a signal to trigger, much like a sync cable, just minus the wires.

Additional Notes:

In order for TTL capabilities to work, you’ll need to buy the same brand hot shoe flashes as your camera, they do not intermingle (at least at the time of writing this post). The little white loop you see hanging off of my pocket wizards are just strings I’ve tied to them so I can hang them off light stands.