Let's Start Flashing!

By Bryan Chan - on 11 Jan 2012, 6:57pm

No, I don’t mean the act of exhibiting one’s birthday suit in public. I’m talking about the technique of triggering a flashgun without it being mounted on a camera. As photography is fast becoming a common hobby amongst many people these days, I thought that I’d share a technique to achieve better lighting effects for portraiture and macro photography. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be covering only the basics and will be focusing on DSLR functionality.

Called off-camera flashing, this technique is pretty much self-explanatory. For those not in the know, it is the use of a flashgun to light your subject(s) without the flashgun being attached on your DSLR. Why would we want to do this, you ask? Well, for starters, you’ll be able to yield better control of the direction of light. Take for example:

You’re shooting a person who’s standing next to a window. Ambient light will obviously be coming from that window, and it’s highly likely that the other side of the person will be underexposed. Unless we’re taking a picture of Two-Face, we’d most likely want better exposure for the other side of our subject. By placing your flashgun on the opposite direction of the window, you’ll be able to eliminate the underexposure, giving you a better portrait. When it comes to macro photography, you’ll be able to do some ‘spot’ lighting, where only the subject is lit up, and the background becomes darkened intentionally.

Using your flashgun off-camera will allow you to selectively illuminate your subject.

This technique also helps in macro photography.

Here's the final result of using off-camera flashing in macro shots

So how exactly is off-camera flashing enabled? First of all, you’ll need a flashgun (obviously) and a wireless/wired trigger. Wireless triggers are recommended because they give you more freedom when placing your flashgun. The transmitter is connected to the hot shoe of the camera, while the receiver is connected to the flashgun. Once synced, you’re well on your way to experiment with different lighting effects. There are also cameras with Commander Mode built-in, which allows for off-camera flashing, though the number of flashguns useable in Commander Mode is limited. The flashguns that are compatible with Commander Mode (i.e. can be put into Slave Mode) are also limited.

Here's a look at wireless triggers

Some cameras have Commander Mode for easy off-camera flash triggering

Once you’ve begun experimenting with a single off-camera flashgun, you can further enhance your lighting effects by using multiple off-camera flashguns. This will give you total control of your lighting, though this form of lighting is best suited for on-location shoots.

For more photography hints and tips, get the latest copy of HWM Malaysia and check out the Aperture section.

Keep that camera shooting!

Till my next blogpost.


Bryan Chan

Bryan Chan / Freelance Writer

A guy who really needs to go on a diet, loves to laugh and gets high on life. He loves gaming and wishes he could drive the way he does in video games. He also loves photography but needs a hell of a lot more practice to be good at it.