Off-camera flash: a simple Strobist tutorial

    By | Photography Tutorials | Tutorials | 16/02/2012 12:50pm
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    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    If your only experience of using flash is the disappointing result you got with it fitted to the camera’s hotshoe, you’ll be amazed at how you can transform your photos by simply taking your flash off-camera.

    You can create a range of lighting effects, from using the flash to fill in the harsh shadows you get in bright sunlight to the much more dramatic results of underexposing the background and employing your off-camera flash as your main light source.

    This second effect has become popular among a group of photographers known as strobists. They practise the art of using off-camera flash and have a vibrant and enthusiastic online community, largely thanks to a blog by American photographer David Hobby.

    His no-nonsense explanations helped demystify the techniques and technology needed to master this once ‘secret’ art. Our step-by-step strobist tutorial below will show you how to get the strobist look using the automatic TTL exposure metering from your Nikon DSLR.

    All you’ll need for this exercise, along with your Nikon DSLR, is a wireless Nikon-compatible flashgun and about 30 minutes of precious free time.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 1: Prepare the built-in flash
    In the Custom Setting menu, go to Bracketing/ flash, then scroll down to ‘Flash control for built-in flash’. Use the navigation pad on the back of the camera to select the Commander setting, then use the same navigation pad to change the built-in flash setting to Off (–).

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 2: Set the group and channel
    You now need to select the settings that will control the off-camera flash. Scroll down to the Group A settings and select TTL. Here you can also change the channel that controls the external flash. In this case, it’s Channel 1. Finally, make sure you press OK to apply the settings.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 3: Set up the off-camera flash
    On your wireless flashgun, move the main switch to Remote. Select the same group and channel settings you used on the camera. Press the button at the bottom-left of the display and use the dial to set the Group to A. Press the button next to it and use the dial to set the Channel to 1.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 4: Position and soften the off-camera flash
    Now the basic off-camera settings are done, you can position the flash either on a lighting stand or a normal tripod. For our shot, we’re going to place the flash to the left and slightly above the subject to create dramatic side-lighting, making sure the flash is just out of the frame.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 5: Underexpose the background
    With the camera set to f/8 on Aperture Priority mode, take a test shot – the wireless system needs a direct line of sight between the front of the flash and the camera. To give our shot more impact, we’ll underexpose the background by setting the exposure compensation to -1 stop.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Step 6: Adjust the flash exposure
    This underexposure will affect both the flash and the ambient exposure, so we need to increase the exposure from the flash to properly expose the subject. Go into the Commander setting on the camera and adjust the exposure compensation setting of Group A to +1 stop.

     

    Off-Camera Flash: a simple Strobist tutorial for stunning portraits

    Don’t have a wireless off-camera flash system?

    If you aren’t using flashes that are compatible with the wireless off-camera system, don’t worry – you can get the same results by using a radio trigger system to fire your flash. As their name implies, these units transmit a radio signal from a transmitter fitted on your camera to a receiver attached to each flashgun.

    Radio triggers are much more affordable than wireless flash systems, as long as you’re happy to use the camera on manual and set the flash power yourself. A basic set of triggers from companies such as Hähnel cost from £30 ($45), and you can then use almost any flashgun, rather than an expensive, dedicated model.

    Radio triggers can fire flashes over much greater distances than wireless setups (up to 100m), and they don’t need a line of sight between the camera and the flash.


    Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 12:50 pm under Photography Tutorials, Tutorials. You can subscribe to comments.

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