“How To” Series: Off-Camera Flash

Margarita

Margarita, Studio Portrait with Off-Camera Flash

Twelve articles (links below) to get you started with off-camera flash. The equipment you will need and how to use it.

Getting your flash off the camera opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities. And the really good news: the equipment is way less expensive than it used to be. If you are ready to get started, I just finished writing (or re-writing) a series of articles on off-camera flash that covers the equipment you will need and shows you how to use it.

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Environmental Portraits and Off-Camera Flash, Part 1

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3, Columbus, Ohio.

Warren Stevens, Magic 106.3, Columbus, Ohio.

If I am using flash for an environmental portrait, I usually prefer having the flash off of the camera. In this portrait of Warren Stevens (program director and mid-day air personality at Magic 106.3 FM in Columbus), the flash is above Warren and to his right, providing a nice semi side-lit photograph. On camera flash is flat and even. Getting the flash off of the camera and moving it to the side provides more shape and texture to the subject.

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Some of the Best Off-Camera Flash Equipment

There are lots of advantages to getting your flash off the camera, and it is probably much less expensive than you think. If you shop wisely, you can get a radio transmitter for your camera plus an off-camera flash with a built in radio receiver, all for $111. A $20 adapter will mount the flash on your tripod. You are all set for only $131. If you want to soften the light, a 43 inch umbrella that mounts in the same adapter costs $22. So if you already have the camera and tripod, the whole off camera flash set up is only $153.

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Radio Controlled Speedlites: Yongnuo YN600EX-RT vs Canon 600EX-RT

Yongnuo 600 EX-RT Speedlite and Yonghuo YN-E3-RT Transmitter.

Yongnuo 600EX-RT Speedlite and Yongnuo YN-E3-RT Transmitter. Click to see a larger version.

Should you spend $469 on a Canon 600EX-RT speedlite, or $120 on Yongnuo’s nearly identical clone, the YN600EX-RT? And what about the radio transmitters? Canon’s is $285 and the Yongnuo copy is $88.00. So you can buy three Yongnuo speedlites plus the radio transmitter for less than the price of one Canon speedlite. The price advantage is clear, but what about quality, reliability, and service issues?

Posted Dec. 7, 2015. Updated Nov. 20, 2017.

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Photo Shoot: Using a Halo Softbox with a Yongnuo Radio Controlled Flash System

Kristina

Kristina. Sunlight coming from the right. Halo softbox with Yongnuo speedlite providing light from the left.

After testing a Bob Davis 45 inch Halo Softbox and Yongnuo YN600EX-RT radio flash on my most available model (my dog), I needed to test it out on a real model. Opportunity called in the form of a message from Kristina, a professional model based in Los Angeles (and an absolute delight to work with). She would be in Ohio for Thanksgiving and she wanted to schedule a shoot. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, but fortunately for us we had one day to shoot after she arrived and before I left.

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How To Set Up a Halo Softbox or Umbrella with an Off Camera Speedlite

Halo Softbox set up on location and ready to use.

Halo Softbox set up on location and ready to use. The radio controlled flash and umbrella adapter are inside the softbox.

If you have never used an umbrella adapter to put a flash and umbrella or softbox on a tripod or light stand, the steps below will show you exactly what is involved. If you have already used an umbrella adapter, setting up a Halo softbox will be ridiculously simple for you. Skip to the Halo section below.

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Putting Together a “Studio in a Backpack”

Portable Studio in a Backpack

Portable “studio in a backpack” set up and ready to go.

If I am visiting family and friends and traveling by car, I usually bring my “studio in a backpack”. I never know when I might be asked to do some portraits and having some studio gear along helps create better images (especially when natural light is not a very good option). If you want to do portraits on the road, these items might be useful for you too.

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Inexpensive ($7 – $130) Gifts for Photographers

Flash adapter and umbrella for an shoe-mount electronic flash.

Flash adapter and umbrella for a shoe-mount electronic flash.

There are a lot of practical and inexpensive gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items from $7 to $130. To make them easy to track them down, most of these items can be found at my photography store (which is powered by Amazon.com with Amazon’s terrific ordering, shipping, guarantee, and service). Most of the items below are in the Photo Goodies section. Prices are current as of this update (Nov. 24, 2015) but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable.

Originally posted Nov. 24, 2015. Updated Dec. 1, 2015.

 

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Best Digital Cameras of 2015 (Including 2010 – 2014)

Canon 5DMark III camera. Canon EF 17-40 mm f/4 lens. Really Right Stuiff L-Bracket.

The holiday season is here and I am getting the usual questions about which digital cameras I recommend. The camera lists below will point you to the highest rated models. There is also some information and advice on choosing a camera. The lists will be updated throughout the holiday season as new, highly rated cameras become available.

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The Best Incident Light Meters

Analog Incident Light Meter, Gossen Luna-Pro F. Photo copyright Jim Doty Jr

Incident Light Meter. Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

There’s no question that in some complex metering situations, an incident light meter can be quicker, faster, simpler, and more accurate than the meter in your camera. Many incident light meters can also measure light from an electronic flash, a huge bonus when you are using a flash in the manual mode.

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The Best of the Best: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

The best of the best cameras, accessories, photo books and more.

The best of the best cameras, accessories, photo books and more.

It’s the time of year that the number of photo questions I receive increases dramatically. Many of them have to do with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from someone shopping for a photographer, or photographers shopping for themselves.

So once again here is my list of “best of the best” of articles recommending the best photo gear, software, books, DVDs, calendars, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. I will revise some of these articles in November and December, but most of the advice is good as it stands. The best books on photographic composition or the best photo labs haven’t changed in the last 12 months. As I rewrite articles I will update the links below. You can check the date at the top of each article.

Originally posted Nov. 21, 2015. Updated December 11, 2015.

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Q&A: Recommended Closeup Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Today’s question came by email. I am posting the question and my answer below. The person asking the question uses Canon gear but the information below also applies to Nikon and other brands.

Question From “D”: I have been looking at a 58mm closeup lens for my Canon camera. I am also looking at closeup filters for my 28-55mm or 55-250mm Canon lenses. What do you recommend I get?

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What to Do When A Lens Quits Working

Electronic Lens Mount

It is an unhappy thing when a lens quits working normally, or stops altogether, complete with some kind of error message on the camera body. The good news is that you can usually bring your lens back to life and it only takes a few seconds to a few minutes to do. Details are here.

DSLR vs Camera Phone, Part One

Black-crowned Night Heron. DSLR vs iPhone.

Black-crowned Night Heron. DSLR vs iPhone.

“Will camera phones replace DSLRs?” I get asked that a lot lately. Camera phones have already replaced point and shoot cameras for a lot of snap-shooters. But for photographers that need the serious benefits and advantages of a DSLR, that isn’t going to happen now or any time in the near future.

(Click on any of the images in this article to see a larger version.)

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Best Digital Cameras of 2014 (Including 2010 – 2013)

Canon 5DMark III camera. Canon EF 17-40 mm f/4 lens. Really Right Stuiff L-Bracket.

The holiday season is here and I am getting the usual questions about which digital cameras I recommend. The camera lists below will point you to the highest rated models. There is also some information and advice on choosing a camera. The lists will be updated throughout the holiday season as new, highly rated cameras become available.

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GoPro Hero4: Amazing, Small, Inexpensive, HD Video Camera

GoPro Lineup

New GoPro Lineup

Looking for a small, mountable, “ideal for sports and action”, inexpensive, high definition video and still camera with a waterproof housing and image quality that Lucasfilm (the Star Wars people) calls “amazing”?  This camera will go anywhere and mount just about anywhere. Prices range from $499 to $129, depending on the model (which is a lot less than your typical DSLR with HiDef video).

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Tripod Head Recommendations: Some of the Best of the Best

Kirk Enterprises BH-3 Ball Head with Arca-Swiss style quick release

The short list.

3-Way Tripod heads:

Manfrotto 056 3D Junior Head (replaces 3025)
Manfrotto 3025 (older model)
Manfrotto 115 3D Super Junior Head (replaces 3028)
Manfrotto 3028 (older model)
Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head

Ball Heads:

Slik Pro Ballhead 800
Kirk Enterprises BH-3
Kirk Enterprises BH-1
Really Right Stuff BH-40
Really Right Stuff BH-55

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Inexpensive ($9 – $117) Gifts for Photographers

Flash adapter and umbrella for an shoe-mount electronic flash.

Flash adapter and umbrella for an shoe-mount electronic flash.

There are a lot of practical and inexpensive gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items from $9 to $117. To make it easy to track them down, most of these items can be found at my photography store (which is powered by Amazon.com with Amazon’s terrific ordering, shipping, guarantee, and service). Most of the items below are in the Photo Goodies section. Prices are current as of this update (Nov. 20, 2014) but prices  do fluctuate.

 

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