Get Your Flash Off Your Camera: What Equipment You Need

PART 2: What Equipment You Need to Get Your Flash Off Your Camera

I am going to teach you the BASIC way to use flash, once mastered , you can then go on to add more lights, gels, grids and anything else, the world of light opens up to you.

So start by taking a big breath and getting that dusty old flash out of your camera bag!

Your next move it to NOT put that flash on your camera.

Bouncing flash just means you don’t really mind what direction the light falls, just that you just want “more” light.  I always want more control over my light than “anywhere will do just more light” so if you do too, plan to take your flash off your camera’s hot shoe (that little metal plate at the top of your camera) and onto a light stand.

Next step – decide what effect I want?

Flash for drama?

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Or flash for fill in low light?

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What equipment do I need, for a basic set up?

If I want my flash to fire, off camera, I will need something to tell your camera to fire the flash. These are called triggers. Pocket Wizards are probably the most well known of the triggers. They are expensive, but reliable. However, nowadays the variety and cost is wonderful in triggers. Look around, I hear V4 Cactus triggers are cheap and reliable!!

If you are just dabbling in flash, start small with your budget! I never pay a lot for my flash gear!

Triggers come in twos. The transmitter (which sits ON your camera and transmits a signal to fire the flash) and receiver (which sits ON your flash and receives a signal).

Triggers come with channels. Up to 12 channels, so, if you are in a group of photographers all shooting flash, you can change channels to not fire one another’s flash units off.

*Tip* I keep my triggers on channel 1, when not shooting in a group. Sometimes when my flash doesn’t fire, I find I have knocked my trigger in the camera bag, and changed the channels. Both transmitter and receiver need to be on the same channel for the flash to work. Check this is your flash is not firing!

Now you have your triggers. One on your camera and one on your flash (some stick their triggers on the flash unit with Velcro. I hang mine from my light stand as I have found pocket wizards work with more reliability when they are about 4 inches away from the flash)

You will need a light stand of some description, or someone kind enough to hold your flash! I like a heavy duty light stand. I NEVER spend a lot of money on my flash equipment as I use it in the water, or on sand, in mud etc, and I wreck things!

Using a speed light, such as a Canon 580 EX (or your camera’s portable flash equivalent) you will need a little thing called a flash mount. This will let you slip your flash into the mount, which then sits on the light stand and screws down. They can be as cheap as 2.00, but I pay around 12.00 for a slightly tougher one – like I said; I am rough with my stuff, so I never pay a lot.

These brackets also have a hole to slip umbrellas into or Westcott soft boxes!

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So now you are ready

When you are beginning, check list your equipment before you start shooting to prevent frustrating misfires.

* You have your camera with a trigger on it, it is set to “transmit” and the trigger is set to channel 1.

* You have your light stand and a flash mount screwed on to the top of it. On the mount you have your dusty old flash locked on .Plugged into that flash (which is either valcroed or hanging from the flash with its strap) is your trigger, set to receive, and channel 1.

* Your flash unit is turned on, the mode is M or Manual (not ttl or ettl) Most canon flash units have a custom setting * please use your manual to look this up* to turn off your flash after a minute or two. Very annoying, I turn mine off, or it drives me crazy checking everything is ok.

* The power of the flash unit I use 1/1 power, as I have rechargeable batteries and I am an all or nothing person. 1/1 is full power, 1/2 is half power, etc.  If you are saving power, turn your flash to 1/2 power, or 1/4 power.

You are then ready to shoot I will control the light on my subject by my camera’s settings, or the distance the light is to my subject. I can leave my set up and start to think about my shot.

To learn more about Wild Spirit Photography, visit our site and our blog. Check the MCP Blog daily through October 5th, for more “flashy” posts. And don’t miss out on October 6th for a contest to win a 2 hour Skype photography mentor session with me.

 Get Your Flash Off Your Camera: What Equipment You Need

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This post was written by a MCP Guest Blogger. If you would like to contribute to the MCP Actions Blog, check out our Guest Writers Wanted page.

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15 Comments and 1 Replies



  1. 1

    I use Nikon and it has a frequency for remote firing your flash! So I use that for my sb600 and it works BEAUTIFULLY!

    Flash is NOT a bad word! :D

  2. 2
    Deann says:

    After yesterdays post I finally ordered some Cactus V4s! For right now, I plan on putting the flash on my tripod, do you know if flash mounts attach to a tripod?? I need a flash mount for an umbrella..
    Also, you mentioned rechargeable batteries for your flash.. I have tried that route and they don’t hold a charge for long enough for me.. even when fairly new (we’ve got 4 sets and keep each set together with an elastic). What brand do you use? Maybe I’ve just worn these out!

    • GTS says:

      I use the greens batteries from radio shack. I got a set of 24 batteries (way to much for one hour shooting). I did a wedding with the radio shack batteries and got 700 shots off the 1st set of 4. So I shoot with 4 batteries and always show up to a shoot with 24 batteries fully charged. 20 batteries for backup but You never now. when I started I spent $18 for four batteries and $20 for the charger. That was 5 years ago and they still work on my kids wii remote

      Today I have 4 chargers and 24 batteries. I buy new every year for christmas. I know I can get 5 years out of them but I don’t trust batteries that long I am afraid they will leek in my expensive equipment so I re-buy on a yearly bases.

  3. 3
    Meghan says:

    Thanks for this!! What a great and informative post. I am excited to try these things once I get all of the equipment. I could actually do some studio stuff. :)

  4. 4
    shelle says:

    So excited to get into this topic. I just ordered my OCF equipment today. BRING ON THE DRAMA AND THE LIGHT!!! YAY!!

  5. 5
    Yolanda says:

    Thank you for this simple, illustrated list of the basic components needed for off-camera flash. I have been overwhelmed by all of the gadgets and gizmos promoted by gear junkies. This is clear and non-intimidating.

  6. 6
    Bob Wyatt says:

    For inexpensive but very reliable wireless/radio triggers I suggest the Yongnuo RF-602s…you can find them on ebay and I paid less than $90 American for a transmitter and two receivers. They have several synch options including hotshoe and cable. Rec use 2 AAA batteries and the tranmitter uses one of those short fat batteries you have to get at the counter usually. Had mine for over a year with no missfires(except for operator error). They also can trigger the shutter of the camera also.

  7. 7
    Kelly Q says:

    Thank you so much for this post! So easy to read and it makes sense! I’m just getting into OCF and I can’t wait to have all the pieces I need to make it work!

  8. 8
    Jaclyn says:

    Can you use this light set up with a 430ex ii?

  9. 9
    Patty K says:

    Great tutorial! I learned so much in just a few minutes!

  10. 10

    Thank you for these Flash posts!
    I am a newbie with flash, and finding it addictive.
    i find sites like Strobist,,, though packed with information… don’t speak my language or to my learning style!
    Looking forward to more!!!

  11. 11
    Bob Wyatt says:

    Let me make one correction about the price of the Yongnuo RF-602s. Looks like a transmitter and two receivers is about $60 American on ebay. That is very hard to beat for inexpensive and at the same time fairly robust and reliable triggers.

  12. 12
    Adam says:

    It might be worth mentioning (briefly) that on the Nikon system it isn’t necessary to purchase a flash trigger system as it is built into the camera body of most of their cameras. And the flash mount is included with their flashes. The third party products are needed for greater distance between your camera and the flash and/or when you no long have ‘line of sight’.

  13. 13
    isaac says:

    I seen a flash off camera on a light stand with remote and battery pack. I have a vivitar 285 digital flash what equipment I need for that along with a umbrella.

  14. 14

    @ This is a great information it can help me, thanks for sharing.

  15. 15
    Kelly says:

    Will this series go over settings? No one online is telling us how to meter and use flash. It’s a very different thing, and no one ever seems to talk about it.



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