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?
Or flash for fill in low light?
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!
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.
Flash Photography, The Natural Light Photographers Dirty Words
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