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Triggering Off-Camera Flash Four Ways!

Triggering your flash doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. In this video, I talk about four different ways to trigger an off-camera flash. I use a manual flash to keep things simple and demonstrate optical sync, pc-sync, infrared sync and radio sync. I go into detail on all of these different methods and demonstrate how easy they are to use. For even more detailed info with actual photo shoots on off-camera flash triggering, check out the basic Flash Guide that Jared and I created here:

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Male Speaker: Hey guys its great to be back on YouTube, and today I want to talk to you about all different kinds of ways to trigger a flash okay. And we have one off-camera flash that we’re going to be using today. This is a LumoPro LP 160. It’s a fully manual flash so that means that you basically have only manual settings on here. No TTL, no ETTL, none of that kind of stuff. I’m turning the flash on. I’m zooming to 24 millimeters. That means it’s going to be zoomed to its widest spread and I’m going to set it to his lowest power 164th okay. And the only reason I’m doing the lowest power is because we’re only demonstrating the flash. I don’t want to blind you when we’re triggering the flash.

I love off-camera flash and I think that you get a much better look and much better quality of light and so many different options when you’re creating portraits or basically lighting just about anything. When you take that flash off the camera the possibilities are endless. Now this whole thing about off-camera flash Jared and I go into great detail in the basic flash guide that you can pick up on the froknowsphoto flash guide website, which I’ll give you guys that address, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves let’s start with some of the basics. Okay, so what I want to start first with is optical sync. Now what’s optical sync? Well it’s exactly that is sinking your flash with a pulse of light.

Okay, now all you need in order to do this is a light source. So in this case, I’m going to take my little Fuji X100S which has a built-in flash, and I’m going to use that flash in Commander Mode. Now, all that means is that I’m setting the flash to it’s setting that’s creates a pulse of light, but it doesn’t create enough light to really dramatically change the look of my image okay, so I’ve already done that and now I’m just going to take a picture. I’ll take a picture of me filming this, and you see how I did that okay. The flash popped on here which in turn popped on here. Let me do that one more time to show you guys. See how I did that? Very cool. So basically the flash on here flashed it on there. Now this is set – this flash is set into slave mode, which is also known as remote mode. So what we’re doing is we’re slaving this flash off of this existing flash and we’re doing it optically.

That is with the pulse of light that we’re creating on here. If your camera has a little built-in flash you can do the same thing. If you don’t really want to affect the image that much from your camera is built on flash and you don’t have commander mode just drop the power all the way down to the lowest power setting that you possibly can, okay it and then let this flash do the majority. Now if you do have a built-on flash and you’re using a remote flash you can actually use your built-on flash as a fill light, so that means you can make this your key and this could be your fill so that’s very kind of cool if you want to really get a little bit more advance with your lighting, but at the end the day optically triggering is a cheap, affordable solution. The only limitation you’re going to have here is distance. In that if I was using this camera to trigger this flash and I was standing all the way on the other side of the room or in another room it’s probably not going to work okay.

So you have to be within relative proximity, that’s very cool. Now another option that we have here is a PC sync cord okay. Now cameras have been using PC sync technology since gee I don’t even want – Wikipedia knows, but it’s been probably at least 60 years or something like that. And all I can tell you is that I’ll even show you and I’ll demonstrate with this 40 something year old medium format Rolleiflex film camera okay. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to plug this okay the microphone port into the microphone port on the PC sync jack of my flash, and I’m going to take the PC sync jack and I’m going to plug it into the PC sync port on my old film camera. Alright rewind the film. Just bring it back like that and watch okay boom. I fired the shutter and it basically sent a signal over to my flash and fired my flash. So the cool thing about that is it if you’ve got a flash that has a PC sync port, you can basically trigger with any camera that also has a PC sync port. How cool is that? Because it’s not like this camera has like a hot shoe for a flash or anything like that. Nor does it have a built-in flash for triggering optically okay.

So those are two very, very cool things okay. Now a PC sync cable is very, very inexpensive in the grand scheme of photography equipment. This happens to be like a 3 meter cable and I’m thinking may be one of these is you know 20 bucks or so. I always keep one in my camera bag because you never know if you know your other syncing method seems to fail, or for whatever reason, you can’t sync optically or your battery just happens to go. You have another option, right over there. Okay, let’s move to a third option and that is going to be infrared. Now this is a little infrared trigger. This thing is I think maybe about $60, so it’s a little bit more of an investment, but this thing really kicks a lot of butt. And the cool thing about this is that unlike the infrared signal that your camera might produce this produces what seems to me to be like a stronger infrared signal okay.

It has a fairly good recycle time, but what I can tell you about this is that I would highly recommend that every time you use this. Now really take note here to put a fresh set of batteries and because once the battery start going in here, the recycle time gets really slow and that can really stink because if you’re trying to do a shoot with an off-camera flash and you’re waiting for this thing to recycle because that’s the weakest link. It’s really going to kind of slow everything down so remember fresh set of batteries every time and all this thing does is it creates an infrared pulse so I’m just going to trigger right now boom okay it works, very cool. You can actually hear it kind of makes a whining sound. And then there’s a little ready light on here and now it’s ready again because the ready light is blinking. You want to wait until that ready light is on before you continue to fire.

Okay, so any camera that has a hot shoe okay like let’s just pick up the Fuji X-Pro 1 here’s the hot shoe. Meaning a hot shoe is a shoe that actually sends a signal or receives a signal okay because the signal is hot. There are cameras, older cameras that have cold shoes that you can actually put something on that. Okay, you can put, you can actually slide things and then you know work as an accessory, but for today’s purposes we’re going to be talking about a hot shoe. Okay, most modern digital cameras have a hot shoe, and this is a very simple thing that basically when the signal goes into the hot shoe on your camera it tells this to create a signal which in turn is going to hopefully going to trigger a flash. So I’m putting this in the hot shoe really simply like that okay. I’m basically going to take a simple picture of us filming right here boom. Did you see that? Here we go. Let’s try one more time. Just taking a simple picture of us and I’m going to lead this infrared pulse trigger our off-camera flash.

So what are the limitations of infrared? Well, the limitations are line of sight. So what that means is that when you’re typically using infrared technology that if you are let’s say way off to the side like in the periphery of your flash with your trigger you might have difficulty triggering it. It also might have difficulty if you’re trying to trigger through a wall which means like let’s say I had my flash on the other side of the wall, and I was on one side, and I was trying to shoot and the infrared signal could not see the infrared receiver on the flash. There’s a very good chance you’re not going to be able to pop your flash that way or trigger your flash so your limit is, your limitations are going to be the line of sight and distance okay. However, I can say with this little infrared trigger it is really, really powerful and I find that it’s far more effective that in my experience that what I have seen on the infrared figures on cameras in on built-in flashes.

Okay so this is a nice little inexpensive device here. Now our third option, our fourth option because it’s been a while and I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things. Our fourth option is going to be with a radio. Okay, now radio means it uses radio waves or radio signal and the nice thing about radio is that it’s not restricted by line of sight and the distance is really, really great. So let’s say you might have 20, 30 feet with infrared depending on the conditions. You could have a 100 to a 1000 feet, depending on how you configure your radios, and you could, you don’t have to worry about line of sight and I could have a model standing outside with a flash and I could trigger it, and it’s going to trigger from inside here all the way outside and across the street, which is really cool. That’s the great thing about radios is that you’re not worried about line of sight. You’re not so worried about distance, and they’re also really, really reliable.

Okay, so let me get this thing setup really quickly. So I’m going to stick it into the microphone plug over here. I’m going to pull this out on the – this flash, and put in the microphone plug in the flash. Okay, very cool so that’s in there. And we’re on channel 1 okay. I’m keeping it really simple. Now I’ve got an identical unit right here, another pocket wizard in this case. I’ve got it to channel 1, and I’m just going to hit the test button. Okay, so we know that this radio is communicating with this radio which is in turn triggering our flash. So why don’t we take this and we’ll put it into the hot shoe, and similarly to the infrared you can see it’s got the one little access point there that basically when the camera fires, it sends a signal through this thing, which in turn triggers the flash, same kind of deal. So I’m going to pop that onto here boom. And we’ll take a picture of us filming right here.

Then there you go. Let me try that one more time just to demonstrate for you guys, and you could see via the power of radio waves we were able to trigger our flash. So again, Jared and I do a really good job of showing all of these different methods and really elaborating on these different methods in the flash video guide, the basics flash video guide which, I’ll give you guys the link to check out. I’m really proud of it. I think we did some awesome stuff in there, but I wanted to give you guys this information because I feel it’s really important. I get so many e-mails all the time asking about like should I buy this? Should I buy these trigger? Should I buy? And I try to tell people that before you go out and buy all this gear, you might actually have enough of what it takes to get your flash fired with just your cameras built-in flash or maybe you have a PC sync cable lying around or something like that.

So that’s it for now. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and we’ll see you soon.