Experience with Using Off Camera Flash

Karl Barth

Posted January 04, 2013 in: Education  How To 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!  Hope you enjoyed the holidays and of course took a lot of pictures.  At the December photography meeting Club President, Guy Stephens talked about and demonstrated off camera flash.  He showed the various techniques and tools available like diffusers, soft boxes, and umbrellas.

Off camera flashA week before the meeting, I did a Christmas shoot for a friend of mine.  She wanted Christmas pictures done of her two kids who were 9 years old and 5 months old.  She didn’t want anything fancy but she wanted pictures done in front of a tree along with some props such as wrapped presents.  Needless to say this was a great opportunity.  I was really excited about it but also a little nervous.

My main concern about the shoot was lighting.  How much lighting would there be?  If there wasn’t going to be enough light what alternatives did I have?  I didn’t have any type of lighting equipment such as light stands or umbrella stands.  All I had were two camera mounting flashes.  Then I remembered my shoe mount flash (Bower SFD926N) for my Nikon camera had an option to run in slave mode.  Slave mode enables the flash to fire when the camera’s built-in flash or camera mounted flash would fire.  I could use that flash along with my Nikon SB-400 which is a smaller but more compact flash.

In setting up for the shoot, I had to determine where to put my Bower flash.  The Christmas tree was not near a window but there was a couch near the tree.  I decided to put my Bower flash on the arm of a couch and had the flash pointing towards the ceiling.  I was hoping it would provide additional light in addition to my Nikon compact flash which I also had pointing to the ceiling.  Since I didn’t have any diffusers for my flashes, I wanted to avoid pointing my flash directly at the kids because I felt it would affect the skin color.  Not to mention I didn’t want to make them go blind.

Off camera flashTo get a feel for what settings to use, I did several test shots.  I used manual mode of course then decided to use a shutter speed of 200/s, aperture of 7.1, and an ISO of 200.  I also shot the pictures in raw format.  I like to set the ISO to the lowest setting without risking any additional noise in the pictures.

In reviewing the pictures I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.  Some of the pictures came out darker than I wanted.  I should have used a lower aperture or used ISO 400 but that’s part of the learning experience.  Using both flashes worked out great.  I was able to achieve enough lighting of the kids along with the Christmas tree in the background.  For all of the pictures including the dark ones, I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro to adjust the pictures. 

Once I was done I gave my friend the pictures and she absolutely loved them.  She also posted the pictures on Facebook.  In reading the comments it’s really an honor and makes you feel good when you read all the wonderful positive comments about the pictures you took.  I was thankful that using both flashes worked out.

About Karl Barth - Karl is a husband and father of two kids. He loves photography and shooting whenever he can. He runs Karl Barth Photography. His site is


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