Off Camera Flash Photography 2 – Trigger The Light Fantastic

Do you think Off Camera Flash (OCF) is hard? You are not alone. Yet it truly is easier than we think, so lets see how, in Part 2 about OCF, to trigger the light fantastic.

THE ABC’s

All you need for OCF is: A) a speedlight flash, B) a trigger to wirelessly fire the flash, and C) your camera.

Do you believe that using flash detracts from a photograph? Think again. It has some major advantages.

In Part 1, we saw 4 main advantages to using OCF:  improved contrast, greater depth of field, faster shutter speeds and decreased random noise (The OCF Photography Advantage). In Part 2 we’ll consider the idea that superior detail can be yours when you buy and fire a speedlite flash off-camera. By “off”, most pros mean at least 2-3 feet away from the lens, held high or angled.

GEAR

Here is the good news! There is a speedlight flash with a built-in receiver. The strobe I used for all these examples was a single Godox V860ii N Lithium Ion flash. It has a built-in receiver, and was triggered with a Godox X1 TTL flash trigger (Nikon).

The picture below shows the Godox Lithium Ion battery in the V860ii. This battery holds a charge long enough to shoot continuously throughout a long photo shoot without recharging, although with a bit slower recycling time when compared with Nikon’s 910 Speedlight. Let’s check out another major benefit of using OCF. Simply put, it is in the details like contrast and texture.

 

EXAMPLE ONE: Dandelions in Cloudy, Overcast Grey Conditions

These two shots of dandelions were taken on an overcast morning. In the OCF shot at right, the dark background makes the fine points of the dandelion seeds stand out. For that shot, placing an Off-Camera Flash above left of the dandelions created improved contrast.

ABOUT SHUTTER SPEED

Also, adding the speedlight flash  boosted the camera’s shutter speed to 1/60th second. Compare that to the image at left, taken without flash.

With no flash, the shutter speed was 4 times slower at 1/15th of a second.  This longer exposure allowed the ambient morning light to dominate this small scene. The result: applying OCF made for a more detailed nature shot because it expanded the contrast range.

NOISE REDUCTION

Additionally, I chose a low ISO of 72. For nature images, we want to lower the ISO, as high ISO settings artificially raise the signal produced by the sensor which increases the noise that is paired with this signal. So, at high ISOs we get synthetic random sensor noise, which degrades our photographs. OCF helps solve this problem by adding light, thus lowering ISO, and thereby reducing the random noise.

EXAMPLE TWO: Portrait

For this rainy day portrait of an artist with her wind chimes at a local crafts fair, a flash was held high and to the left. Again, I triggered it with a Godox X1 transmitter mounted snugly on top of the camera, the same method as all the other images. OCF fired at camera left, creating light that added a sense of roundness to the portrait.

EXAMPLE THREE (BELOW): A Tabletop Still Life

Below at far RIGHT, the image was made with the speedlight flash placed to the right of the knick-knacks on the table. An ISO of 64 ensured no random sensor noise was produced. While the image at LEFT has a softer feel and fall-off of focus for bokeh effects due to the F/1.8, the OCF image has more useful information for printing, showing how the scene actually appeared.

EXAMPLE FOUR (ABOVE): Jellyfish in Brilliant Overhead Sunlight

These jellyfish were swimming slowly in a river that flows into a bay. I held the flash close to the jellies and at an angle to their left. The RAW images were corrected for contrast in post processing. Even in direct overhead sunlight, using OCF changes color and contrast in nature images. You be the judge.

For Part 3, the final article in this series, we’ll explore OCF hacks and special applications of Off-Camera Flash using light modifiers that we can find around the house.

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