camera with off-flash, Photo by Sirisvisual on Unsplash

A Beginner's Guide To Off Camera Flash: What | Why | How To Use

Have you ever seen a photo and thought, "how did they make that look so good?" Chances are, the photographer used an off-camera flash. Off-camera flash can be used to create beautiful and professional-looking photos with ease.

This beginner's guide will discuss what off-camera flash is, why you might want to use it, and how to get started using it yourself. So whether you are a total beginner or just curious about off-camera flash, keep reading for everything you need to know.

What is an Off-camera Flash?

An off-camera flash is a type of flash that is not attached to the camera. This allows for more creative lighting options, as the flash can be placed in different positions around the subject. Off-camera flash can be used for both indoor and outdoor photography.

Off-camera Flash vs. Strobes

When it comes to professional photography, there are two main types of lighting: natural light and artificial light. Natural light is what you get from the sun, while artificial light is any light that is not from the sun.

family photo with Kate Green Magic Forest Easter Spring Backdrop photography

Kate Green Magic Forest Easter Spring Backdrop photography

  • Off-camera flash is a type of artificial light. It is a small, portable light you can attach to your camera. Unlike a strobe, which is a large, powerful light that is usually mounted on a stand, an off-camera flash is small and easy to carry.
  • In terms of battery life, an off-camera flash will last for several hundred shots, while a strobe will only last for a few dozen.
  • One of the great things about off-camera flash is that you can use various modifiers to change how the light looks. In strobes, the modifiers are generally much larger and more expensive.
  • Off-camera flash is also very versatile. You can use it indoors or outdoors, in a studio or location. It can also be used in a car. In contrast, strobes are generally used in studios.
  • Regarding pricing, strobes are generally more expensive than off-camera flash. But, you can get a good quality off-camera flash for around the same price as an entry-level strobe.
  • Strobes can be corded or cordless, but the flash is always cordless off camera, which means you can use it in various situations.

These essential accessories, you can get the most out of your off-camera flash setup.

Why You Should Use an Off-camera Flash

There are many reasons why flash photography has become increasingly popular in recent years. One of the primary reasons is that flash units have become much more advanced and capable while remaining relatively affordable.

woman's portrait with Kate Abstract texture beige a little green color Maternity/family photo Backdrop

Kate Abstract texture beige a little green color Maternity/family photo Backdrop

1. Lighting

Flash photography allows you to control the light in a scene rather than relying on ambient light alone. This is especially important when ambient light is not ideal, such as when shooting indoors or during low light conditions.

With an off-camera flash, you can create what is known as "dynamic lighting." This means you can position the flash unit(s) to create any lighting effect, such as a soft, romantic, or harsh contrast light.

2. More Control

Another benefit is having more control over the flash. You can decide how much light you want and where the light will hit your subject by simply moving the flash unit around, shooting in low light conditions photographers to master.

The bottom line is that flash photography gives you much control over the final image, which is why it is an essential tool for any photographer to master.

3. Brings out texture

It brings out the texture in photos; one of the most common problems with flash photography is that it can often make images look "flat." This is because the flash is usually positioned directly in front of the subject, which can create a lot of front lighting. This can sometimes wash out the details and textures in an image, making it look flat and uninteresting.

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Kate Dark Castle Retro Architecture Backdrops

However, by positioning the flash off to the side or behind the subject, you can create what is known as "cross-lighting." This type of lighting can help to bring out the details and textures in an image, making it much more exciting and visually appealing.

4. More Powerful

More powerful flash units will allow you to freeze the motion of your subject, even if they are moving quickly. This can be helpful if you shoot a fast-paced event, such as a sporting one. Flash photography can be beneficial in a lot of different situations.

Essential Accessories to Use an External Flash

One of the first questions people ask me when considering using an external flash is, "What else do I need?". Here's a list of essential accessories to get the most out of your off-camera flash set.

  • Light Stand - You will need a light stand to hold your flash off the camera. I recommend getting a good quality light stand.
  • Trigger - This is what fires your flash when it is not attached to your camera. There are many different types, but they all do the same thing.
  • Modifier- This is anything you attach to the flash to change how the light looks. The most popular modifiers are softboxes, umbrellas, and beauty dishes.

off-camera flash with modifier

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

  • Battery Pack- If you are using your flash a lot, you will want to get a battery pack. This will allow you to shoot for longer without worrying about changing batteries.
  • Light Meter- A light meter is a must-have for any photographer, but it is essential if you're using flash. This will help you figure out the correct flash exposure.

How to Use Off-camera Flash in Photography

Flash is an important aspect of photography, but it can be difficult to master. You can master flash photography and take your photos to the next level with some practice. Once you have your off-camera flash set up, there are a few things to keep in mind when using it.

1. Off-camera flash can be used to create more natural-looking photos.

Natural-looking photos can be achieved by ensuring that the light source is not coming from the camera. This can be achieved by using a flash that is not attached to the camera, or by using the on-camera flash in wireless mode. In the wireless mode, the flash is not attached to the camera physically, but it still receives its power from the camera. There are two main ways to trigger an off-camera flash: using a flash trigger or using the pop-up flash on your camera in commander mode.

2. Off -camera flash can be used to overpower the sun and create better lighting conditions.

Off-camera flash can be used to create interesting lighting effects. It can be used to fill in shadows. With some creative thinking, off-camera flash can be used to produce some interesting results. One of the most common ways to use an off-camera flash is to bounce the light off a wall or ceiling. This will produce a softer light than if the flash was pointed directly at the subject.

little girl's photo with Kate Gold Valentine Backdrop Glitter Heart Designed by Mandy Ringe Photography

Kate Gold Valentine Backdrop Glitter Heart Designed by Mandy Ringe Photography

3. Setting the camera manual mode

It is important to set your camera to manual mode so that you can control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Otherwise, the camera will try to compensate for the extra light from the flash and overexpose your photos. You will also need to set your flash to manual mode so that it doesn't fire at full power every time. If you're using wireless triggers, you will need to set your flash to remote mode.

4. Off camera can be used to fill in the shadows

Sometimes the light coming from the camera is not enough to fill in all the shadows. This can often happen when shooting outside in harsh sunlight. By using an off-camera flash, you can fill in those shadows and create a more balanced photo. Do a test run before your event or photoshoot, it's a good idea to do a test run with your off-camera flash. This will help you figure out the best placement for the flash and make sure everything is working properly.

Conclusion

With the basics of off-camera flash down, it is time to put your knowledge into practice. Experiment with different setups and light modifiers to see what works best for you. Play around with shutter speeds and apertures to find the sweet spot for your desired effect.

And most importantly, have fun! Photography should be enjoyable, so experiment and explore until you find the style that speaks to you.

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