2 easy flash techniques that work every time
1 Fill-in flash
Attaching a flashgun to the hotshoe of your camera, or even using the built-in unit, is the easiest and most convenient way to use flash. This doesn’t produce the most flattering light as the main light source though.
However, it is ideal for a technique known as fill-in flash, where you use the light from the flash to throw light into the shadows produced by harsh overhead sunlight.
2 Off-camera flash
It’s easy to think that using off-camera flash is only for pros, but with instant review to see the results, and more options than ever to trigger the flash cheaply and easily, there’s no reason to be scared by this technique, which can transform your portraits in an instant.
Moving the flash away from the camera allows you to create more interesting and flattering lighting, or even use two or more flashguns.
Ways to fire your flashgun
How to fire your flash off-camera
Shooting on location you don’t want loads of leads or wires trailing around, so there are three main wireless options to choose from, depending on your camera, flashgun and (to some extent) budget.
Built-in wireless flash
Many camera manufacturers offer a system that fires and controls flashguns off camera. This option offers many of the same functions as a hotshoe flash.
To fire the off-camera flash you’ll either need a camera such as the Canon EOS 600D or Nikon D7000, which has a built-in flash that can act as the transmitter; or, if your camera doesn’t offer this feature, you’ll need to attach a flash or a dedicated transmitter unit (usually called the master unit or controller).
To use any of these options you’ll also need to use a compatible flashgun, which usually means one made by the same manufacturer as your camera.
The main disadvantages of this system are that it can struggle to communicate if the flash is more than about ten metres (or less in bright sunlight) from the camera, and there needs to be a direct line of sight between the camera and flash.
Basic radio triggers
As long as you’re happy setting the exposure manually, these are the simplest and cheapest way to operate wireless off-camera flash.
They will work with almost any flashgun, as long as you can set the power manually, and will work over much greater distances than the built-in wireless systems.
They also don’t need a line of sight between the transmitter and receiver, so you can position your flash behind a wall or tree to hide them, unlike the built-in wireless systems.
These simple triggers are also pretty cheap, starting from £30 for a transmitter and receiver such as the Yongnuo RF-602.
TTL radio triggers
These combine the long working distance of the basic radio triggers with the TTL (through the lens) automatic exposure of the in-camera systems, but you’ll need to use a flashgun that offers this facility.
The automatic exposure means that they are slightly easier to use than the fully manual basic radio triggers, but this comes at a price, with a transmitter and receiver set costing around £300 from either PocketWizard or Phottix.
PAGE 1: Outdoor portrait photography overview
PAGE 2: Master the basics of outdoor portrait photography
PAGE 3: How to make the most of natural light
PAGE 4: Master depth of field in outdoor portraits
PAGE 5: The best lenses for outdoor portrait photography
PAGE 6: Using telephoto lenses for outdoor portraits
PAGE 7: Using wideangle lenses for outdoor portraits
PAGE 8: Essential flash techniques for outdoor portrait photography
PAGE 9: How to set up and use your flash outside
PAGE 10: Easy flash techniques and ways to fire your flashgun