On some DSLRs your pop-up flash can control another flashgun. In this tutorial we show you how to make this simple Strobist portrait setup to selectively light your pictures.
Flash is a great way of selectively lighting your pictures, and it is particularly useful for portraits, indoors or out. But for atmospheric strobist-style people shots you to need avoid using the pop-up flash, or a hotshoe-mounted gun. Instead, get the flash off-camera and achieve a moody, sidelit effect.
So how do you fire your flash if it is not directly connected to the hotshoe? You could invest in a flash synch cord, or in a radio trigger. But with some cameras, like the Nikon D800 we used for this tutorial, there is a less expensive way to do this – by using your pop-up flash to control and trigger the bigger flashgun.
With our D800 we can employ a simple Strobist portrait setup and let our pop-up flash control another flashgun by setting the camera to its Commander mode. Our D800’s built-in flash then sends a series of signals to the remote flashgun just before the exposure, to fire it and to control its power.
Not every Nikon DSLR or flashgun will allow you to use Nikon’s Advanced Wireless Lighting (AWL) System. You need a D70 or above with a built-in pop-up flash (that’s the D90, D600, D800, D7000, D7100 and D300s in Nikon’s current range), which rules out models such as the D3100 or D4.
You also need a flashgun that offers a CLS remote control mode – SB-600, SB-800, SB-900 or SB-910 (some other flash manufacturers make compatible guns too).
Finally, while we used a Nikon D800 for the purposes of this tutorial, other camera brands offer equivalent functions. Or you can buy a slave unit.
Our Strobist portrait setup step-by-step: 1-2
01 Switch your flash to Remote
Set your flashgun to its Remote control mode. On an SB-700, SB-900 or SB-910 you simply turn the main on/off switch to Remote. Two red LEDs pulsating at the front of the gun show you that the flash is set to remote operation. On older guns like the SB600 the set-up is more complex…
02 Setting up older Speedlights
On an SB-600, hold the Zoom and Minus buttons down until the menu options appear. Press the Plus button until the Remote option (the one with the squiggly line) is displayed, then press the Mode button to turn it from Off to On. Hold in the Zoom and Minus buttons again to activate.
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