infographic stating best off camera flash setup strategies for photographers

As a beginner, learning how to use an off-camera flash setup can seem like a daunting task. With numerous options available, it can be overwhelming to decide exactly what off-camera flash equipment works best for you. And while researching how to use off-camera flash may seem tedious and intimidating at first, there are advantages that come with mastering this skill. So whether you want to photograph dramatic wedding images or simply take advantage of the soft window light, having an understanding of off-camera flash photography setup has the potential to completely transform your work. In this expert guide, we will teach you how to set up an off-camera flash for portraits so that you can take great photos any time of day and under any lighting conditions!

What Is Off-Camera Flash And When To Use It?

a wedding couple kissing in front of a backlight under the wedding veilImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @dianenicolephoto

Off-camera flash is an artificial light source that can be placed anywhere around the subject to provide additional lighting. By using off-camera flash, you can have greater control over the light’s intensity, direction, and color, allowing you to create more appealing images. An off-camera flash setup also empowers you to shoot in low-light settings without having to raise your ISO and shutter speed, resulting in noise and blur-free images.

Read More: Off-Camera Inspiration By ShootDotEdit Customers

Best Off-Camera Flash Setup Strategies For Photographers

Devoting time and effort to learning off-camera flash setups can be a worthwhile investment. With off-camera flash photography, you can emphasize depth. 

1. Use Light Stands

infographic stating light stands give you more flexibility and stability when positioning your artificial light source

Placing the flash off the camera requires something to hold it. One way is to ask someone to assist you, but there’s a more practical and easier way - use light stands! Light stands are specifically designed to provide stability and prevent your expensive lighting equipment from falling and breaking.

It’s great to buy off-camera light stands that can be adjusted to different angles and heights, as they offer more flexibility when positioning your light source away from the camera. Additionally, light stands come with two types of mounting: cold shoe mount or light mount - choose one based on what type of off-camera light equipment you plan on using.

Read More: Shooting With Strobes In Wedding Photography

2. Take Control Of Your Camera Settings

It’s crucial to understand how shutter speed, sync speed, ISO, and aperture work together. Without this knowledge, you might struggle to interpret your camera’s readouts. Here are five essential variables to master working with off-camera flash:

  • Shutter speed: Is the background interesting or plain? Or are there certain elements that you feel are missing? Consider how much of the background you want to include to set your shutter speed. To ensure your subject is well-lit, balance the flash exposure. 
  • ISO: ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light, and adjusting it can help you get desired shots when working with an off-camera flash. Increasing your camera's ISO can effectively allow more light into the camera when shooting in a low-light environment.
  • Aperture: The aperture serves as the opening that allows light into your camera and a setting to regulate flash exposure. If your image looks overexposed, you need to reduce the aperture, and if it’s too dark, you need to increase it.
  • Sync speed: Sync speed is responsible for determining your camera’s synchronization with an off-camera flash. By default, it’s set to 1/200 of a second. However, a high-speed sync flashlight should be employed if you need higher shutter speeds (more than 1/200 of a second). 
  • Flash modes: TTL (Through the Lens) and Manual are the two main flash modes. TTL automatically adjusts the power of your off-camera flash; however, manual mode provides you full control over your flashes’ lighting levels. Professional wedding photographers often prefer manual flash mode for optimal outcomes.

Related Read: Flash Photography Tips: A Brief Intro Into Artificial Lighting

3. Control The Direction And Amount Of Flash

a wedding bride looking up at a ceiling light in a dimly lit roomImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

Off-camera flash setups enable precise control over the direction and amount of light. To achieve the desired effect, it’s crucial to position the off-camera flash properly, considering the ideal lighting (hard or soft), direction (front lighting, backlighting, side lighting, etc.), distance, and the flash power output. Consider the available space and adjust the flash power output accordingly. 

4. Get A Softbox

Softboxes are light modifiers that help to soften and diffuse the light from your flash. This creates more natural ambient light with less harsh shadows on the subject. It also helps to control reflections when shooting in a room with mirrors or reflective surfaces. Softboxes come in many shapes and sizes, so you can experiment to find the one that works best for you.

Suggested Read: 4 Scenarios To Pull From Dramatic Indoor Flash Photography

5. Use A Kicker And Boom

infographic stating target a desired area you want to highlight with a kicker or a boom and create well-lit photos

Kickers are merely a flash on a stand that you place in the room, while a boom is essentially a flash on a monopod. A Boom lets you pick and choose the direction of the light and precisely target the elements you wish to illuminate in the photo. These are useful off-camera flash equipment to include in your off-camera flash kit

Bonus Tip: Use Fill Flash 

Fill flash is an off-camera flash technique that is used to give even and balanced lighting. You can use either natural light or artificial fill lights, depending on the circumstances. For example, if you are in a room with windows, you can use the natural light coming through the window to fill in shadows. Alternatively, you can use an artificial off-camera flash setup as a fill light. 

Further Read: Profoto: A Lighting Game-Changer For Pro Photographers

silhouette of a couple standing in the middle of the woods in front of a campfireImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @jperrymanphotography

Whether you're shooting a low-light wedding reception or events in bright sunlight, using a flash setup can help you get amazing shots. With the right off-camera flash setup, you can create dynamic compositions that rival those taken in broad daylight. If you want to take your camera flash photography to the next level, check out Light Stalking - a photography blog and community dedicated to sharing photography tips. You can learn more about this topic with the help of numerous off-camera flash tutorials on their website! 

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you grow your wedding photography business. A part of how we do that is by lessening your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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