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     How to make your Flash wireless.


                                              By Eugene Struthers

Teach yourself how to make your Flash wireless.


Following on from last months editorial about “How to set up a studio from scratch”. We will now be moving onto the more technical requirements. This month we will be looking into the specifics of how to “Make your flash wireless”.


Firstly you will need to verify if your camera has the built in capability to go wireless. This will allow you to avoid having to use a sync cable. If you have one of the latest Canon or Nikon digital cameras (Nikon D70 and above / Canon 20D and below) you will have the builtin feature that will allow your camera to operate wirelessly. However; not to worry if you don't. There are ways of making your flash go wireless. The latest Digital camera brands will have a built in pop-up flash. Those that don't. You will need to purchase a wireless radio slave transmitter, which slides into the hot shoe on the top of your camera so that you can control the power of your wireless flash and a receiver which is connected to the flash unit receives the signal. So as you have two components ( transmitter + receiver) attached in two different locations. You will need to set up each individually.



This is how you do it.

1) For this demonstration I will be using the Speedlight SB-800 model (Nikon camera). Turn the flash unit on and then as the LCD screen lights up. Press the centre SEL button, until a menu screen pops up. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the square with the two squiggly S -shaped indicators. Press the centre button again to mark this as your selection. It should now appear blacked out.


2) Use the SEL arrow keys to move the cursor so that it scrolls over to the right over to the subheading called "OFF indicator". Then scroll down to the "Remote" subheading, second from the bottom. Press the centre SEL button to verify that this is the subheading required. You have now made your flash wireless.

Now we need to focus on the camera itself.

3) You will need to trigger your cameras built-in pop up flash. This triggers the wireless flash. It won't work if your built in flash has not been popped open.


4) Now turn your camera around, to the LCD screen. Press the menu button on the back and go to Custom Settings Menu and then chooseBracketing/ flash. Switch your camera to “Built-in Flash Mode” - setting Commander Mode. As shown in the second image. Scroll down to the heading titled:- Built-in Flash and highlight this field. Then use the dial on the back of the camera to input the setting until it indicates a reading of“--”. This indicates that the pop-up flash has been turned off and that now only the signal will be sent. This will allow the flash unit to only send a signal to your wireless off camera flash unit to trigger a flash and not fire off a flash directly from the camera itself.


5) When you press the shutter button, the Flash unit's sensor will now send a signal and the remote flash will fire.

How do you control the brightness of your wireless flash?

Go back to point 4 as above. The menu, but this time just scroll down to Group A. Make sure under the Mode heading the box has an input of “TTL” (Through The lens). Next to this value is another box. This is where you will be able to lower (use a negative:- -1.0) or increase (use a positive:- +1.0) the brightness power output to make the flash brighter. The flash-to-subject distance doesn't affect our f/stop with TTL (as along as we're within the area of the flash's power), we can maximize and manipulate aperture and shutter speed to our advantage. In the instance of flash key, we can manually set the shutter speeds to correctly expose for the ambient light. We can also set the shutter speed to underexpose the ambient light. This can be as little as one stop to make a busy background disappear. Even in bright daylight, we can make the photograph have the appearance of being shot at night by underexposing two or three stops by using the shutter speed. This whole time, the flash is providing us with the proper exposure for the subject. We can do this only because TTL provides us with the proper exposure for the aperture selected regardless of the flash- to-subject distance!

6) What is the function of the Flash Groups?


As I explained in the “How to create a studio from scratch” section. There will be circumstances when you will need to have full control of how each wireless flash unit operates. And each needs to be done independently to achieve the desired result. A perfect example would be if you are in a studio doing a bikini photo shoot with a gorgeous model. You have a flash to the left of your model, another positioned behind the model lighting the background and another slightly to the right. Your aim is to be in full control of your lighting and the power strengths given off by each light source. So if one is too dim or too bright. You can alter it independently with out affecting the other two flashes. We can do this by allocating one flash toGroup A, then another flash which maybe weaker in strength to Group B and the third which we need to be on full power light strength to Group C. So each is not

disturbing the other. We can also have two or more light sources in each group. This is useful if you want to have two flashes lighting the background on either side of the model - Group A, another two flashes lighting the model in front on both sides – Group B and another two above and below to eliminate shadows – Group C. To make sure they are all working you may want to do a test first. This is done by pressing the red test button on the back of your master flash unit. Each will then fire a flash individually first to verify each is infact working to the desired requirements. You must however remember, you want to have a balance in light between your flash and natural light. Your goal is to make your flash look like natural light – so you will need to have your power setting at about 1/8 or 1/16 very low.

7) What is the purpose of the Channels function?

If you are working in a studio by yourself you will not need this. However; if you attend a studio, and another photographer is using the same area as you but with another model in a separate section of the studio. You may find that the other photographers camera will trigger your flash and this can cause problems for both of you. The same can happen to him. So if this happens to you. You will need to set a parameter so that only your radio transmitter slave is received only by your flash unit and not by any other camera / photographer in the same area as you. We do this by using different channels. I will set mine to channel 1 and he can set his to channle 2. This will allow us to have full control over our own flash units whilst working in the same area together.

An extra resource to help you understand the requirements to go wireless.

External Speedlite Controls:


Click here



Quick Start to Off-Camera Flash with Canon Speedlites

Topics to be covered -


Why Off-Camera Flash Matters


- How to Control Your Speedlite On Your Camera's LCD

- Flash Modes: When to Use ETTL, When to Use Manual

- Sync Speeds and Sync Modes: 1st

-Curtain, 2nd-Curtain, and High-Speed

- Creating Soft Light, Creating Hard Light

- Where to Position Your Speedlite

- Off-Camera Triggers: Cord, Optical, and the New Radio System

- Set-ups for Creative Lighting with One Speedlite

- Set-ups for Creative Lighting with Multiple Speedlites

         See you all

next month

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