Off camera flash has recently become ubiquitous with the advent of radio transmitters. In the olden days you were limited to using flash sync cables or optical sync if you were lucky. It’s easy to see how using a flash off camera could be a pain if you didn’t have a radio transmitter to change your flash settings. But those problems have been solved thanks to technology!
What is off camera flash?
Off camera flash is exactly what it sounds like, it is a flash that is off your camera as opposed to on your camera. Since it is off your camera it is typically triggered with a radio transmitter. In most cases the transmitters are not interoperable, meaning, you need to buy a specific brand of transmitter for a specific brand of flash.
Why use off camera flash?
There are number of advantages to off camera flash, first and foremost is that your flash can be independent of your location. Having your flash independent of your location allows you to do a lot of things, but probably most important is that it gives you a consistent light power. Now instead of having your flash power requirements change everytime you move because your flash is on your camera, with it off the camera the flash positions stays the same relative to the subject so the power level stays the same, leading to more consistent results and more freedom for the photographer.
More about that the advantages of off camera flash.
So we take the flash off the camera and put it on a light stand at a certain distance from our subject. What are the implications? As I mentioned, when the distance between the flash and the subject change, the power requirements change. This is governed by a rule called the inverse square law. The inverse square law means that for every doubling of the distance between the subject and the light, the amount of light hitting the subject is halved. Knowing this we can determine that light power can be governed by distance. This means if you’re shooting with a telephoto you no longer have to worry about moving outside the range of the flash. Flash photography is greatly simplified in actuality by moving the light off camera because now you can place the flash exactly where it needs to be to affect your subject, and you can do that everytime you shoot regardless of where you stand, how you frame the shot, or what lens you’re using.
Other ways to use off camera flash.
These days even the most powerful strobes can be purchased with battery power. 600 watt strobes are in abundance, and having two or three means you can light almost any room. I actually used 2 600 watt strobes on stands pointed up and out at the cieling at a wedding reception in a church. The light filled the church with soft ambient light. I controlled the strobes with my on-camera Canon 600EX II-RT which I used to add some highlights. End result, studio quality light anywhere you want it.
I think you’ll agree that off camera flash is pretty awesome. It lets you shape the light hitting your subject in ways that are much more difficult with an on camera flash. Definitely think about adding OCF to your toolkit if you haven’t already! Good luck and leave any comments or questions down below.