A Beginners Guide to Radio Transmitters for Off Camera Flash

by Paul Cook | July 16, 2013

The world of photography is extensive. Like all other professional trades, it has a variety of equipment each which is available according to users’ varying degrees of experience. Of course all the best stuff is made for and used by the professional photographers. One such thing is an off flash camera and radio transmitters. If you want to become a pro, then you would have to learn to use an off flash camera because with flash you can generate images that seem like they have come to life on paper.

Now if you are a photographer you would already know what an off flash camera is and how radio transmitters work. But for those of you, who are new to photography, here is a short guide to help you understand the basics of pro gear.

What Is an Off Camera Flash?

Off camera flash is simply a flash that is not on the camera itself. The flash is available on its own and used to create a distinct form of photography. You see this type of flash (or strobe) in portrait studios...you know the ones with the umbrellas attached to them. Off camera flash allows you to capture shots by mixing lighting and shadows. The perfect combination of dark and light is achieved. The best part is that you can move the flash wherever you want and shape the light for the look you desire. With the help of an off camera flash you can capture dramatic contrasty scenes or beautiful evenly lit portraits. Done well, having off camera flash can make a picture more alluring.

Built in flashes on cameras have the risk of either giving too much or too little exposure of light to your photography subject. Plus they usually aren't very flattering by themselves. An on camera flash tends to flatten out your scene and make it 2 dimensional. This issue can easily be resolved with an off camera flash or flashes as you would be able to move the flash and generate lighting from whatever is the best position, hence enabling you to increase your creativity and not rely on natural light to create your photos.

The one biggest issues in the past with such flashes was the wiring and gear. Too many wires and heavy gear can be complicated and expensive for photography beginners. The solution for this problem is radio transmitters for off camera flashes.

What you need to get started:

A flash that has a manual mode (which is pretty much every flash out there). You can buy an fairly inexpensive flash for right around $60 to get started.off camera flash

The flash needs to have a plug in port of some sort. This is where the radio transmitter will plug into.

A light stand. This is optional, you can get creative with where you place your flash, but a light stand will give you easy placement for your flash. Light stands can be as low as $20

A flash swivel bracket adapter - this allows you to attach your flash to your lightstand

off camera flashRadio Transmitters for Off Camera Flashes

Radio transmitter or triggers are best for indoor and outdoor photography as they give the best reliability and range. They are wireless and allow an ease of use that would otherwise not be possible with cameras that are too hefty and contain too many wires.

Another great thing about radio transmitters is that it can be attached to the top of the camera which allow it to transmit signals to the camera easily, as it gets completely in sync with the input of your camera. No more worries about pictures that might blur or any other type of distortion. You would be able to create the perfect mixture of shadows and light when taking a shot. You can even fire your cameras wirelessly. Some radio transmitters come with a device that lets you work even when your flashes don’t have PC-Ports.

The way it works is one radio transmitter is placed on the hot shoe of your camera, where your flash would normally go. The receiver unit will be plugged into and attached to the flash (I prefer velcro, but a rubber band works too). When both are turned on and synced with each other (same channel) then when you press the shutter button on the camera your flash will fire at the same time. There are several radio transmitters on the market now.

Here are some different brands of radio transmitters to look at (remember you will need to buy 2. One for the camera and one for the flash):

Pocket Wizard - The first on the market. Very reliable

CyberSync - from Paul Buff. A great entry level set

Radio Popper - has some other neat tricks to it

So if you want to take your photography to the next level, try learning to use the off camera radio transmitters. They will give you an edge over all other novice photographers. You would need a little practice before you are an expert, but you will realize that the effort was worth the trouble and money.

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Tips-n-Tricks #264

Don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't photograph. Shoot what makes you happy.


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