An Exploration Into Using An Off-Camera Flash

Cactus V2 Flashes Triggers
My Cactus V2 Flash Triggers

Recently, I bought a set of Cactus V2 remote flash triggers off of a friend for my camera. These allow me to use a flash off-camera, which can give me a number of different lighting effects based upon position and intensity. I’ve been trying them out a lot so I can get a grasp on how to use them, and it’s been an interesting experience. Below I’ve got a few sample photos, as well as some of my learning experiences.

The first photo I ever took with an off-camera flash was of my living room. Needless to say, my first shot was not impressive. It wasn’t even good. Hell, it’s barely worth posting, but it was a step forward. I was learning, and also testing the triggers to make sure they actually worked. If nothing else, I was really interesting at this point with some of the potential effects that I’d be able to do with it.

The First Shot
My first off-camera flash shot. Hardly anything good.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, and despite the rather bland first photo, I stuck with it, trying a number of different effects. I looked around my house for things to photograph that might make for some interesting photos, particularly with some different lighting. An improvement came when I took a photo of a decorative house and Christmas scene that my mom had set up on an antique radio. A bunch of random adjustments and a dozen-or-so photos later, I came up with something that looked decent. Again, definitely not a masterpiece, but a step forward in the right direction.

The Christmas House
A small Christmas scene that was set up in our living room.

Eager to try out my new toy at a swing lesson, I decided to try my hand at photographing moving targets. Looking back at the photos, very few of them turned out well at all. Some turned out okay, and two of them are below. A few turned out well, and ended up in this week’s gallery entry, which I hope you’ll check out. I think jumping into the deep end was a little too hard for me; there were far too many variables to juggle, including the flash position, flash power, camera focus and zoom settings, and the position and orientation of the people I was photographing. It was simply too much to handle all in one shot when I’m still learning the basics when it comes to the lighting, and I’m still learning things about my camera. In retrospect, I should have waited a while before bringing them along.

Tiffany at the swing lesson. I think the lighting is much too hard in this.
Tiffany and Keith
This I'm a little happier with. It turned out better, and the light isn't as harsh.

But, some of my stuff did turn out well, and they’re in this week’s gallery. Some of those are shot with an off-camera flash; others are not. As far as cost-worth purchases go for aspiring photographers, these flash triggers are the best purchase I’ve made (just surpassing the 50mm EF 1.8/f lens). If you have an external flash, pick yourself up a set of these and a cheap camera tripod; you won’t regret it.

If you’d care to see some of my better photos (ie. this week’s gallery), you can take a look at the Jan. 8/10 gallery here.