Triggering Methods Overview


Introduction to Using Multiple Flashes


Lesson Info

Triggering Methods Overview

Let's go to the next thing which is talking about triggers, flash triggering. There are so many options for triggering your flashes. In fact in this day and age, it's almost overwhelming to be honest with you. If you go onto any of the big camera store websites, you're gonna see 20, 30 different options for triggering your flashes, and if you go onto the big retail shopping sites, like Amazon, the number of flash triggering options is mind blowing. So, I just want to simplify it a little bit for you today and help understand kind of the different genres of flash triggers, and then I have some specific models here that we'll actually use in class. I think these models that I brought are representative of the bigger picture. So, there's three genres of flash triggers. But before I talk about those, I just want to say the first bullet point on the slide that I have here is you want to be wireless. You know, back in the day, we had cables running everywhere in the studio, and it's a pain. ...

You pull lights over, people trip on them, you always are taping stuff down to the floor, so, it's so cheap these days to go to a wireless flash system, or a wireless triggers that I just recommend only go wireless. That said, sometimes wireless doesn't work. It just sometimes breaks down, and you have to go wired. So you have to actually have cables going to your flashes to trigger them. But that's few and far between these days, and so, in general, starting out, go with wireless. There are three genres of wireless triggers. The first one is the simple trigger, and I'm gonna talk through each of these in just a minute. But the simple trigger is maybe something like this, okay? Really not a lot of technology here. Or something like this, very low technology. I'm gonna go through the nitty gritty details in just a second. The next is, to go with maybe the optical proprietary. Stop using those words, Mike! What I mean by that are the optical trigger from Nikon and Cannon, and what I just showed with that whole TTL setup here, that was the Nikon wireless flash system, or the creative lighting system. Both Nikon and Canon have those, and they're kinda integrated into their systems. Now Nikon and Canon have gone to radio control for their flashes which is pretty cool and very sophisticated, and it works well. And that brings me to the last bullet point, radio triggers. So radio triggers don't require an optical path. A radio trigger I can cover up the whole flash in duct tape, and it will still receive the signal. Whereas an optical trigger you have to actually see the light, I see the light! Oh, now I'll fire. So let's go through each of those in some detail, so we'll start with the simple trigger. This is, in the old days we called them slaves, in fact on my ProFotos back here there's actually a mode on them called slave mode. We also used to have these little tools. They were called peanuts, and a peanut were these little, they almost look like a peanut, and you put this little cable into what's called the PC port on your camera, and when this little peanut sees a pulse of light, any pulse of light, pop, it'll fire the flash. So let's say you've got an old Vivitar flash from the 70s or the 1980s, you can actually put this little peanut on the base of that flash. For example, it would go like right here. So, now, when this sees a pulse of light, click, it will send a signal to the flash, and the flash will fire in manual mode. These are very inexpensive, really dirt cheap, like $10 dollars or $12 dollars. You can buy them all over the place. Just about any camera store sells these, and they're the least expensive way to do wireless flash photography. So, what's the downside to a peanut? Well, there's no communication really happening. I can't, you know, from where I'm standing, I can't got out there, or I can't tell that flash out there to go brighter or darker. I physically have to go over there and push the buttons on the flash, which is okay, you know. Most of the time when I'm in the studio, you want breaks every now and again. The model can't always be on and smiling all the time, so just by virtue of me walking over to the flashes kind of lowers the pressure on set sometimes. So this is inexpensive. Also, most flashes that you buy, I'll go with my Amazon basics flash, okay? Most flashes that you buy have a mode called S 1. Maybe it's just called S mode, maybe it's called S 1 mode. In the Nikon world it's called SU 4, SU 4, but that S means it's a slave, so if I set this little Nikon basics flash to slave mode, it'll sense the light, pop, and then pop, it will fire. And it will fire at whatever power I have set down here. So, for $28 bucks, I've got a slaved flash that will work in my four or five light studio setup, you know. So if I get five of these things, or four or five of them, I can just set them around in my studio, and they'll fire whenever they see a pulse of light, which is pretty cool. So for around $100 to $140 dollars, with tax (laughs), I've got myself a five light speed light setup by going cheap with these. Did I see you had a question? Yes, when you're using the Nikon on camera flash in the commander mode, is that communicating optical or radio? Yeah, good question. The answer is that in the scenario that we just shot where you were the model, that was in the optical mode. Nikon, now, and I'm gonna show this in about two slides, Nikon now has a radio trigger system, and it requires a little radio transmitter that screws into the front of the camera. But you can't, in the Nikon world, you can't use them simultaneously. Like, you can't have a commander that's doing optical and a commander that's doing radio. So far, those two things don't play well together. Answer your question? Okay, cool. So today, for most of the photography that I'm gonna do in today's class, I'm actually gonna be using the simple trigger system cause I want to keep it as basic as possible. I use the term lowest common denominator, you know, how do we mix and matches our flashes? Well, everything has to be at the lowest common denominator. And quite often, that is just simple slave mode. So most of the stuff I'll be doing today is just basic slave flash. Alright, so next, the wireless systems. Nikon really kicked this off in the 90s and early 2000s with their Nikon Creative Lighting System. Canon was right on their tail with an excellent wireless flash system, and really in terms of industry standard TTL wireless systems, these two are the best. Fuji, Sony, Olympus, they're all catching up. I think Sony actually has wireless flash system where it requires a little radio, a little transmitter that goes on the top of the camera. So Sony's got it. Fuji and Olympus, they require a third party wireless controller. So Nissan, and it is Godox, yeah, Godox, those two companies have wireless TTL flash control for the Fuji and Olympus cameras. Now I haven't personally used those, so I don't have any good experience with them, but judging by the other stuff that I've purchased, you know, on Ebay and Amazon and those types of things, they're gonna perform just fine. They're gonna work just as well, just great. Upsides of this system, it's fully integrated into the camera body. It's fully integrated in the flashes. It works and it works well. Downside, kind of spendy, kind of spendy. Each of your flashes are anywhere from $300 to $600 dollars. Even the least expensive Nikon flash right now that works in this world is this little guy. It's the SP 500. Even this little guy is around a couple hundred dollars, you know, this little tiny flash. And so, sometimes I just wonder is it all worth it, you know? If you get five flashes at $500 bucks a piece, that's $2500 dollars. What can you do with $2500 dollars in your studio? You can do a lot of stuff, so, you know, of course I own them all (laughing), so, I've purchased them, but sometimes I think it's wise to go less expensive initially. So that's the Nikon Wireless System, and then we get into the third genre of flash triggers, and that is radio trigger. So the radio triggering systems are wide and varied. The biggest benefit to going with the radio trigger is they are rock solid, okay? They communicate very well. You don't have to have line of sight. You can put a flash behind a chair, you can put a flash around the corner, up high in the ceiling, whatever, and the radio signal's gonna penetrate. So let me show you a couple of radio trigger options. Okay, so, actually three, I have three options. So the first one that everybody probably has heard about are the PocketWizards, okay. I won't be using PocketWizards today on set. PocketWizards are excellent. They really set the industry standard. I think they're the best. They're probably the best out there. They have a wide variety of radio control technologies. In fact, PocketWizard, well probably for the last five years, has had Nikon and Canon TTL control with radio control. So you can do TTL control with a lot of these setups. Not the plus three, the plus three doesn't do the TTL control. But what this does is, basically you put one of these on your camera, that's what we'll call the commander or the sender, and then you put one of these on each of your flashes, as the receiver, and those flashes will then fire. So that's the PocketWizard setup. The second one that I want to show are these. These are not PocketWizards, these are Yonguos, Yonguos (laughing). You'll find these all over Ebay and Amazon, these types of things. They work great. They're radio controlled. They work on triple A batteries, so the batteries are pretty inexpensive. They're reliable and they're just no frills. Basically, you turn them on, you set your channel in your group, and you can then, basically, tell your remote flashes to turn on or off. To make my remote flash go brighter, I actually have to walk over to it, but at least I can tell it to go on and off from this. And they're just rock solid. They just work. They work well. I've used them in all sorts of situations. So today I will also be using these. I brought six of them. One goes on your camera, and I'll show you how that works, here. Take off this guy. Alright so, it just goes right here in the hot shoe, like that. Turn it on, and you can see there it's got different channels and groups, different information you can select that, and then you just have to make sure the sender and the remotes are all the same communication channel, okay? And then this one, or one of these, will then go onto the flash, just like that. So let's say you have a Nikon flash, an Amazon flash, a Yunguo flash, a Nissan, whatever, you just have to set up that flash to be in what's called manual mode, okay? So you don't want the flash to be in, like the Nikon Wireless System. You don't want the flash to be in its own slave mode. You want the flash to be in manual mode. Because what's the slave? The slave is this guy, the little receiver. That's what's receiving the information. So, I'll show this, I turn this guy to on, and then I push the mode button, and now this guy is in manual mode, oops, M, there we go, I push OK, and then I can rotate this and change the power to 16th, eighth, quarter, like that. Now when I take a picture here, this radio signal sends it out to that, that receives it, and voila, we're in business. So, every flash on my set will need to be receiving that radio signal in the same brand. So like I can't use a Yonguo and a PocketWizard together, really. It's all gotta be in the same, in the same family of triggers, make sense? Okay, there's another trigger I want to show you. This one's ProFoto, okay? So you see behind me I've got some ProFoto lights. ProFoto makes fantastic studio lights. I've been using ProFotos for years, and they never let me down. They're excellent, they're top-notch, high quality, they produce a lot of power, but they're not as portable, maybe, as my little flash is. So I typically use ProFotos anywhere I've got electrical power. ProFoto now has a bunch of wireless, I'm sorry, battery-powered flashes that you can take with you on location, but mine are the older D 1 units. That said, they have a wireless control It's called the ProFoto air control, or air remote, and it, as you can see here, I've got different groups, A, B, C, D, E and F, and I've got different channels, one through ten, or one through eight, yep. And from this I can tell those big 'ole flashes to go brighter or darker. Again, a lot of times, you have to say, hey, I'm going to use all ProFoto, so everything has to be in that system, in that family.

Class Description

If you want complete control over the image you’re taking, you need to use multiple flashes. Mike Hagen will take what appears complex and explain how to make it achievable to help get your studio lighting to an elite level.

Mike Hagen will walk through how to build your lighting setup with two, three, four and even five flashes. If you're figuring out what lighting gear to purchase, this course will help by showing you:

  • Camera settings and sync modes to capture the best exposure
  • How to use the various trigger methods
  • The different roles each light plays in creating your image
  • How to shape the light for the most control over your final image
  • How to build your knowledge comfortably from 1-5 lighting setups

Whether you’re shooting portraits, buildings, or products - controlling all the light in your image can improve your photography from good to GREAT. Mike Hagen will teach you how to light and create every shadow and highlight by using multiple flashes in your photography.


Marty Walker

This is really a fantastic class and at an even fantastic-er price. Well worth the money, and is a great help. The instructor does a very good job explaining the methods, light shapers, and effects they create. One of my favorite videos!

Jeph DeLorme

Mike Hagen does a great job of presenting what could be a complicated process in a way that makes it easy to understand and implement. Not only does he make it easy to follow along, he presents alternative solutions that don't break the budget. I have viewed several instructors and various classes at Creative Live and this would definitely be one of my favorites. I have to say, this class would be a bargain at 10x the price!

Tim Stapenhurst

What can I say about this class? Mike is great- not only does he give a thorough break down of all the equipment one could need but he also includes wide variety of price options for those just getting started. Aside from his thorough knowledge of gear, Mike provides an excellent and easy to follow bread down of how to build up the light for your subject. His lesson plan is super easy to follow and very concise as he slowly builds up from using 2 lights to 5 lights. He also demonstrate what I think is a much needed trait in a photographer and that is being cool under pressure, dealing with issues and not getting rattled and simply going back to the basics. Creative Live Nailed it with this class