Get the flash off
Taking advantage of technology
You may remember me saying here – What you want vs what you need – that you should not spend money on things you do not really need.
An external flash controller is no exception; they are great to have but only when you know you need it. In this post, I assume you have already gotten the flash unit itself.
Now, moving along into a deeper creative art, you will get to know what a flash controller is and what you can do with it.
That said, the combination of my particular set is not as expensive as you may think.
As with anything else, buy a brand name and pay dearly. Do the research, get a dependable, well-loved alternative, and save money. 😃
I use Eneloop rechargeable batteries. In this case, I do pay a little more for the quality, but they are well worth the investment.
The flash unit needs 4 batteries and the controller uses 2. The Black Eneloop Pro on the left are better designed for the flash unit itself.
The world of artificial lighting in creative photography begins with using a hot shoe flash unit instead of the built-in pop-up. Having understood exposure, you also learned that an increase in artificial light means having to adjust the aperture, shutter speed or possibly ISO as well.
At some point, having decided on a dedicated flash unit, you learn to deal with power and zoom settings and bouncing light off walls. You can read about that here. In comparison to the pop-up, you have hundreds of new possibilities to light your object.
When you decide to use a controller, the possibilities multiply massively once again. Now you have the freedom to place the light source anywhere you choose. This is a major advantage as mentioned below, however it means deep learning and consideration when setting up your studio.
The definition of studio in this context simply means where you take images – up close – at home.
Before buying, make sure that the controller you want can work with your flash unit.
The main advantage in the beginning is being able to put that flash anywhere you like. The flash unit comes with a small plastic hot shoe foot that you attach so that it will stand on a flat surface. You can also pick up clamps with hot shoe connection and clamp the flash unit, for example, on any type of pole or post.
Another advantage – for the future – is that you can control two, three or even more such flash units with one single controller. As you will soon see, you do all your adjustments for each flash or group of flashes on the controller.
Note however that it takes a long time to understand even one flash unit.
In an attempt to put this into perspective;
If you need a month to learn to take advantage of the pop-up flash, you will need 3 months to learn how to use a flash unit. When you add a controller, another 3 months learning. If you add a second flash unit, add about 5 months more before you are sure of what you are doing.
This is sort of a dummy segment because there is no way I can get into all the different flash / controller units and how they are setup.
I can show however, how mine are configured.
This is the flash unit on the hot-shoe of the camera. First, it is not a good image, for which I must apologize. There are days when I am actually short on time and I settle for less quality images than usual.
Notice the top line in the display shows only an M. This means manual mode, and the camera fires the flash.
Get the flash off
Now, the flash unit is off camera, sitting on its own little foot. I can put it anywhere I choose.
The display gives us information such as;
- Manual mode
- Wireless is on
- Power is set to minimum – 1/128
- Zoom is set to 24mm
- Wireless channel 3 is being used
- This unit is a member of group A
Before we dive into what it all means, let’s look at the controller.
The controller is on the hot-shoe of the camera, and tells us that;
- It is using wireless channel 3
- It controls group A right now
- Group A is set to M mode – This means manual mode, and the camera fires the flash through the controller
- The power is set to minimum
If I were to press zoom, we would see zoom instead of power with a setting of 24mm.
What you can’t see here is that the controller has the same 5-way buttons as the flash unit.
The controller is used to change the power and zoom in exactly the same way as you would on the flash.
How deep does the rabbit hole go?
As you may have guessed, the controller is capable of firing;
- 3 independent groups of flash units
- A group can be one or more units
- Each group can have completely different settings
The controller is actually the beginning of a semi – professional home studio.
The beauty of the controller – even with just a single unit – is in the fact that;
- You set the flash unit wherever you need it
- You change all settings on the controller at your camera
(with the exception of the position of the flash units)
- When you have completely understood lighting using one unit, you can advance to two units without investing all that much.
Notice that I use a diffuser on my flash. It’s a very nice thing to have, however I must say that I got all 3 items in one packet. Controller, flash and diffuser I picked up in a package and saved a bit. If you are just starting out and can’t find such a package offer, you can always pick up a diffuser later on.
Call to action
You may have become intrigued with the possibilities offered by the combination controller / flash unit. I don’t care much for a call to action saying buy one, however it is at least worth saving up for. Keep your eyes open to find a good price.
We are now moving into topics that may become confusing for you if you are just starting out. Questions pop up. 🤷🏼♂️ Feel free to ask, either in the comment down below or drop me an email.