What You Need for Off-Camera Flash by Ed Verosky

8/08/2021 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments


Off-camera flash is an important skill set for photographers. It’s a game-changer in the truest sense. If you’re into portrait photography, you really — and I can’t emphasize this enough — you really should know how to build and use your own off-camera flash setup. And you should be able to do this in the studio and on-location. I can tell you from personal experience, becoming proficient with off-camera setups will make you a happier, better, and possibly more profitable photographer!
First thing’s first. You need to know what to include in your kit. I’ve got your back.

Now, although I favor a minimalistic approach to photography, sometimes you can’t get around the need for more gear than you can fit into a camera bag. Off-camera flash and multi-light setups, in general, require not only lights but support stands. And modifiers. And other stuff we’re about to get into.

What’s coming next is a full list of items you’ll need to complete a basic off-camera flash setup. Once you have these items, you’ll be fully equipped for most portrait jobs. And, if you’re just starting with flash, you’ll be ready to learn how to use your setup, too. 

Off-Camera Flash Photography Gear List


Here’s a list of the type of gear I usually bring along for every location and studio shoot: 

Flash Units

Your flash units can consist of any combination of portable studio strobes, smaller strobes, or speedlights (shoe-mount flash units). How many do you need? I’d recommend you start with at least two. Eventually, three flash units will make up a good kit. Four, or more if you’re really getting creative. Note, that I always recommend learning off-camera flash with just a single light at first. But, again, make sure you have at least two on hand for your kit. And make sure they are compatible with the rest of your setup (trigger, camera, other flash units you use). 
 
 
Left: Portable, battery-powered studio strobe. Right: Shoe-mount flash. 

Flash Trigger

Off-camera flash means your flash units will be located remotely (not physically connected to your camera). You’ll need some way to tell those flashes to fire during exposure. In many cases, you’ll also want your camera and flashes to work together to determine correct flash output on the fly, using TTL. The way to accomplish this is with the help of a compatible wireless flash trigger.

I prefer radio triggers over optical ones. They tend to be more reliable and less prone to line-of-sight limitations. Options include basic “dumb” triggers for manual flash and TTL-compatible triggers which can work with manual and TTL flash setups. I suggest you go ahead and purchase a TTL-enabled radio flash transmitter compatible with your camera, instead of a non-TTL one. The price difference is negligible compared to the extra features you’ll benefit from. 
 
 
Godox X1T-S radio transmitter mounted to the hot shoe of a Sony digital camera. This operates on the Godox 2.4 GHz X wireless radio system. 

Support

You need something to hold your flash units in position around your scene/subject. That’s what light stands are for. In the studio, you can use something solid and heavy, like professional C-stands. But the lighter and more compact stands work fine, too. Especially with basic speedlights mounted to them. If you’re attaching heavy modifiers to those lights, you’ll need to make sure your stands are rated for the total weight. Consider using sandbags to help stabilize the stands in certain situations.  
 
Compact light stand. 

Bracket Adapters, Umbrella Adapters

You’ve got flashes, you’ve got light stands, but you need something to connect the lights to the stands. There are many options. You’ll choose the ones that make sense for the given flash and modifier combo you’re using. For example, a simple swiveling umbrella adapter is good for shoot-through umbrella modifiers (really, any type of modifier that can be mounted to the umbrella shaft hole in the adapter). Note that you’ll need to attach a cold-shoe adapter to the top of this if it isn’t built-in. An S-type bracket is good for connecting modifiers with a Bowens style mount. These also feature an umbrella shaft holder. 
 
 
Left: Swivel umbrella adapter by Impact w/Vello cold shoe. Right: S-Type speedlight bracket with Bowens type mount. 
 
 
Reverse view of the S-type flash bracket with flash mounted and shoot-through umbrella attached. 

Flash Modifiers

Flash is a powerful type of lighting. Unmodified, the illumination from a flash or strobe can appear harsh. That’s why so many photographers will insist on some type of umbrella or softbox to broaden and diffuse the light. Before you ask, no, there is no best type of modifier. You’ll have to determine what your preferred modifier is over time. I’ll describe the types I like to use in the next section below. 
 
 
Left: Translucent shoot-through umbrella modifier mounted to swivel adapter. Top right: Softbox with Bowens type mounting connection attaches to this Godox AD400 Pro with Bowens type mount. Bottom right: From my course, Flash Photography for Portraits. 24″ softbox mounted to a speedlight via S-type mount. Glow 36″ round softbox attached to a studio strobe. 

My Off-Camera Flash Portrait Setup

Here is an example setup based on the gear I use currently. This is by no means my only combination. But it’s something I can use for about 90% of my work, in or out of the studio:
Flash Master Transmitter: X2T
3 X Flash Units: Godox TT685
3 X Flash Mounting Brackets: S-type
2 X Light Stands: Impact LS-8AI
1 Light Stand: Impact LS-96HABI
2 X Generic Shoot-Through Umbrellas
1 Softbox: 36″ Glow EZ Lock Octa

Of course, you’ll need to make sure you bring along extra batteries, gaffer tape, clips, and anything else you find useful during shoots. I also often bring a medium-size collapsible round reflector just in case. I also bring some enthusiasm. That’s actually more important than having the right gear. If all else fails, have fun, get creative!

If you’re shooting outdoors and there’s any chance of even a slight breeze, an assistant will be invaluable for keeping your gear from blowing over. At the very least, add some weight to the stand holding your modified light (softbox). You can try to do this with your backpack or some light stand weights/sandbags. 
 
 
Two smaller light stands, one larger light stand, two shoot-through umbrellas, 36″ round softbox. 
 
 
Three S-type flash brackets/mounts, three flash units.

On occasion, I’ll travel with larger lights. One of my current favorites is the Godox AD400 Pro. But it, together with a good round softbox, requires a much sturdier stand than I normally carry on-location. I have to say, though, it’s often worth the extra weight and size.
Learn How to Use Your Flash

Of course, you really need to know how to use your setup. Just purchasing what’s on the lists above isn’t enough. One of the fastest ways to learn everything you need to know about off-camera flash is by taking my course, Flash Photography for Portraits.

If you’re not quite ready for that, or multi-light off-camera flash in general, download my free guide, 10-Min. Guide to On-Camera Flash (it comes with free access to my mini-course about on-camera flash). It’s a great way to get started with flash if you’re still learning!
 
 

About Ed Verosky

I’m a photographer specializing in creative portraiture.  I also teach portraiture and lighting techniques encouraging the use of less gear and more creativity to get the job done. In my experience, connecting with the subject and having fun with the process results in more interesting pictures.I want to help you become a better, happier photographer. Let's Get Connected: www.edverosky.com | Instagram  | Subscribe to his YouTube channel: youtube.com/edverosky


Text, image, affiliate links and video thanks to Ed Verosky | This article and images was originally published on https://edverosky.com/what-you-need-for-off-camera-flash/

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