Using Off Camera Flash


Do you use off camera flash? Do you believe that flash belongs on top of your camera? Are you intimidated by working with off camera flash?

I always say the first step to using off camera flash is to take the flash off of the camera. I use this statement in a comical manor to say, your flash needs more time off of your camera. When you use flash from the top of your camera, it’s very unflattering to any photograph. From on top of the camera, a flash is also annoying to your subject. No one likes to be flashed in the eyes. With the flash directly above the lens, it will increase the chances of creating a red-eye situation. A camera catches the reflection of light on a persons retina during the flash. No one wants to deal with red-eye!

Moving the flash off the camera on to a stand is highly recommended for more flattering light. Think about it...  Natural light pretty much comes from the sun. Getting great photos with natural light is easier during the morning hours or late afternoon hours when the light is not directly above you. With the sun at an angle the lighting for your image is better. The same goes for artificial lighting when placing your strobes or speedlights for an image

What you need:

  • Light stand
  • Hot shoe adaptor or umbrella holder
  • Umbrella or other light modifier
  • Wireless trigger or sync cord

Light modifiers are needed to make your light even more flattering and soft. Soft light on a subjects face is what were are going for. There are many types of modifiers such as:

  • Umbrella
  • Softbox
  • Beauty Dish
  • Reflector


I tend to use umbrellas with my speedlights to easily soften the light. With strobes I use softboxes when I want to soften and a beauty dish when I want strong light. What modifier you use will be determined by how you want your light to look. The modifier you use can also be determined by your subject. I like to use a beauty dish on a subject with softer skin to highlight the softness or on a male to show the rugged sculpture of a mans face. I actually think the beauty dish is my favorite modifier in certain situations. The umbrella is the most forgiving modifier in my opinion. Because the source of light is so big (depending on the size of your umbrella), the lighting is soft and flattering.

When using off camera flash we should also pay attention to the distance of the light source. The closer the light source is to the subject the softer the light is and the further the light source the harder the light is. Placement of your light is important because of the direction of your light. If the light is straight in front of your subject the image could turn out to look flat and dull. If you angle the light and raise it above your subject sort of like how the sun (natural light) is at an angled and softened by the clouds or window, then you have yourself some very flattering light. As a rule of thumb, 45 degree angle above your subject and 45 degrees left or right from the camera is ideal placement for your lighting if you are working with one light.

If you are working with more than one light then you have many options to make this image stunning. You can light the background, light the subjects face, use fill to open shadows on the subjects face, and hair light or rim light are a few options. The advantage of using off camera flash is it gives you options that you don’t have with natural lighting to create what you want to see.

Are you using natural light exclusively or do you use flash? Is your flash mostly on top of your camera?