Thursday, March 27, 2008

11. Other Great Flash Sites

There are lot's of other great blogs that discuss flash techniques, so I decided to reference them here. The things I put in my blogs are extensions and amplifications to things I have read in these other sites plus additional things I have discovered during my wedding and event photography.

Planet Neil
Neil van Niekerk is a wedding photographer who uses both Nikon and Canon speedlights and describes his methods for making the lighting from the flash subtle and with a natural appearance.

David Hobby describes the equipment needed and dozens of ways to use speedlights off-camera. I highly recommend you read his blogs under 'Lighting 101'.


Jack MacDonald said...


Thanks very much for a hugely informative site. You have really raised the bar on CLS info.

Some background -- I bookmarked your site about one year ago when I had only an SB-26 for my D80, and was learning some Strobist techniques. At the time, your site was not beneficial to me because I did not have an iTTL flash. I have since acquired an SB800, and revisited your site to learn more about CLS. I make the following observation, not as a criticism or a flame, but as a way for me to wrap my head around two operating methods: CLS versus Strobist (manual) techniques.

It seems to me that both methods require learning and mastering their own suite of skills and info. With CLS, you need to understand how the equipment works, what are its limitations, and how to apply it to various situations. For example, you differentiate between using TTL and TTL-BL for indoor and outdoor locations. That was completely new to me, and I would have benefitted from reading your site about 3 weeks ago when I was trying to using CLS on a family vacation! On the other hand, Strobist techniques require that you understand manual modes of the camera and flash, and learn how to adjust the equipment to achieve your desired goals. On the one hand, you invest in learning about a very sophisticated and capable flash system, and on the other hand, you must master manual techniques that are less technologically advanced, but more transferrable to other equipment.

Not to say that one method is superior to the other; they are just different approaches.

Would you say that's a valid observation? I would be interested to hear your opinion about Strobist techniques.

Jack MacDonald

Russ MacDonald said...

Hi Jack,

Thanks for the positive feedback!

You are absolutely right! The information I describe in my blogs is more about how the TTL system works than about creative positioning of the flash.

However, I should point out that I am also a big fan of David Hobby and his Strobist techniques. In fact, I maintain a link to his blog as you can see right here in my article #11. I think he has a link to my site as well.

Strobist techniques mostly rely in getting the flash off-camera. This is a really useful thing to do at times, but not good at all at other times.

For instance, in my main business, I shoot weddings and events, and I rarely take the flash off the camera for two reasons: 1) as soon as you move a flash off-camera, you have to take special precautons to avoid extremely bad flash shadows, and 2) the setup time for fancy off-camera work is too long for a typical wedding. They simply won't wait for the photographer. The most time I ever have is just enough to set up two umbrellas with SB-800s in them. There's no time for stringing PC cords, or using a light meter or taking lots of test shots. You have to shoot quickly and accurately and get it right the first time!

The Strobist off-camera techniques are extremely useful for certain types of photography, when there is plenty of time to set up. I use his techniques occassionally, but never during a wedding. That's when the on-camera bounced flash with a big diffuser is in its domain.

The main reason I wrote my blogs was to explain how the CLS works and what Nikon left out of their users manuals. You see, I used to be a design engineer at a major corporation working on cameras and flashes, and I knew when I read the Nikon manuals, that they were very confusing about how TTL and TTL-BL system worked, and misleading or sometimes flat out wrong. I also read several books by well-known authors that got it wrong too, so I decided to begin documenting what I knew, and my blogs have evolved from there.

When shooting weddings and events like I do, probably 99% of the time I want the flash to be on-camera or, at least, on a bracket directly above the lens to eliminate flash shadow.

When I shoot creative flash shots, like shots at a dock by the river at night with a full moon, I often do use multiple flashes off-camera, but I usually trigger them wirelssly using CLS rather than a pc cord.

Thanks for you thoughtful comments,


Unknown said...


until you will write your book about Nikon speedlight system (and you have more than enough material in here already) would you recommend "On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography" by Neil van Niekerk?

Thank you and have a Blessed New Year !

Ioan Horvat

PS: Is there a plan for a book on the near future?

Russ MacDonald said...

Hi Ioan,

Yes, I recommend anything that Neil writes! He uses many of the same techniques that I do. He is a great photographer!

As far as me writing a book; that is way too much like work! I enjoy writing the blogs, but my real love is the photography behind them.

Thanks for the nice feedback!