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3.3 Triggering Your Flashes

Flashes can be triggered in a number of ways. In this lesson you will learn how flashes can be triggered and get a recommendation for a simple triggering solution.

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3.3 Triggering Your Flashes

In this lesson, you will learn how flashes can be triggered and get a recommendation for a simple triggering solution. Triggering speed lights and strobes can be done in three basic ways. The first, and maybe the simplest, is through something called optical triggering. Optical triggering works like this when one of my flashes sees another flash fire, it fires. These optical triggers have sensors in them that react extremely fast. So you shouldn't have any syncing issues even if you're using multiple lights. All studio strobes have this optical triggering or optical slave function, and a lot of speed lights do, as well. You can get flashes to trigger optically with the built in flash on your camera as long as the camera can control the flash manually. If you don't have a manual mode for the built in flash on your camera, optical triggering is not going to work very well because your camera is going to be doing a pre-flash to meter the built in flash. That pre-flash will trigger all of the other flashes and they won't be able to recycle and trigger again in time for the photo. Some speed lights have an option to ignore the pre-flash and they work very well for optical triggering. You can also get your flashes to trigger optically by using a hot shoe manual flash on your camera. In this setup, you put a flash on your camera, and set the power low enough to trigger the flashes, and not affect the exposure. Because it's a basic manual flash, there won't be a pre-flash. So when it fires it will trigger all of the other flashes. The second way you can get your flashes to trigger is by using a radio trigger. Some manual speed lights like the YN560 Version 4 from Yongnuo have built in radio receivers in them. So, if you use these you only need to buy one trigger, and then you can control all the 560 Version 4s from that trigger. If you are using mix flashes like I am, you need another option. But don't worry, there are a lot of inexpensive and reliable options out there. I use these triggers from Yongnuo are called the RF 603C2. These are basic 16 channel digital triggers. They don't do TTL or high speed sync. They make the flash fire with the camera. And that's all you really need. The cool thing about these triggers is that they're all transceivers, meaning each one of these is both a transmitter and a receiver. This means that you can mix and match them on your cameras and your flashes, and you don't have to worry about losing your only transmitter and being stuck with a bunch of receivers. They also have the ability to connect to a Canon or a Nikon camera and remotely trigger the camera through this shutter release cable here, and trigger the flashes at the same time. So I have one of these triggers attached to my camera. I have another attached to this flash. And I have another one right here. I have this trigger connected to my camera via the hot shoe, and this shutter release cable. And with this setup I can trigger this camera and this flash at the same exact time, which is a super, super handy set up. The best part is that these are super, super cheap. You can pick up a pair of these for around $30 USD. Yep, you heard that right. $30 USD for two of these. Even if you don't have a Canon or Nikon camera, and you can't use the remote shutter release feature, these are still pretty killer triggers. I put one of these on my camera and one or two these on my flashes, and then I have another trigger that I keep in my pocket. This way, I can trigger the flashes, without triggering the camera, to take meter readings. So I can have my flash meter here. And I can trigger the flashes only by switching this to transmit. And then once I get my flashes dialed in, I switch this to transmit and receive. And I can fire the camera. This little trigger here only has three modes. It's got off, transmit and then transmit and receive. When I switch this to transmit it will fire just the speed lights or the strobes or whatever I have this attached to. But it won't fire the camera. So I can walk over and I can take meter readings just by pressing this button. Then when I get the flashes all set up the way I want, I can switch this to transmit and receive, and I'm ready to take the photo. This makes it a lot faster than making adjustments to my flashes and then running back to the camera every time I want to trigger them to take a meter reading. So it's a really, really cool set up. The third way to get your flashes to trigger is with a sync cable. The sync cable is pretty simple. You attach one side to your camera's PC sync support, and then you attach the other side to one of your flashes. Then when you go to take a picture, the flash will fire. It's extremely reliable because you have a hard connection here, but sometimes it can be a little bit annoying, because oftentimes the optical sync port on these triggers is disabled when you plug the sync cable in. This means that you have to walk back to the flash and hit the test fire button every time you want to take a meter reading, and this can be a little bit annoying. The set up that I usually use involves using a radio trigger to get one of the flashes to fire and then I use the basic optical triggering or optical slave function on the other flashes and everything usually works okay. So right now I have one trigger on my camera. I have one trigger on this flash. And when this flash goes off this strobe is going to go off. Now I can also do the exact same set up because I'm using this remote shutter release cable remotely so I don't have to keep walking back to my camera every time I want to make a new shot. So I can also use this trigger to do the exact same thing. Sometimes you run into a situation where the flash with the radio trigger is set up such that it won't make the other strobes or flashes fire. So if I take this guy right here and I set it right beside here and I fire off the system, the studio strobe is not gonna go off because this flash is not bouncing enough light into the optical sensor of this strobe here to make it fire. So in this case, you have a couple of options to fix the situation. So the first way I try to fix the situation is by simply adding another radio trigger. So I take another one of these very inexpensive radio triggers and I add a syncing cable to it, because on the back of all these there is a PC sync port here. And you can get a short little cables here that go from the PC sync port to whatever kind of port your light may have. In this case it's a one eighth inch mono jack or terminal here. So I can just spin this guy back here and plug this in. When I fire my camera everything's going to fire just fine. Usually, I like to take these triggers and mount them somehow. I don't like to just let them dangle here from the cable. Sometimes that's okay. I don't like that. So, I usually take just a little plastic, this is just a little hot shoe, little footy stand here, and I attach that to the bottom of the trigger. And then I take just a little elastic hairband here. And I attach it right to the stand. It's really really simple. And it's pretty sturdy. This isn't going anywhere. Now does this mean you have to have as many radio triggers as you do lights? Not necessarily. Sometimes it's good to have a few extra triggers for your lights, but there is another way you can get these to fire as well. If you had a long PC sync cable, I could actually just use this trigger and take a long piece you think cable, this one happens to be like 20 feet long, and I can attach this trigger here to this light and that would work as well. I can also take this cable and I can attach it to my camera and plug in the strobe that way and everything would fire just fine. And another option is, I can use one of these even more inexpensive optical slave triggers with a hot shoe attachment on the top to trigger this strobe. A lot of these will have a PC sync port on the side, and you can find these online for around ten to $12 USD. So in this particular case, what I could do is plug this into the strobe. So all I have to do is take this little optical trigger here and point it in the direction of one of the other flashes that's firing, and now I can get everything to fire exactly the way I want. So it's another kind of solution for this problem if you didn't have enough radio triggers. And I definitely don't have enough radio triggers for all of my strobes but there's lots of different ways to solve this problem. Usually if you can get one or two of your flashes to fire, the optical triggering of all the other strobes will work just fine. Now, if any of this talk of radio triggers or optical triggers or optical slaves was a little bit confusing, don't worry. It's going to all make sense when you get to the demo portion of this course, and you see it in action. In the next few lessons you're gonna see how all these ideas come together, as I start building up this photo to match that reference illustration. So check that out coming up next.

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