OCF? Yes, “Off-Camera Flash”.

The worst place for your flash is on your camera, near the lens. Taking the flash off camera is one of the best things you can do. And so why are you not yet doing it?

Look at a shot like this:

Took a long time to set up? No – student Jeff and I did this in a few minutes earlier this evening, right on my kitchen counter.

This needed off-camera flash. Here’s what we used:

  • One small flash (a speedlight) on our right, shooting though an umbrella.
  • With that, the shot looked OK but a little bland, so Jeff suggested a red light behind. Good idea: another flash behind the skull.
  • This second flash was fitted with a Honl Photo 1/4″ grid, to stop the light from going “everywhere” and spoiling the shot.
  • It was also fitted with a Honl Photo red gel, as you can see, for great effect.

All this setup looked like this:

A few other notable points:

  • I am firing the flashes using Pocketwizards, so that Jeff (who shoots Nikon) and I (who shoot Canon) can both make the same images.
  • This means I used a light meter to measure the light, and hence to set the flashes’ power.
  • The umbrella is close to the skull in order to be able to be at low power. This in order to not light up the rest of the room. (This is the “inverse square law”).
  • I am not using lens filters… they would add ruinously more flare.

You can do this too. And even simpler: use remote TTL. A Nikon or modern Canon camera, two flashes (SB600/700; 430EX) and a few affordable stands, some ditto modifiers (I use the excellent Honl range of modifiers), a few ditto brackets: this stuff is NOT complicated or expensive. It’s simple once you know.

Like brain surgery.

Ah. But the difference between this and brain surgery is that brain surgery takes years to learn, and this takes.. well, hours. I recommend you learn to take your flash off-camera… today. And you will never look back.


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