Off-camera flash

KillerbobKillerbob Posts: 732Member
edited June 2013 in Nikon Flashes
I want to move my SB-900 off the D800, to get it above the lens and not create shadow.

I know that I can trigger the SB-900 using the wireless (Commander/Remote) mode, using the built-in flash to control the SB-900, without the built-in flashing as well (just the pre-flash to communicate the SB-900). But, I am under the impression that I get more control of the SB-900 when I use one of the cords, SC-28 or SC-29.

What's the deal, i.e. what do I loose by using the 100% wireless solution vs. using one of the cords? And what would I get using the SU-800, is that "just" to talk wirelessly to several groups, or is there a feedback mechanism?
Post edited by Killerbob on


  • GarethGareth Posts: 159Member
    I want to move my SB-900 off the D800, to get it above the lens and not create shadow.
    I think you'll be disappointed with off camera flash if you are really looking for less shadows. Putting your flash off camera will move the shadows from behind your subject to where they are visible.

    Why not use the commander mode on your D800? You don't need to buy anything, you have control over multiple flash and no cables. An SC just acts like an extension of your hotshoe, nothing more nothing less.

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited June 2013
    Cords have some disadvantages, they get in the way and are of limited length,

    The disadvantage of the Nikon IR wireless system is, it cannot "see" round corners and has limited range

    the long term solution is Pocket wizards, or similar, which use radio, not IR

    I cannot think of any difference in functionality of the three

    for shadow less lighting; you need a soft box, ring flash, umbrella, light Panel, cubelite or simply use an on flash diffuser and bounce off the ceiling, or walls
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited June 2013
    Putting your flash off camera will move the shadows from behind your subject to where they are visible.
    for shadow less lighting; you need a soft box, ring flash, umbrella, light Panel, cubelite or simply use an on flash diffuser and bounce off the ceiling, or walls
    Anything that is not a ring flash will produce shadows, especially if you bounce the flash somewhere, or use a softbox. The only difference of a softbox vs. hard light is the softness of the shadows, which is dependent on the size of the light source: The larger the surface of the light, the softer the shadow (which is why you get a very similar effect to a softbox when you bounce the light somewhere).

    If you use direct light from the SB-900 flash, your light source is very small, and hence produces a very hard shadow. If you move the flash to just above the lens to imitate a ring flash, your light will still be very hard, and you will still get a shadow, it's just gonna be the smallest possible shadow (you can't bring your light source any closer to the lens) before using a ring flash (which eliminates shadows because they're evenly "illuminated away", you could say.

    Those cords are good and also rather hassle-free for any close-camera operation. There are a number of non-Nikon alternatives that are good (Yongnuo etc.), some even better; the Nissin for example has a shoe on top of the male adapter, so you can slide the mounted flash on top of the camera for "parking": That makes it rather high, but still it's a handy feature sometimes.

    The bigger hassle starts with the flash itself: If you don't have any way of positioning the flash where you want it (a mount etc.) operating the camera while always holding the flash in position can be rather nerve-wrecking.

    So I'd rather worry about how to get that flash positioned than about the cable.
    Post edited by FlowtographyBerlin on
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    Sort of repeating what the others have said, the cords are great in that it's an extention of your hotshoe so you will get a flash without worrying about line of sight obstructions or misfires for other reasons. Although the cords can be linked to get your flash further away from the camera (a la Joe McNally) they can be very clumsy. On my second real portrait session outdoors I shot with the SB-900 on a light stand connected to the D800 with a SB-28 cord. I kept the light at no more than arm's length either to the left of right of my lens and slightly higher.

    Decreasing shadows and softening shadows can involve several different techniques. Look into and experiment with bouncing your flash off of a wall or ceiling to light your subject. That's best if the wall/ceiling are white because the light on your subject will take on the color tone of that surface. The more you research the more detailed info you're going to find on the proximity of your light to your subject. Such as the closer the light is to your subject the softer the shadows, the further the light is from your subject the harder the shadows. Small light source = hard shadows, large light source = softer shadows. It surprised me to learn that the sun in a cloudless sky is considerd a small light source and the sun in an overcast sky is considered a large light source.

    As Sevencrossing mentioned, look into light modifiers such as softboxes and umbrellas which can change the character of the shadows. Each has pros and cons. Some of my best close-up portraits have been taken with a softbox only about 3 feet from the subject's face with the SB-900 on like 1/16th or 1/32nd power. It's the opposite of what most would think but it provided beautiful light, light falloff, and soft shadows.

    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    One thing on functionality _ the IR focusing light works with the SC-28 or SC-29 but does not work with some of the cheaper copies . I do not think it works with any of the wireless systems
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    @ Killerbob - First, you do want to get the flash off the camera. It will generally do wonders for your pictures, unless you want them to have a 50's newspaper look to them.

    How you want them to look and what kind of constraints you have to budgets and sets will be your guide(s).

    Rx4Photo gave you the biggest clue to watch for in lighting. Big lights are soft, small lights are harsh, and what they are might not be apparent.

    Time plays a role, too. You can sync your camera to 1/4000th with the SB900 (maybe faster, I didn't look at the manual) but at a terrific throw away of light, and I think only by using the Commander (either built in or a flash in commander mode - I have an SB900 for that or SU-800). The latter effect is awesome during the day, and if you have several speedlights to overpower the sun, it's cool.

    Daisy-chaining several SC-27/28s will in-line one flash with TTL with fill flash using exposure compensation.

    My recommendation would be to get the longer cord first, along with some light modifiers for the flash as well. You'll be surprised how much more you'll get out of your shots.

    My best,

  • KillerbobKillerbob Posts: 732Member
    Wow - lots of info from you all - thanks!

    I'll get the SC-29 cord, in order to have full connectivity between the D800 and the SB900. Then I'll move the SB900 of the camera, using an RRS flash bracket. For the second SB900 I'll depend on the Commander/Remote options between the two SB900s.

    I have access to softboxes, so that's next on my learning road...
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Any of the radio trigger solutions are better than the IR.

    I am using the pixel kings which have been simple, reliable, and cheap. Others are also good.

    Regards ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • MrD200MrD200 Posts: 4Member
    Fiddlesticks! I have been using the Nikon CLS system for years and it works awesomely indoors; it has even triggered a flash that was deep in one of my pockets.
    If you want softer light, put your SB900 on a light stand and point it at a big white wall so that it bounces from the wall to your subject. For the softest light, do what the professionals do and hang a couple of yards of white diffusion cloth (or a white shower curtain) from thumbtacks in the ceiling (or a pair of light stands) and shoot your flash through that. Umbrellas, Westcott Apollo softboxes, Softlighters, Lastolite Hot Rod EZ Boxes, they all work great. It is often magical the way that CLS is able to calculate flash exposure.
    One accessory is essential, however, the NIkon SG31R infrared panel. It's cheap and totally prevents your popup flash from affecting your exposure. That little accessory is what really made the difference for me.

    If you want to keep your flash on the camera, put a black FunFoam or cardboard snoot on it and swivel the head so it is pointing at a wall and shoot that way (using the Slow Sync flash setting). The bounced light will astound you with the way it gives shape to your subject's face. Add a 36-inch white popup reflector on the other side and you'll be blown away by the difference it makes.
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