Getting Started with Off Camera Flash

When I first became interested in experimenting with off-camera flash, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of information I found online, and didn’t even know where to begin!

While off-camera flash techniques are many and varied, I thought I would share the way in which I put together my first studio lighting setup, in the hopes that it will help some of you figure out how to go about creating your own set up. 

Like I said, there are plenty of options out there, but this is a good solution if you already have a flash for your camera. Not the pop-up flash, but the separate flash that you mount on your camera’s hot shoe. This is not a tutorial on lighting so much as some tips that will help you acquire the items needed to fire your flash off-camera. 

Here’s what you will need:

  • Camera/flash
  • Triggers (Catus, PocketWizard, etc.)
  • Light Stand & Hot Shoe mount
  • Diffuser


In order to fire the flash off-camera using this method, you will need a set of triggers. In my experience, Cactus and PocketWizard are great products and work in similar fashions. I started off with Cactus Triggers.

The way the triggers work is that you have two pieces of equipment – a trigger, and a receiver. The trigger attaches to your camera’s hot shoe mount, and the flash to the receiver. When the shutter release button is pressed on your camera, the trigger emits a frequency to the receiver that will then fire the flash. The only thing you need to make sure of is that your trigger and receiver are set to the same channel (there is a dial on the side of each that will let you select the channel). 

Light Stand & Hot Shoe Mount

At this point, you may find it helpful to purchase a light stand kit, which will come with a light stand, a hot shoe mount to attach your flash to the light stand, and various diffusers to soften and direct the light from your flash. Here is a great starter kit.

Light stands typically come with a screw mount, which allows you to change out what type of head you put on the light stand, as different lights require different heads. For a flash, you will need a hot shoe mount. Attached to the flash, it looks like this (the flash is on top):

Getting Started with Off-Camera Flash


With the kit I linked above from B&H, you will also get flash umbrellas, which will soften and diffuse the light, in order to prevent harsh shadows your subject. In the image above, you will see the silver rod going through the hot shoe mount – that is where you attach your umbrella.

As you can see here, this is what it looks like when you put it all together:

Getting Started with Off-Camera Flash


What I love about this setup is that it is compact, and I can use it anywhere – everything is battery powered, so no electrical outlet is required. This isn’t the most powerful lighting setup, by far, but it really is perfect for creating just enough light for portraits, weddings, and even fill flash in outdoor settings. 

Stay tuned for Part Two to come tomorrow!