Understand How to Use Off-Camera Flash in 10 Minutes or Less

Last week, I asked the community on our Facebook page what they would like us to do a video tutorial on.  About half of you answered that you wanted to see step-by-step in simple terms how to shoot flash photography. Dustin and I put together this video yesterday to explain off-camera flash photography.

In the video on this page, we frequently refer to this article where we give specific gear recommendations about what to buy if you’re anxious to learn flash photography.  We spent THOUSANDS of dollars on inexpensive flash photography gear on eBay and Amazon over the last year to find the best-quality inexpensive gear, and recommended the winners on that page.

how to use off camera flash

Dustin is TERRIFIED of flash. Seriously. I catch him crying in the corner all the time.

How Do I Fire a Flash Wirelessly?

Off-camera flash is actually quite simple.  All you need to fire a flash off camera is (1) a speedlight flash, (2) a trigger/receiver to wirelessly fire the flash, and (3) your camera. If you’re note sure what a speedlight flash is, you should read this handy FAQ on flash photography, where I explain some common terms in flash photography.  But a speedlight is basically just a small flash that is capable of attaching to the hot shoe on top of your camera, or being fired off-camera.

Once you have your speedlight, you need a device to make the flash fire.  There are three ways to fire a flash wirelessly: (1) Built-in capabilities, (2) Infrared trigger/receiver, 0r (3) Radio trigger/receiver.

Canon and Nikon (I’m not sure about Sony) have both released cameras and flashes in the last year that enable the photographer to fire a flash wirelessly without the need for a trigger receiver.  The only trouble with this solution is that they are usually using infrared technology, which has some major limitations because it won’t fire without line-of-sight to the flash, and it doesn’t do well outdoors when there is a lot of sunlight.  Also, infrared won’t fire the flash from very far way.  The other trouble with using this built-in capability is that it requires the photographer to figure out how to make the flash fire wirelessly by going through the complicated menu system on the camera.

The second solution is to use an infrared trigger/receiver system.  This means that a small flash trigger device will attach to the hot-shoe of the camera, and you’ll put a simple receiver device under the flash to receive the signal from the camera that it’s time to fire the flash.  An infrared trigger/receiver works just fine indoors, but the sunlight can dramatically impact the ability of the system to fire the flash consistently.  Also, I usually only achieve about 20 feet (6.1 meters) between the flash and the camera before the infrared systems start to fail.

The last solution really is the best.  Radio triggers are amazingly consistent, and will work in any lighting conditions outdoors from 200 yards (183 meters) away.  Fortunately, if you buy the off-brand radio triggers/receivers, then it doesn’t cost much more than the infrared systems.

What Else Do I Need for Flash Photography?  Do I Need a Softbox and a Light Stand?

You certainly don’t NEED anything else to fire your flash off-camera, but you’ll soon find that you want a light stand to hold your flash for you, as well as some kind of light modifier like a softbox or an umbrella.  If you’re not sure what the difference is between a softbox and an umbrella, then read this article.

You’ll also need a flash bracket to attach the speedlight to the light stand.


Don’t be afraid of off-camera flash photography!  It may seem difficult, but if you simply go out on a limb and buy the basic flash photography gear that we recommend, you’ll soon find that it’s really quite simple to get started. You might also consider taking my 30-Day Online Portrait Photography Class to learn more about flash photography and lighting.


  1. Leishell Correll

    Hi! Thank you for this info! I have a canon 60d and I’m wondering if those flash brackets you recommended will work with it? I am interested in purchasing a flash. I recently used a 600ex rt and was very intimidated. It did great but I found it confusing. I need simplicity, and being a natural light photographer, rarely use flash. Can you tell me if these recommendations work with canons 60d or point me to a flash set up like this that will? Thank you!

  2. Emily

    Having trouble getting the yongnuo rf-603n to fire my sb-700 with use of my Nikon D-600.

    I don’t know if I have the wrong settings or what I am doing wrong. In the video it looked like you just hooked them up and they worked to fire the flash but that is not the case with me.


  3. Bruce Borrowman

    I have a new Nikon SB700.
    I also have my original SB400.
    What receiver unit would I need to fire my SB400 remotely controlled by my SB700.
    Have been looking around and keep getting confused.

    Great video and good site.
    Will be adding you to my FB.
    Thank you
    Bruce B

    1. Kevin

      I just picked up the Phottix Odin and it works great with the Nikon SB-700 and SB-800!

  4. Drew

    I also use a 60D, and just use 430exii’s for the off camera flashes. They are simple, hardy and do everything you need. As for triggering i use a yongnuo 568exii master, which is very inexpensive for a master flash unit.

  5. Marcio

    Hi there, I recently bought a flash called Yongnuo YN568EX II. I was trying different modes firing away. Don’t know what happened but the camera reads the flash but the light doesn’t flash. I’ve set the flash to factory settings but still nothing. Do you know what could be causing it?

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