Photography with a 580 EX II (off camera).

Strobist: Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 24-105mm IS F/6.3, 1/125th, ISO 200, Single 580 EX II (set to manual mode) Shot through White Umbrella - Camera Left. No HSS, triggered with ST-E2, Exposure Controlled by Fader ND filter.

My neighbor often sees me running around the front of my house chasing my kids around with my camera. He asked if I can take a few snaps of his daughter. I don't think he really knew quite my investment and experience in photography. It was about 12 noon on a super duper bright sunny day. In order to expose for the sky without maxing out my shutter speed and keeping some DOF, I threw on the Fader Filter ND. It was important for me to keep my shutter down under 1/250ths of a second. Forgive some of the shots, this is her first time in front of a camera, and she's only 13. We started in the studio (my living room), to get her a bit comfortable, then took it outdoors. I think she might have been a bit intimidated by all the equipment and assistants I had with me also.

Why not use High Speed Sync?
With a single 580 EX II, shooting through an umbrella, I wanted to use the maximum power output of my 1 flash. When going into HSS mode, the flash needs to pulse which reduces the power output. So by keeping my shutter speed to normal sync speed, I was able to use the full burst power. In actuality I only needed between 1/8th and 1/4 power. Staying at fractions of full power allows me to have super fast recycle times too.

Threw my subject into a shaded area to balance lighting, under exposed the sky using a Fader ND, and then filled my subject with a single 580 EX II off camera, shot through a White Umbrella, triggered by a Canon ST-E2. Very simple, portable, cheap, yet effective way to get quality fill flash outdoors. This method allows you to use any flash since the sync speed is below HSS needs. Too bad I didn't have someone shooting some BTS video, this would have been a great tutorial to share.

14 thoughts on “Photography with a 580 EX II (off camera).

  1. amani

    Hey Emm,
    What is ur set up in Temperature? was above 5200k? also all your pics comes from camera? or twicked litle bit in POST?
    Thsnks in advance

  2. Emm

    Post author

    @Salvador - If you have built in flash on your camera, pop it open. Change the camera to Manual mode (dial M). Then see how fast you can change the shutter speed on your camera. Basic flash can't fire faster than 1/200th-1/250th of a second.

    With special flashes you can use HSS (high speed sync) but that will also lower the power output of the flash. The flash is most powerful when it doesn't go into HSS mode.

  3. Salvador

    Hi, I really appreciate this post. Its helping a lot
    I know I will sound silly, but I cant understand what means "slow down the shutter to a safe sync speed" ? As flash syncs at high speeds, at lower speeds I thought it obviously syncd right? So what do you mean?
    I thought the ND filter was to be able to use wider apertures

    BTW what is a good ND filter, can you send a link to buy a good one? Thank you

  4. Emm

    Post author

    Yes it's line of sight, but if you don't plan on using HSS, just grab those Yongnuo RF-602's I just posted about. Get a good ND filter to really slow down the shutter to a safe sync speed.

  5. Juan

    Excelent as always! I have the same experience with my kids, they are tired of "test shots".

    About the setup with the ST-E2. I love it! Light and easy. I would love to see the limitations of the ST-E2, or how to use it properly, becausue after the fifth unsuccessful shot, I want to destroy the ST-E2!!!.

    Should I use the light always in front of the camera ? Should I point the "red plastic" to the ST-E2 and the flash to the subject ?

    Thank you!

  6. Colby

    Nice Shots!
    Excellent tutorial!
    You should do more "how you shot it" kind of things! Along with how to videos.

  7. Emm

    Post author

    Hey Kevin, sounds like you have the right gear already. A simple light stand, an umbrella + umbrella bracket, will get you a basic outdoor flash setup. Here's the set that I have.

    If you want to do what I did and under expose the ambient, you'll need an ND Filter. I would suggest getting a Variable Fader ND. You may lose some sharpness with cheap Fader ND filters, but that's the trade off. As you can see though, mine is still pretty sharp and so long as my client is happy about the images, i'm happy.

  8. Kevin

    Wow great subject to talk about! I've been trying to get into this kind of shooting for awhile now and your post is perfect for me. One question though, do you know where or what would be a cheap light setup? I already have a 430exII and a Ste-2 now i'm just looking to set up. Thank you!

  9. Emm

    Post author

    Of course! Neighbor rates obviously, but it was really fun for me to get and out and shoot. My kids get tired of me sometimes...

  10. Good stuff. I would have definitely loved to see some BTS footage. I'd like to get into more photography with my 7D and using flash. You got some good skills.

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