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This is a very basic question, and I have looked through different resources including the Strobist Lighting 101 tutorial and a few books (Scott Kelby, Neil van Niekerk). Some of the limitations I have found in them is that they recommend equipment that are not easily available in India or on the expensive side (the strobist promises minimal expense to get started though). Some also assume a studio like setup, though people have suggested off camera flash for home use too, albeit without many details.

Apart from this, some of them are quite old and some of the newer DSLRs (7D-60D-600D\T3i onwards) seem to support off camera flash without the need for cables. What I have pieced together so far is:

  1. You need some way for the camera to trigger the flash remotely - either through a wire or wirelessly
  2. Need for some place to hold the flash (of course)
  3. Adjusting flash power and exposing correctly through trial & error (unless using TTL which seems to be an expensive proposition?)

I have the Canon 550D (doesn't have built in wireless flash AFAIK) along with a Metz 44 AF-1 flash that supports slave mode operation. What do I need to get started with off camera flash with my current equipment for home use without too many cables if possible?

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3 Answers 3

The Strobist site you linked to contains everything you need to know, and you've summarized the essentials pretty well. Absolute minimum, you'll need a couple of hot shoe converters and an appropriate wire to connect them. That gives you a way to trigger the flash, and it'll probably set you back about US$20. The rest is gravy -- you can improvise ways to hold the flash and different ways to modify it. But if you don't have a way to trigger it, you can't get it off the camera.

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Check ebay.com, ask sellers if they'll ship to India before buying. Lots of Chinese companies that will fit a tight budget.

You can get remote triggers for ~$30. I have Cactuses that work great, YongNuo is another option, tons of them.

If your flash has optical slave mode, you can trigger it with your on-camera flash. While it's a less flexible solution, it's something to start with. Optionally you can get a separate optical trigger for ~$10, but it's better to invest in radio triggers I mentioned above.

To have TTL while having your flash off there are some (more expensive) wireless solutions. Another option is to use a cord like this. I've bought mine used for ~$20. Though it's length is very limited.

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Thanks. I found some of these options listed on ebay India - cgi.ebay.in/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261150502661 & ebay.in/itm/… –  ab.aditya Jan 28 '13 at 9:05

Connecting to a flash and getting it off-camera is achieved via one of the following: 1) hot shoe, 2) PC Sync port on camera, 3) Wireless ETTL remote system, 4) Wireless manual remote system, 5) Remote slave.

1) Obviously, you can connect a flash to your hot shoe, and get a bit of off-camera flash support using a cable. This is limited to the length of your cable of course, but it does offer full control of the (single) flash unit.

2) Your camera does not offer a flash connector, called a PC Sync port, and therefore this is not an option for you. This can be used just as a hot shoe cable is used, but more often it plugs into other systems, like power packs or a wireless ETTL system.

3) Your camera does not itself support wireless ETTL. You need to purchase a system for it to work. Newer Canon camera support a new wireless system. From Canon you can purchase a ST-E2 system or newer ST-E3-rt, but it only works with Canon flashes and a few other 3rd party. I don't know if your Metz supports the ST-E2, a quick glance suggests not. You can also get systems from RadioPopper, and PocketWizard, that can use your flash.

4) Slightly cheaper alternatives use radio to transmit the flash trigger signal, and ignore the ETTL signals. Cactus, Cowboy Studio, etc are familiar 'brands'. These consist of a master that attaches to your hotshoe, and slaves that attach to the hotshoe connector of your flash, and simply trigger your flash to fire. To be useful, your flash must be capable of manual adjustment on the flash unit itself.

5) Remote slaves simply trigger the flash unit to fire when it 'sees' a flash from another source, typically your camera. Since you have an on-board flash on your camera, this might work for you. The trick comes into the slave/flash unit on your Metz. The Canon system actually fires TWO flashes everytime it goes off. The first flash is lower power, and lights the scene and provides exposure and flash power calibration to the camera computer. Then the camera fires the flash a second time, using settings calculated from the first lower power flash. This second flash also opens the shutter, which does not happen with the first flash. Its so fast you do not notice. BUT, flash slaves do, and often they will fire with this first flash, therefore not firing with the second flash, and the open shutter. The only way to know if this works is to test it with your flash. Typically, slaves that claim to be 'digital' do not trigger with the pre-flash.

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Thanks for the details. I assume that the equipment in links you have mentioned in points 4 & 5 are not system dependent since they are not using ETTL (barring the digital caveat for the remote slaves). –  ab.aditya Jan 28 '13 at 9:03
    
Thats correct, items in 4 and 5 are mostly 'universal'. See the compatibility notes on the Amazon page for the Cowboy Studio model as an example. –  cmason Jan 28 '13 at 15:37
    
#3: the ST-E3 (radio master) won't work with the 44 AF-1 (optical slave); the ST-E2 will. The 44 AF-1 can be used as a wireless eTTL slave with Canon's optical system. –  inkista Apr 30 at 19:08

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