I don't ever use flash but I would like to start learning about portraits and lighting. I have a mainly unused Canon 430ex which I would like to use off camera with a softbox or bouncing of an umbrella. I am pretty sure I cannot fire it remotely from either my Canon 6D or 60D without additional hardware. I am a total "flash newbie" so I don't know mych about flash transmitters, etc. What sort of equipment/trigger/transmitter do I need to fire my flash remotely. I figure some sort of a radio control? Recommendations welcomed.

  • 1
    6D, and you are a landscape photographer! No need for flash! :P
    – dpollitt
    Mar 20, 2013 at 21:10
  • True, the low-light capabilities in this camera is amazing. But I do want to try better pics of my kids and family. Adding drama with a side light, experimenting, etc. Bouncing the flash off the walls and the ceiling doesn't do it. Mar 21, 2013 at 0:41

6 Answers 6


I use this: http://amzn.com/B002W3IXZW from cowboy studio or if you have more money I would get this: http://amzn.com/B00BBQ8IDS from Pocketwizard which was just released. Many people also praise the inexpensive Yongnuo transmitter/triggers.

The 60D even has a built in wireless transmitter. The 60D's built-in flash can act as a controller or commander to multiple, remote wireless flashes. It is a pretty great feature first introduced in the 7D. As far as I can tell, the 430EX will work in slave mode with the 60D in this way. I haven't looked too far into it though to confirm.

You can optically trigger with the 60D since it has a built in flash, without any additional equipment. It just isn't all that reliable and requires line of sight.

The 6D does not have a built in transmitter unfortunately, or a flash, so you need to either buy a 580ex/600ex style flash or a flash trigger like I linked to above.

In essence, if you are looking to use one system with both flashes, you will need to invest in some new equipment.

Finally, I would highly recommend buying this book if you are new to flash on the Canon system: Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography by NK Guy http://amzn.com/B004J4VVN8 A great deal of it is also available here for free: http://www.photonotes.org/articles/eos-flash/

  • 1
    Thanks for this awesome answer! The hardware is not as expensive either. I will definitely get that book too. Mar 21, 2013 at 0:48
  • @Jakub - It is easy, since I have the same equipment as you and have followed a similar path. I'm no expert at flash, but the book did help me out a great deal.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 21, 2013 at 0:49

In addition to a radio trigger, you might consider an off camera shoe cord. They come in lengths from 1.5' to 10'. They are a very economical option for getting the flash off camera while still retaining TTL capability. This shot was taken using an off shoe cord in a dimly lit banquet hall. I hand held the flash with my left hand about 18-24" away from the camera in my right hand.

Class Reunion

If you do buy a cheap wireless trigger, you might as well get this version of the Cowboy Studio radio trigger. For only about six bucks more you get two receivers with the transmitter. Since you will be operating the flashes manually with this setup, another cheap flash with manually controllable power will expand your options exponentially.

Using a manual-only trigger: Once you get the power on your flash(es) set in the neighborhood of what you need, you don't need to keep running back and forth to make fine adjustments. Instead, control the flash exposure from your camera with the aperture setting and adjust the shutter speed for the amount of ambient light you want. There's an excellent Strobist blog entry that explains in great detail how to do this. In fact, Strobist is a great place to learn about using flash. The Lighting 101 series covers the basics and the blog covers all sorts of scenarios, uses, and how to get a certain look with off camera flash. He even has a wide selection of articles on how to make your own cheap, DIY light modifiers.

With a simple manually adjusted two light setup (plus using ambient sources) you can go from natural looks that aren't obviously carefully lit shots to very dramatic results.

The shot below is an HDR combination of two images shot at the same exposure of a restaurant decorated for Halloween. My friend, who is one of the restaurant's owners, was behind the bar for only one of the exposures. Combining the two exposures gives him a ghostly, transparent appearance. There was plenty of ambient light spilling into the room from the large glass windows behind camera left. The overhead lighting was dimmed much lower than normal. One strobe was off camera right at fairly high power pointed at the spooky guy hanging on the right column. The spill from that light provided a lot of fill to balance the ambient daylight. The other flash is on the floor pointed up at the other vertical column decoration, I had a screen between the flash and the camera, but decided to leave some of the spill light in the scene to add to the surreal quality.


This shot was taken a little later. The daylight coming through the front windows had faded and the scene was lit by a primary flash at full power on a table to the right. I stopped down to f/4 to control the flash power. A slow shutter speed (1/4 sec) was used to allow the dim ambient light coming through the front windows to the right of camera to light the background. The overhead lights were dimmed to almost nothing to keep from blowing out the bare bulb in the light fixture.

Spooky 2

  • Thanks for your answer Michael! Good point. I did some research last night and "getting the flash off camera while still retaining TTL capability" might be important for a flash newbie like myself. I am also considering strobes now but I will start off simple - transmitter or a cable or both. Mar 21, 2013 at 13:24
  • 2
    Don't forget to check out Strobist.com. It is an awesome resource for flash photography on so many different levels.
    – Michael C
    Mar 21, 2013 at 14:42

This Canon site article: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2012/eos6d_builtin_flash_alternative.shtml

discussed a nice alternative--a 90ex speedlight which can act as a Master unit with a 430exII as a slave. I have just ordered one to use with my Canon 6D and will see if it works as indicated. I also like that it is quite small, and can act as a built-in flash substitute without the heft of a 430/580/600 speedlight.

  • 1
    +1 I use a 90EX on a 6D to trigger a 580EX. It works quite well.
    – Caleb
    Oct 29, 2013 at 16:09

There are several methods you can use to fire the 430EX remotely, and while most require additional equipment, not all of them do.

Canon wireless e-TTL (IR)

Canon has two built-in wireless systems for remotely firing flashes with its cameras: a radio system and an infrared system. None of your units speak the radio system, but the 430EX can be used as a slave in the IR system, and the 60D's pop-up flash can be used as an IR master. Unfortunately, the 6D has no pop-up flash, so it needs an add-on IR (really, near-IR) master unit on the hotshoe (90EX, 550EX, 580EX, 580EXII, 600EX-RT, or ST-E2). This system allows the camera to communicate eTTL-II, HSS, and power control via ratios to a 430EX, but the 430EX cannot be controlled via your camera menus, because it's too old. The 430EXII, 580EXII, and 600EX-RT can be menu controlled.

The major drawback of this system is that it requires Canon wireless TTL-capable gear at both ends of the connection, and that the system is line-of-sight and range limited because of the nature of near-infrared optical triggering. The sensor has to "see" the master signal, so flashes cannot be hidden behind solid objects that block the light from the master. The signal can be overpowered in bright sunlight and without bounce surfaces nearby. This system tends to work better in studio conditions than outdoors in the daytime.

Sync cables

You can use a TTL sync cable that connect hotshoe-to-foot and passes all the contact/pin information through. But most of the ones you'll find are made for using a flash bracket, and are not particularly long. There are some dealers that make longer TTL sync cables, and others have DIYed them out of CAT5 cables, but these will be the exception rather than the rule.

The 6D has a PC sync port. But neither the 60D nor the 430EX do, so using the more standard manual sync-only PC sync cable is an option, but you may have to purchase hotshoe-to-sync port and flash-foot-to-sync port adapters that can be used to cable the camera to the flash and allow the camera to fire the flash remotely. But only the sync signal is communicated. TTL and HSS are not communicated.

And of course, the major con of both types of cables is that you're wired.

"dumb" optical slaves

You can also connect, via a sync port adapter or to the hotshoe, a "dumb" optical slave that will fire the flash when a flash burst is sensed. Again, this is a manual-only method of syncing and does not communicate TTL or HSS. And with Canon gear, it's best to stick with the green-based Sonia triggers, as some of these "peanut" slaves are known to be incompatible with Canon EX speedlights. The main weakness of this system are those of any optical system: line of sight and range limitations if used outdoors in bright light.

radio triggers

This is the most popular and possibly the best value for money these days for remotely triggering flashes. Radio triggers now come in a wide variety of pricepoints and feature sets, and vary on reliability, robustness, cost, and capability. Some of them can communicate nearly the whole flash hotshoe protocol so you have remote power control, TTL, HSS, etc. while others are simple manual triggers.

The main advantage of radio triggers are that they remove the line-of-sight and range limitations (although radio interference can cause problems), and unlike the "dumb" optical slaves, many units attach directly to flash feet and camera hotshoes, so adapters are not be required.

See also: Recommendations for Wireless Flash Triggers?

  • Don't forget, you can also use E-TTL sync cables to connect the hot shoe to the off camera flash. They come in various lengths of about 1.5 feet to 10 feet or more. You then retain all of the capabilities you would have if the flash were attached directly to the hot shoe.
    – Michael C
    Dec 15, 2014 at 23:27
  • @MichaelClark good point. I'll update the sync cables section.
    – inkista
    Dec 15, 2014 at 23:38

I do confirm the 60D works with the 430ex/ex II directly with no additional trigger. The 430ex is a slave. You can drive up to 3 groups of flashes (A, B, C) with individual power ratio.


I'm using radiopopper nano transmitter and receiver to fire my 430Exll from 6D.

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