I have a couple TTL flashes (Nikon SB-910s) and also a a couple of PocketWizards but I see on the internet that there are triggers that support TTL and that confuses me. If I am understanding correctly, TTL is dependent on the focal point of your lens, so if TTL flash is sitting on your camera they yes TTL has a meaning because the flash is in the same distance from the subject as the focal point of your lens but when we take the TTL flash off camera and put it like two meters away then to me TTL is meaningless. If that assumption is correct then what do they even mean by Wireless Triggers that support TTL? In that case do they just mean you can manually set the power and zoom of each remote flash without having to walk to them? So basically just setting zoom and power remotely is what they mean by TTL triggers?


TTL is dependent on the focal point of your lens

This is not the case. Some flashes have an automatic zoom, which automatically adjusts to the focal length of the lens.

so if TTL flash is sitting on your camera they yes TTL has a meaning because the flash is in the same distance from the subject as the focal point of your lens

No, not necessarily. You can angle the flash in pretty much any direction, even to fire the light behind you, in the opposite direction that the camera is facing.

TTL takes all that into consideration, because it measures the flash exposure through the lens, as Detlev describes it.

If you angle the flash in any direction, at least those that I own stop the automatic zoom adjustment, because as you say: it makes no sense.

  • so TTL helps with two things: How much power and what zoom? and in cases that you said as an example, although its zoom won't be useful, still it is useful for calculation of power? Jun 5 '15 at 17:27
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    sorry for the confusion, the zoom is not part of TTL, there are flashes that no zoom but still do TTL. TTL is just "firing a preflash to figure out the power setting for the flash on the actual exposure". I mentioned the automatic zoom because it is something that relies on what focal length is used.
    – null
    Jun 5 '15 at 17:30

TTL simply means that the camera tells the flash to send out a "preflash" burst of light at a known brightness level that the camera can meter, so it can have a sense of how to set the flash power for the actual shot. Distance, focal point—it still just gets metered. Where the flash is doesn't really matter—the metering itself is still done from the camera.

However. TTL triggers aren't necessarily prized by off-camera flash shooters for supporting TTL function. TTL triggers communicate most of the full hotshoe electronic communication protocol—not just the sync signal, like manual triggers do. So, more of the on-camera function of an OEM flash can be used with a remote flash—like controlling the flash mode, or the manual power level or FEC adjustment with TTL remotely. HSS/FP can also be used. 2nd-curtain can be used. Adjusting settings on the flash remotely. These can be extraordinarily convenient, vs. having to walk up to each individual flash to adjust settings.

So, no, a TTL-capable radio flash trigger is not meaningless.

[addendum written 2021].

These days, TTL triggering is even more meaningful, because in 2015, Profoto added a feature to its Air triggering system: TTL Locking. And everyone rushed to copy it, so that by 2018, even Godox and Cactus had it, and today most TTL/HSS monolight system triggers and OEM radio flashes have a similar feature (with Canon's ST-E3-RT Vers 3 probably being the last to follow suit in 2021). But because it's such a new feature, many people don't know about it, let alone are proficient with it or teach it.

The main complaint against using TTL for off-camera flash is that because it's metering-based adjustment, shots vary their flash exposure shot-to-shot as the composition changes. And this was true. But with TTL locking, you can use TTL instead of a light meter for initial power-setting, and then lock that TTL-set power level in as an M setting. You can adjust before locking with TTL FEC; or after locking with M adjustments. And what most people don't realize is that TTL is likely to get the right power level on the first shot without adjustments. It surprised me how well it worked when I finally got around to trying it.

Most folks who teach lighting with off-camera flash learned back in the days of film, or before TTL radio triggering existed. So, they learned to create a fast, efficient manual workflow. And that's what they teach. But they inadvertently lock down iso, aperture, and light placement early in a shoot because of the hassles of adjusting the power settings on the lights to match any change to those three factors.

But TTL makes all three of those factors transparent to flash exposure (within gear limits). So you don't have to lock yourself in early. You can continue to refine, dink, adjust, and dynamically flow from one setup to the next if that's how you like to work. When you need shot-to-shot consistency, lock the settings down. When you don't, go back to TTL.

The only real drawback is that getting ratio control between groups is impossible if you mix different sized lights (say speedlights and monolights). And all the 3rd-party radio triggers only do group FEC for ratio control, so they're limited to (typically) ±3EV FEC compensation ranges, which means you can't go past 8:1 to 1:8 ratios. And they do not do TTL group ratios like OEM flash triggering systems can (examples: Canon, Nikon, Fuji) when all the groups are in TTL. So, TTL may only be useful for your key light or in a one- or two-light setup. There are still reasons to prefer M. :)

But TTL for off-camera flash can let you do things like switch from f/5.6 to f/1.4 on the fly and back again, without having to break your concentration or connection with your subject to adjust the lights manually, as Joe McNally demonstrates in this Profoto promotional video.

  • You can, in a limited way, use Flash Exposure Compensation with Godox's TTL triggers to set flash group ratios. By setting Group A to '0', and Group B to '-2', for instance, you can get a two stop difference (4:1 ratio) between the two groups. Of course you're soon limited by the +/- 3 stops extremes of most FEC adjustments with most cameras and triggers.
    – Michael C
    Jul 10 at 5:28
  • I can't find any information on the Profoto 'group ratio' function, how is it different from setting exposure compensation for a group?
    – Orbit
    Aug 11 at 6:58
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    @Orbit Instead of setting -2EV, +EV or whatever per group, you can set the A:B:C ratio to 4:1:2 (or whatever) directly. Canon, Nikon, Fuji, etc. all let you do this with their OEM wireless systems.
    – inkista
    Aug 11 at 8:15
  • @inkista: I just read the TTL section of the Air Remote TTL manual, but I can't find anything on that function. It just says you can increase or decrease the power of each group and that seems exactly the same as on my XPRO.
    – Orbit
    Aug 11 at 9:01
  • @Orbit. TIL. I just assumed the control was the same as the OEM wireless from what McNally said in the video and from my experience with Canon's smart optical system. I'll edit. Thanks!
    – inkista
    Aug 11 at 17:38

TTL employs a pre-flash to calculate the power requirement for the main flash.

For that pre-flash it is irrelevant where the flash sits - if it is further away, less light reaches the target and the main flash is adjusted accordingly to output more power to obtain what "it" considers an appropriate exposure (taking into account any flash compensation as set by the user).

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