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I have a Godox V860C light and a Godox Cells II remote trigger. I've set this up with an umbrella box and took a few photos. They look underexposed. I'm not sure what's going on, but I have a few questions:

  1. Does E-TTL work when the flash is off shoe? I don't think it does. If so, does that mean the E-TTL is pointless whenever shooting off-shoe?
  2. I put the flash in manual mode and on full power (1/1). I should be in manual mode, right?
  3. I want to be able to shoot in manual (mostly), that means I set ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop. To get the proper exposure, do I adjust the light until the histogram looks OK?
  4. I assume I'm looking some light with my umbrella box. Should I do exposure compensation (+1/3 stop? +2/3 stop?) to get the right exposure?

I'll try to take some photos in the next 24 hours and post it somewhere where EXIF data can be seen.

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I have a Godox V860C light and a Godox Cells II remote trigger.

OK, from this, I gather that you have a Canon camera. The Godox V860C is an eTTL-II-capable flash, so if you want to use that capability, it's there. However, the Cells II triggers are manual triggers that do not communicate eTTL information, so with this specific combination you do not have eTTL off-camera.

Does E-TTL work when the flash is off shoe?

Yes, if your triggers, flash, and camera all support it. If, for example, you were to use RadioPoppers, TTL PocketWizards, Yongnuo YN-622C, Phottix Odins, or Pixel Kings with your V860C, you'd have wireless off-camera eTTL.

...does that mean the E-TTL is pointless whenever shooting off-shoe?

Not necessarily, but most shooters prefer to use the M flash mode for off-camera flash, for consistency and precision of control. eTTL is metering based, and is more useful for on-camera bouncing for event shooting (e.g., weddings, parties, etc.) but can change the exposure shot-for-shot when used in an off-camera studio setup, and most off-camera setups take time anyway, so reshooting and adjusting isn't as much of a problem vs. trying to anticipate and snag a one-time-only moment of someone's special day.

I put the flash in manual mode and on full power (1/1). I should be in manual mode, right?

For the most control of flash photography, having both the flash and the camera in manual mode is typically preferred, but not necessary. It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. The main reason folks use the camera M shooting mode for flash is because the camera's meter can only measure the light that's in the scene. Flash isn't in the scene. So you often mentally have to compensate for what the flash will add to the scene, and sometimes that compensation will go past what EC settings let you do. M doesn't have those limits.

Also, using the flash at full power is something you need to do judiciously. It's the easiest way to overheat your flash, as well as requiring the longest recycle time between bursts. Using speedlights off-camera becomes all about conserving the flash's power.

To get the proper exposure, ...

Ok, here's your problem in how you're thinking about flash exposure. There is no one single combination that's "proper exposure" when it comes to flash. With ambient-only exposure, you're probably thinking all you need to do is get the needle to zero. And as long as you can find an iso/aperture/shutter speed combination to get that needle to zero, that's all you have to do.

Flash doesn't work like that. Because a) it doesn't show up on the needle in the camera because it's not in the scene yet, and b) you can have any combination of flash vs. ambient. You can have it be all flash and no ambient (lit figure, black background), or nearly all ambient and very little flash to just lift the shadows (fill) and everything in-between. How you choose to balance your flash against the ambient is completely up to you and the look you want to achieve with the lighting.

The main thing to understand is that the amount of light from the ambient is controlled by iso, aperture, and shutter speed. But the amount of light from the flash is controlled by iso, aperture, subject-to-light distance, and the flash's power setting.

... do I adjust the light until the histogram looks OK?

It's up to you, but understand there's no one "histogram looks OK" point. You still have to choose what you want. It's all going to be about what kind of light and image you want.

Should I do exposure compensation (+1/3 stop? +2/3 stop?) to get the right exposure?

You can try that. However, on Canon cameras, the EC that you do with the iso/aperture/shutter speed is independent of the FEC (flash exposure compensation) that you dial in on the flash to adjust the flash power in eTTL. And if you're shooting in M on the flash, you just choose a power ratio. I tend to start out at 1/4 and see which way I need to go, rather than dinking about with eTTL/FEC.

Think of using eTTL/FEC like shooting in Av mode on the camera with EC. And M on the flash like using M on the camera. M on the flash lets you specifically set the power output of the flash by the ratio of the full power. 1, 1/2, 1/4, etc. And that each of those settings is a full stop (1EV), because it's a doubling/halving of the light.

See also:

  • @PhotographyNewbie Flash is like that. It takes a while. I studied/read and had the gear for 2+ years, but what finally flipped the switch for me was a workshop, so don't rule out getting some training. – inkista Aug 6 '15 at 23:02
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A partial answer:

Does E-TTL work when the flash is off shoe? I don't think it does. If so, does that mean the E-TTL is pointless whenever shooting off-shoe?

You need to set the 3 parts to TTL mode: the flash, the trigger, and the camera.

I put the flash in manual mode and on full power (1/1). I should be in manual mode, right?

If any of the 3 parts are in manual mode the TTL won't work at all.

I want to be able to shoot in manual (mostly), that means I set ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop. To get the proper exposure, do I adjust the light until the histogram looks OK?

Yes and no. You adjust the light until the photo looks right. That would depend if it is a High Key, Low Key, colors of the scene, illumination, background, composition, etc. The histogram is just a hint.

I assume I'm looking some light with my umbrella box. Should I do exposure compensation (+1/3 stop? +2/3 stop?) to get the right exposure?

The TTL assumes the light that is on the frame. It does not matter if it is a direct one, through an umbrella, bounced on a wall, or behind a wall...(probably not). It assumes the light the visor can see.

There is no formula. But yes. If you are using a TTL the way to adjust the result the sensor is assumming is to use the +-ev.

If you are shooting manually the way to do it could be:

  • Flash power.

  • Aperture.

  • Distance.

  • Light Modifier.

  • Light angle.

  • Additional light modifiers.

  • Lens Filters.

P.D. Do not use a flash to full power every time: You will diminish its life span, and have long recharge times.

  • What's the difference between TTL and E-TTL? Can you please elaborate on "You need to set the 3 parts to TTL mode, the flast, the trigger and the camera." – PhotographyNewbie Aug 6 '15 at 21:39
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    The E-TTL is just a EOS from Canon, special mode. – Rafael Aug 6 '15 at 21:43
  • The TTL mode depends on your camera and flash, so you need to read the manuals. For example If the camera is on M the TTL wond work. Depending on the camera it could be for example P. – Rafael Aug 6 '15 at 21:49
  • Actually, having the camera on M and the flash on TTL works just fine. The differences with the modes is the assumptions the camera makes on how you want to balance the flash/ambient. Av/Tv assume you want fill flash by default. P assumes fill in good light, but in low light, will assume you want the flash to be the main illumination. In TTL, the camera tells the flash to send out a "preflash" burst of light at a known brightness/power level, meters that preflash, and then adjusts the flash power (as permitted) to where the AE system thinks is good. – inkista Aug 6 '15 at 23:06
  • @PhotographyNewbie TTL vs. A-TTL vs. E-TTL vs. E-TTL II are just the different generations of TTL as implemented by Canon. Technically, Canon's dSLRs are using eTTL-II. See "the EOS Flash Bible" if you want the historical notes. But for practical how-to-learn-flash advice, seek elsewhere, like the Strobist or Tangent websites. – inkista Aug 6 '15 at 23:08
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The Best thing i could suggest is to play with not only the lighting power settings but also to use the camera in full manual where you can adjust the exposure manually. Exposure is always controlled by the camera and the light is to help increase the brightness or fill in dark areas in the exposure. When i use my flashes, its always set lights then modify the camera until you get the desired result.

Say if you want an F4 shot and is overexposed, increase shutter speed or decrease ISO. Say in your case where you are underexposed, and you want F8, increase ISO and/or Decrease shutter speed.

also remember if you have super slow shutter speed for more light, use second curtain for the flash so that the flash goes off right before the shutter closes and causes the object to appear still.

DPS = Digital Photography School

DPS - A good introduction to external flash units

DPS - second curtain explanation

DPS - understanding flash metering

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