Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Do us all a favor, pal...Get some remote triggers!

A few weeks ago, I was shooting a Quinceanera, which included a few hours of shooting in the warm January sunshine of San Diego's Balboa Park (for those who don't know the term, a "Quinceanera" is a Latino version of a debutante coming-out party -- for a 15 year-old girl.  It's a "big deal" in SoCal, and they're done up as elaborate as weddings.  Great work for photographers).
The weather was great, and there were literally dozens of photographers/groups taking pictures in the park.  At one of my favorite locations, I was competing for space and backgrounds with three other photographers, which was fine...we were all trying to work around each other and give each other some space.  There was, however, one big problem...

One of the other photographers, with multiple flashes set up on stands, was firing his remote flashes using optical slave mode as a trigger. You know, you fire off one main flash (the one on his camera), the others see the main flash, and fire off of that. It works great, except when there are multiple photographers jammed into one nice location.
Me, I was using radio triggers -- a shot of my cheap but trusty (and well worn) e-bay remote is up above. I got a transmitter (goes on the camera's hot shoe) and 4 receivers (that attach to a flash) three years ago for under $39, and they are still working great today despite being roughed up a lot, and firing thousands of times. (my old-style remotes)
I felt really bad for this other photographer. Every time I'd pop off a shot, with my 2-4 flashes going off, all of his slaves would trip. Usually right before he was going to take a shot, meaning he had to wait a few extra seconds or more for his flashes to recycle. At one point, after I had just taken a shot and triggered his flashes again, I glanced over and saw him give me a dirty look -- as if to imply, "Really? Again??" Hey, what can I say -- do us all a favor, pal, and spend $40 on some radio triggers. That way you won't have this problem.
I did try to go talk to him afterwards, both to sort of apologize and to suggest that he invest in some radio triggers, but he took off to another location, entourage in tow, and I didn't get the chance. I'll admit that it did seem rather odd to me, that a guy shooting with a Canon 5D MK II, "L" lenses, and expensive Canon 580EX flashes wasn't using radio triggers...I would guess that he was using E-TTL auto modes, and that was the reason. But seriously, before you head out on a shoot like that, in a public place where there's a very good chance lots of other photographers will be around, think things through; other people's flashes are going to set yours off, and you're going to be frustrated (and possibly unable to get the shots you need) if you plan on using optical triggers. Save those for when you're in a secluded spot.

Oh, and our shots came out very nicely, I think.

For more about using small flashes remotely, and radio triggers, head over to the Strobist blog, where David Hobby explains it all very well.


  1. Very interesting blog! Very informative, too.

    Ambersmom from Pop Photo Forums

  2. Thank you. Lots more coming :)