wireless flash

I cover a wide variety of subjects within my business - everything from portraits, weddings through to corporate events - I need portable and versatile lighting that I can easily carry around with me, takes as little as a couple of minutes to set up and start shooting. These days I use the Nikon SB900 flashguns. These feature wireless i-TTL flash control, auto FP High-Speed Sync, Wide area AF assists Illuminator, Zoom function and much, much more. By using these, I’ve found that I can handle virtually any situation that I am called upon to photograph while on location. The most important factor when using these flashguns is being able to sync at any shutter speed of up to 1/8000. This is critical to my style of shooting.
These little flash guns are portable and extremely easy and quick to set up. Now I don’t need to carry my heavy three-head studio flash kit to any events I attend. In fact, since I started using the Nikon kit I’ve hardly used my studio gear at all! There are no power cables, no sync leads and no light meters to worry about, and the best bit of all is that all remote wireless units can be controlled via the main master flash, which is attached to the camera’s hot shoe. What this means is that if I wish to power up or down a remote flash I do not need to go up to the unit to do that, since it can be done via the master flash which is on camera. This saves a lot of time if you have more than two remote units. You take a shot, have a look and power up or down the relevant unit from your shooting position.
The Setup
The most important factor which the wireless flash adds is its ability to give me directional lighting within my images. I usually shoot with a SU800 commander unit as my Master and a SB900 as my Remote. The Remote flashgun can either be hand held or set up on a light stand and fired through an umbrella. The Nikon CLS system works on infra-red. So it is important to make sure that the sensor on the Remote is facing you so that the pre-flash or the infra-red beam reaches it and triggers the flashgun. This is critical when photographing outdoors.
Setting the Exposure
This is by trial and error. I set the camera & flash in manual mode so I have complete control over how much ambient & flash light is going through my lens. I take a shot, have a look at the back of the camera and adjust the exposure as required.
There are 4 variables when setting the exposure. If you follow the KISS principle of Keep It Simple Stupid, you won’t go wrong. Here how I set my exposure:


I set the ISO to say 400 or any other speed and leave it alone
I set the aperture to f/4 and leave it alone. 95% of my flash photography is done at f/4 
I set my shutter speed and don’t it touch it all.

All I’m adjusting now is the output of the flash. If its too much, I cut it down and vice versa. Balancing the flash & ambient light in Manual mode is extremely easy and produces pleasing images and most importantly you get what you want, not what the camera / flash decide to expose!
Wireless Flash Weddings
Time is of the essence at a wedding, and quite often the photographer does not have the time to set up strobes to improve on the available lighting, even if this was possible, there is always the danger of trailing power cables and sync leads in a public location, and these may not be long enough to reach the outdoor location where you are looking to set up your shot. Using the Nikon SB900 makes all these considerations a thing of the past, and I’ve found that I can set my images up quickly and safely. Quite often during the reception I have clamped my remote SB900 guns to a suitable vantage point, such as a door frame, furniture edge or a curtain pole, using a Bogen 175 clamp.
Location Portraits
Shooting on-location allows me to use locations which I couldn’t before with a traditional studio set up. Perfect example is on a hill where the car park could be about 20 minutes from the location where you are shooting. You walk all the way up with heavy equipment and only to find it starts to rain! Using the Nikon Speedlights allows quick and easy set up and also packing up is lightning fast if it starts to rain.
Corporate
Shooting in an office environment is quite challenging as the photographer may not have enough space to work with, while moving the furniture around to create room for a conventional lighting kit may not be an option. When I set up a shoot in an office, I make sure that I don’t come in anyone’s way and no one is inconvenienced by me. I don’t have any need for any power supply and hence don’t have any cables or leads to plug in to power points.
Even though the Nikon SB900 is a small flashgun, it does pack a punch or two. Used correctly and you will achieve results which will amaze you and your clients.

Uzair Kharawala is a multi-award winning portrait & wedding photographer based in Leighton Buzzard, Beds UK. He is a ‘Nikon Evangelist’ in the UK and provides training seminars & workshops on behalf of Nikon UK. He is also a regular ‘Guest Speaker’ at most photography conventions & trade fairs in the UK and his work is published in major photography magazines. He is also the creator of the award-winning software Foto SF Lite.
His portfolio can be viewed at SF Photo School and SF Digital Photography