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Strobist FAQ

MOD
strobe_flash 1:35am, 17 March 2007
Strobist FAQ

These notes are chunked into similar themes so scroll down to find comments grouped on (1) Shooting, (2) Shopping (3) Posting and (4) General

If your question isn’t answered here, go to the Strobist FAQ’s Discussion Page to ask it – in due course the moderators will update the FAQ’s accordingly (and in the short term someone else will dive in and answer your question for you). If the FAQ’s get quite long over time, we may break the Shooting, Shopping and Posting into separate FAQ threads, but to get started they’re grouped below.

1. SHOOTING

What is a strobist?
A strobist is a photographer who uses off-camera flash. This generates more interesting, flexible and creative lighting options than when using on-camera flash. Generally small flashes are used, it is not necessary to purchase full-on studio lighting

To be a strobist, as a minimum you need at least one flash that you can trigger while it is off the camera. You may also want to invest in a low-cost light stand and umbrella to use with the flash. All up you could be in business for very little investment. (Strobists have an unofficial motto – “Cheap is good”).

Photographer David Hobby established his Strobist Blog to spread the word and help others “see the light” (off-camera of course). This Flickr Pool is a parallel web site that provides an outlet to share photos taken using the techniques outlined on his Strobist Blog, along with a forum for discussion on all things strobist.

Please be aware that, commercially, Strobist® is a registered trademark. The word has been trademarked since its coining and original use in 2006 (and subsequently registered) on Strobist.com. Please do not use it commercially, as in selling "Strobist" gear or "Strobist" lighting courses, etc.

Its use is generally permitted as a noncommercial descriptor (as noted above) and for meetups, geographicaly-specific groups (i.e., North Carolina Strobist Group) etc.

That said, anyone can be a strobist. If you can take a photo, you’re qualified. Read on!

What is the difference between "strobe" and "flash"?
We generally use the terms as one and the same – but in the context of this site we mean small, portable, low cost flash units. Canon refer to their flashes as SPEEDLITES and Nikon refer to theirs as SPEEDLIGHTS, but you’re hardly limited to these brands – there’s a wide choice available.

What’s so wrong with using on camera flash anyway?
Grasshopper, you ask so many complex questions. Look, almost any flash picture looks better when you get the flash off the camera alright? Add some actual planning and technique, and woah did someone say Pulitzer?!

What do I need? How do I get started?
David’s Strobist Blog has a section called Lighting 101.
Read it. Print it. Read it again. This material is simple, because, well it is simple (but it takes practise so get out and shoot something). We can’t stress enough how important these pages are – Lighting 101 is how most of us progressed through David’s site. Then take a look at his On Assignment pages too.

What are my options to synchronize my off-camera flashes?
1) Optical slaves – where light from one flash sets off the others.
2) Radio slaves – where a pulse of RF modulation sets off the flashes
2) PC cord – essentially a cable (requires either flash and camera to have PC jacks and/or hotshoe to PC adapters)
3) Proprietary (Infra Red, Pulse Code Lights etc) sync schemes like Nikon CLS and so on.

What does Nikon CLS mean, and what does it do?
CLS stands for Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. The SB-900 flash is currently the most advanced flash in their range – it swivels, tilts, diffuses, slaves, commands, and communicates with the right Nikon camera body using tiny pulses of light. Having an SB-900 is great, having two is better, and a six-pack is a portable studio (or use the earlier SB800 etc). CLS can be run in an automated manner, or with significant manual override – and unlike when using a PW based wireless set up, you don’t need to wander over to each flash to make changes to the settings as those instructions are sent wirelessly. Unlike PW’s however, the CLS system has a relatively short range, can require line of sight angles depending on the specific environment, and can be fooled by strong ambient light such as outdoors on a sunny day. That aside, the CLS system is an incredible development for photographers and more detail can be found here and here.

Do I need a Flash Meter?
There are two schools of thought on this. One says Yes and the other says No. There’s no argument that a Flash Meter is a fast-track to setting accurate exposures and lighting ratio’s - The Sekonic 358 (amongst others) is a good example of such a device - but millions of photos are taken without the use of such a tool – usually with some Chimping thrown in.

What is Chimping?
The act of taking a photo and looking at the LCD screen, perhaps using the histogram function as well, to eyeball the exposure and then make any adjustments you feel is necessary. The name chimp was given for the “oh oh!” sounds people made as they went through this process, but humour aside the LCD preview screen is there to be used and this instant feedback/learning is something you can’t get with film.

What is a PW? What is an eBay trigger? What is a Radio Popper?
PW is the common abbreviation for a Pocket Wizard a radio-frequency device that is used to wirelessly trigger a flash (which could be located quite some distance away). The PW can also be used to remotely trigger a camera. You need a PW for your camera and one for each flash (it is connected to the flash PC port by a short cable, but is otherwise a wireless set-up).

The eBay trigger is a device that provides a cheaper alternative to the PW. You should do a search of the Discussions on the Flickr Strobist Pool as there are mixed comments on the eBay devices.

RadioPoppers are a radio based system designed to overcome limitations of the native systems such as CLS (Nikon) and ETTL (Canon) - these limitations being distance, line of site, sunlight interference etc.

Do you shoot through an umbrella, or bounce out of it?
If you have a translucent white umbrella, you can do either, it depends on what you want to achieve – but there are no rules as such. Silver and Gold umbrellas are not shoot through, they are bounce based.

What is Strobist Bootcamp and what is the Strobist Challenge?
David Hobby ran the Strobist Bootcamp as a series of Strobist projects for pool members. This is now closed (but may come back – hint hint David). In the meantime, the Strobist Challenge is a fun exercise where the next project is largely determined by popular vote. No fees, no prizes, simply an exercise to “get away from the TV and take some pictures”

What are Grids and Snoots used for and what is their difference?
See the section called Lighting 101 on the Strobist Blog for more info – suffice to say a snoot is like a tube that you shoot the flash through to control the spread of light. A grid goes over a flash to control the direction of the light. Both techniques should be experimented with.


2. SHOPPING

Where do I purchase the gear I need?
The blog tries to point to sources for various gear, but people also share info within these threads. Bear in mind that advertising in Flickr threads is generally frowned upon and we want to be good guests here.

Where can I buy a PW? Anything I should know?
You should search “Pocket Wizards” on the Discussions on the Flickr Strobist Pool as there are some very specific things you need to know. A key point is that “FCC” approved models use frequencies approved for use in US/Canada etc, and “CE” models use frequencies approved for use in most of Europe, Australia, Asia and NZ etc. CE models cannot be used with FCC in the same set up (i.e. you can’t have a mixed system) and while you could use CE’s in the US just fine – and vice versa – it’s to be discouraged as there’s little comeback when you’re accused of interfering with other transmissions (and in this day and age, having radio controlled devices that remotely trigger an event is enough of a challenge at the airport without having the defend illegal frequencies as well). Therefore, it’s recommended that you purchase PW’s that are approved for the country you live in. One last tip – some light meters such as the Sekonic 358 can contain a handy PW trigger – be sure to buy FCC (or CE) spec for this too, otherwise it may not work with your PW’s.

What’s a “Fong” device – do I need to buy one?
Gary Fong sells a diffuser called a "Lightsphere" that, while generally used on camera, can also be used with an off-camera flash. The idea is to create a softer light by bouncing it off nearby surfaces such as walls and ceiling. This simple device can work well - but only in very limited circumstances, where it is used close to neutral-coloured reflective surfaces. It is of virtually no value outdoors or away from walls or ceiling - in such environments it will merely eat up your flash's batteries.

Some people have developed home made versions (after all, it looks like a small Tupperware bowl stuck on your flash). There are Flickr pools devoted to photos taken with his device.


3. POSTING PHOTOS AND DISCUSSION

What are the rules for posting pictures here?
Please scroll down the Strobist Home Page on Flickr to see the Pool rules, but key points are;

a. Only post photos in the pool where you used off-camera flash
b. Caption your photos with details of the off-camera flash used, and how you triggered it
c. Keep it work safe.

What are the rules for posting discussion here?
a) Before you post, please SEARCH the discussion threads first. Chances are your question or brainwave is not unique. You may find your answer without having to post anything, or you may be able to add to an existing discussion and therefore keep the dialogue grouped together
b) Keep it on topic (if it’s not Strobist specific but nevertheless you feel it would be interesting to the group, prefix your subject line OT for “Off Topic”)
c) No personal attacks, we’re all friends here
d) If creating a discussion thread, please write a descriptive subject line (e.g. don’t say, “Check this out” but rather something meaningful like. “New Slave trigger system launched by Sigma”)
e) If creating a discussion thread, please be sure to check back – some people go to a lot of trouble to help others, so thank them. And do it for someone else. It’s good Karma.
f) With so many members, your discussion thread will quickly slide down the pile, so you may need to search for it
g) No commercial or spam-like posts. The moderators will bounce these and may lock you out of the Pool.

How do I submit to the pool?
Firstly you need to join the Flickr Strobist Pool. On the assumption you have done that, now go to your picture on Flickr that you wish to add, and above the photo you will see an icon saying, “Send to Group”. Click that, and choose Strobist – and of course before you do any of that, make sure the pic you plan to post meets our pool rules!

How do I add a pic to a comment?
This can be very handy, and it’s not hard. Go to the pic you wan to add. Click “All Sizes” above it. Choose small or medium. Flickr will generate some HTML code for you. Cut and paste all this code into the comment you wish to write – you would normally then add a couple of sentences explanation above the code. Voila, you’re done.

Why did you remove my picture from the pool?
Pictures are removed when they don't meet the rules. You did read them right? They are removed if they are NSFW (Not Safe For Work), did not use off-camera flash, were bumped to get higher up the pool, or more likely were not captioned to our required rules. This is a very busy pool on Flickr and the admins use an amazing tool to help remove offending photos. Due to the high volume of pictures handled, you will not get an email explanation.

Everyone agrees to the group's rules when they join, and we assume that everyone has read them.
What you will receive if your photo is removed is a number of tags for your information on the photo's page. These tags are automatically added in a moderator's name, and tell you that your photo has been removed, why it was removed and which rule to check for further information.
If your photo has been removed from the group's pool because you did not give enough info (or it was in the wrong place), please don't take offence - it is not personal! Instead, just add the missing info where we ask for it to be, and resubmit your photo. Your photo will be checked again by one of the moderating team and (as long as it now follows the rules) will be given a 'pass'. We are always happy to see photos that have been removed for incomplete info updated and put back in the pool. :-)

I can't see my pictures in the pool?
With so many pictures being added, it does not take long for your to be pushed back a few pages. Some users have noted delays between submitting a photo and seeing it published. This seems to be a Flickr quirk.

What is a tag?
The great beauty of digital assets is the way you (and others) can search for them. By adding tags– essentially keywords – you can make it easier to find photos later. In the Strobist pool we use Tags for Strobist Bootcamp and The Strobist Challenge submissions, but you can tag your pictures however you like. Go to your photo in Flickr, to the right of the photo you will see the option to “add a tag”

Still stuck with Flickr?
There’s a heap of Flickr help right here. These pages cover copyright, posting, deleting, tagging and more.


4. OTHER STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW. YES YOU DO

Where can I find other information that might help me?
We have an ongoing thread called this ought to be on Strobist. Anyone can add to this discussion, and a quick browse will show it is full of useful resources that add to your knowledge base.

What do the Moderators do?
Firsly, the Admin Function resides with David. As an Admin he holds the master keys and can delete the entire site with one typo! Moderators do the rest...

a) Delete pics that don’t meet the Pool rules (sometimes without warning, hey it can be a busy job!)
b) Interpret David’s vision and keep the “house in order” with maintenance of discussion and photos pages
c) Manage the occasional series of Strobist Challenges
d) Discuss (via a private Flickr group) the rules and how they’re working. Less is more and we don’t want to make things too onerous. We also discuss future Strobist Challenges, the occasional repeat offender (we’ve had the odd serial pest, but not many), and how to predict the winning lotto numbers

Can I cross post my pics?
Of course. That’s a key feature in Flickr, add them to whatever pools you think are appropriate for your needs, just be sure that if they’re in the Strobist Pool that they meet our posting rules.

I have a new question, why is this thread locked?
Because this is not a discussion piece per se. We have another open thread called the Strobist FAQ’s Discussion Page if you wish to comment or make a suggestion. That way this page maintains its focus.

5. AND NOW A CLOSING CREDIT

Woah! Who wrote all this stuff?
This thread has multiple authors - it is a compilation of input from David, from the Moderators, and ultimately from you (so use the link above to contribute).

Thanks to all who have contributed along the way... Now go take some photos!
MOD
alohadave 4 years ago
This thread is now open for comments. Add comments, updates, and relevant information that should be in an FAQ for the group.

Off topic posts will be removed without notice.
Jerry P. H. Posted 4 years ago. Edited by Jerry P. H. (member) 4 years ago
This part:
What does Nikon CLS mean, and what does it do?
CLS stands for Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. The SB-900 flash is currently the most advanced flash in their range – it swivels, tilts, diffuses, slaves, commands, and communicates with the right Nikon camera body using tiny pulses of light. Having an SB-900 is great, having two is better, and a six-pack is a portable studio (or use the earlier SB800 etc). CLS can be run in an automated manner, or with significant manual override – and unlike when using a PW based wireless set up, you don’t need to wander over to each flash to make changes to the settings as those instructions are sent wirelessly. Unlike PW’s however, the CLS system has a relatively short range, generally requires line of site angles, and can be fooled by strong ambient light such as outdoors on a sunny day. That aside, the CLS system is an incredible development for photographers and more detail can be found here.

-------------------------------------------

could read as such:

What does Nikon CLS or AWL, mean, and what does it do?
CLS stands for Nikon’s Creative Lighting System.
AWL stands for Nikon's Automated Wireless Lighting.

Both in essence, mean the same thing... the ability to trigger and control off camera flash via either flash pulses or IR signals from within the camera itself (if it is supported), or by using a Nikon flash with Commander abilities built-in (such as the SB-700, SB-800, SB-900 and SB-910).

As of December 2011, the SB-910 flash is currently the most advanced flash in their product line – it swivels, tilts, diffuses, slaves, commands, and communicates with the right Nikon camera body using tiny pulses of light.

Having an SB-910 is great, having two is better, and a six-pack is a portable studio (or use the earlier SB900, SB-800 etc).

CLS can be run in full TTL or full manual modes or a combination of the two and unlike when using earlier Pocketwizard products such as the Plus or Plus II transceivers, you don’t need to control output at the remote flash head location, but can set power output or TTL compensation at the camera or on camera commander and those get sent to the remote flashes, wirelessly.

However, the most recent versions of the Pocketwizard ControlTL line do all the above and more, albeit at a price premium (such as Hypersync, ability to control many 3rd party strobes, ability to trigger remote cameras, boost native sync speeds and much more).

Unlike the PW’s however, the CLS system has a relatively short range (thanks to it using flash and infrared, or IR signals, instead of radio signals). This means that in bright sunny day conditions, range and reliability is severely reduced. Line of sight is also a prerequisite to maximum reliability.

That aside, the CLS system is an incredible development for photographers and more detail can be found here ( the link provided is non-existant, change to www.nikonusa.com/en_INC/IMG/Assets/Common-Assets/PDF/Fast...).

---------------------------------------

Just a suggestion, nothing I post here should be considered set in stone...just trying to help :-)
Jerry P. H. Posted 4 years ago. Edited by Jerry P. H. (member) 4 years ago
What’s so wrong with using on camera flash anyway?
Grasshopper, you ask so many complex questions. Look, almost any flash picture looks better when you get the flash off the camera alright? Add some actual planning and technique, and woah did someone say Pulitzer?!
--------------------------------------------

Could read:

What’s so wrong with using on camera flash anyway?
Grasshopper, you ask so many complex questions.

Almost any flash picture looks better when you get the flash off the camera. You eliminate things like red eye, can increase the camera to subject distance (because the flash can be right beside your subject, freeing you to go further away), and make nicer photos (because you can control the light quality more precisely via light placement and modifiers that can soften the light... like when using larger umbrellas, softboxes, etc... things you cannot use when the flash is on camera, well, you could, but then that would just look ridiculous).

Add some actual planning and technique, and woah did someone say Pulitzer?!
Jerry P. H. 4 years ago
Where can I buy a PW? Anything I should know?

There are various places one could go to get information on the Pocketwizard product line.

- Right here for one, the search function works great (hint-hint!)
- www.pocketwizard.com
- www.flickr.com/groups/pocketwizards/
- do a search on www.youtube.com
- look around at www.jerryphpics.blogspot.com
- do a search on google.com

A key point is that “FCC” approved models use frequencies approved for use in US/Canada etc, and “CE” models use frequencies approved for use in most of Europe, Australia, Asia and NZ etc. CE models cannot be used with FCC in the same set up (i.e. you can’t have a mixed system) and while you could use CE’s in the US just fine – and vice versa – it’s to be discouraged as there’s little comeback when you’re accused of interfering with other transmissions (and in this day and age, having radio controlled devices that remotely trigger an event is enough of a challenge at the airport without having the defend illegal frequencies as well).

Therefore, it’s recommended that you purchase PW’s that are approved for the country you live in. One last tip – some light meters such as the Sekonic 358 can contain a handy PW trigger – be sure to buy FCC (or CE) spec for this too, otherwise it may not work with your transceivers.
Jerry P. H. 4 years ago
This:
1. SHOOTING

What is a strobist?
A strobist is a photographer who uses off-camera flash. This generates more interesting, flexible and creative lighting options than when using on-camera flash. Generally small flashes are used, it is not necessary to purchase full-on studio lighting

To be a strobist, as a minimum you need at least one flash that you can trigger while it is off the camera. You may also want to invest in a low-cost light stand and umbrella to use with the flash. All up you could be in business for very little investment. (Strobists have an unofficial motto – “Cheap is good”).

Photographer David Hobby established his Strobist Blog to spread the word and help others “see the light” (off-camera of course). This Flickr Pool is a parallel web site that provides an outlet to share photos taken using the techniques outlined on his Strobist Blog, along with a forum for discussion on all things strobist.

Please be aware that, commercially, Strobist® is a registered trademark. The word has been trademarked since its coining and original use in 2006 (and subsequently registered) on Strobist.com. Please do not use it commercially, as in selling "Strobist" gear or "Strobist" lighting courses, etc.

Its use is generally permitted as a noncommercial descriptor (as noted above) and for meetups, geographicaly-specific groups (i.e., North Carolina Strobist Group) etc.

That said, anyone can be a strobist. If you can take a photo, you’re qualified. Read on!

----------------------------------------------------------

Changed to...

1. SHOOTING

What is a strobist?
First off, please be aware that the term Strobist® is a registered trademark. The word has been registered since it's inception and original use in 2006 for the Strobist.com blog website. Please do not use it commercially, as in selling "Strobist" gear or "Strobist" lighting courses, etc.

Its use is generally permitted as a non-commercial descriptor (as noted above) and for meetups, geographicaly-specific groups (i.e., North Carolina Strobist Group) etc.

That said, anyone can be a "strobist". If you can take a photo using an off camera flash light source, you’re qualified!

In he beginning, a strobist was a photographer who used off-camera speedlights, however, over time, it has grown to epouse all forms of off camera flash lighting, be it battery powered speedlights or high end studio strobes. Constant on forms of lighting (like constant on lights or the sun) are not considered to be "strobist" forms of lighting your photos, though they can be included, the main source still needs to come from some source of flashed output.

The goal of getting the light source off camera is to generate more interesting, flexible and creative lighting options than would be possible when using an in or on-camera flash.

To be a strobist, as a minimum you need at least one flash that you can trigger while it is off the camera. You may also want to invest in a low-cost light stand and umbrella to use with the flash. After that, your wallet decides how far you want to take it, from mild to wild, though generally, strobists have an unofficial motto – “cheaper is better”.

Photographer David Hobby established his Strobist Blog to spread the word and help others “see the light” (off-camera of course). This Flickr Pool is a parallel web site that provides an outlet to share photos taken using the techniques outlined on his Strobist Blog (www.strobist.com), along with a forum for discussion on all things related.
Cookwithlove 3 years ago
off-camera flash and on cameras flash, please explain?
Thanks you
MOD
Nionyn_ PRO 3 years ago
Cookwithlove: I am not sure if your question is a serious one...
Have you read the first long post in this thread, or the group's rules, or the Strobist blog, or followed any of the links on this page?

In case you are serious, here you go:


Short answer

On-camera flash is flash which is on (or part of) the camera.
Off-camera flash is flash which is not attached to the camera.


Long answer

For this group the following are classed as on-camera, and photos lit using only these are not eligible for the group's pool:
- The camera's built-in or pop-up flash
- A flash unit mounted in the camera's hot-shoe
- A flash unit attached to the camera by a bracket

David Hobby (Strobist - this is his group) has made one exception to the above. If an on-camera flash is used with a ringflash attachment this is eligible for the group's photopool.

Off-camera flash is pretty obvious. It is a photographic flash unit of any type which is not fixed to the camera.
This can be hand-held, on a lighting stand, on the ground, on a shelf, in a box or even thrown in the air, but (for the group) it should not be fixed to the camera.
It can be triggered (fired) by a cable which is plugged in to the camera, manually (by pressing the 'test' button), by radio triggers of various types, optically (by visible or Infra Red light) or by an electrical circuit which is sensitive to sound or another input.

As is explained in the rules and on the group's front page, if on-camera flash is used to trigger one or more off-camera flashes that is OK. A photo taken in this way is welcome in the group.

I hope that helps. :-)
Noanns 3 years ago
Is it allowed to upload pictures that were taken by light painting the subject?
MOD
Nionyn_ PRO 3 years ago
Noanns:

Yes, it is allowed, and is mentioned in the group's rules and on the group's front page. :-)
The group is all about learning from each other so we do insist on full lighting info, of course, as with off-camera flash photos.
So you will need to make it clear that you used light-painting, and mention what type of light source you used and any other details that help people (especially beginners) to understand how you lit your photo.
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