Off Camera Lighting With A Compact Camera?

Dominic Dorey Equipment, Lighting, Nikon, Photography, Tutorial Leave a Comment

A couple of days back I bought myself a compact camera to be able to use on days out with the family where I didn’t want to take the DSLR’s or quite simply couldn’t take them, and so the camera I bought was the Nikon S9900, a nice little camera with the usual manual controls I’m used to but beyond that it doesn’t compare to the complete range of shooting abilities I have with my DSLR’s where I can use flash compensation nor is it compatible with any creativity links to the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) or anyway of firing flashguns where you can make the off camera lighting fire but tell the onboard flash not to effect the exposure, or so you would think.

I have no wish to make this sound big headed, but I rarely feel like I’m out of my comfort zone when working with off camera flash via my DSLR’s. I do it so much, every wedding I shoot will have some element of it covered with off camera flash, normally the bride/groom portraiture and the first dance, and I just thought I would like to try and challenge myself away from that comfort zone.

The challenge was to see if I could get creative and get a usable shot with my new compact using off camera lighting.

Rather handily a couple of my Flashguns have a remote feature called SU-4, a feature that is rarely talked about, but one that can make a flashgun usable with any camera system that omits flashlight. SU-4 in basic turns the flash into a sensor that is looking for any flash, and as soon as it sees that flash it will almost instantly trigger the receiving flash, in fact its that quick you’ll never see any delay via the naked eye.

So with that feature set on my SB-700 I set about getting the ambient side of the shot set by setting the camera to it’s lowest ISO and then setting the shutter speed to below 1/200th to ensure it would sync correctly and then set the aperture to the correct f number for the ambient that I wanted.

In the case of this image I wanted to see some of the lights on the Christmas tree in the background but allow everything else to be blacked out. I then placed the flashgun kinda on top and in between our two sofas hanging down from the arm rests pointing at a Father Christmas candle. Doing this meant I had a kind of barn door effect on the lighting making it directional from the left of the image and not allowing it to just bounce off in all directions lighting up the background, and it made the light far more interesting than the flat straight on light that would be pumped out by the pop up flash.

The next little issue was the pop up flash on the camera. I had to block it off so it didn’t throw light forward illuminating the background and thus spoiling the shot, but I had to do it in a way that meant the SB-700 could still see the light omitted so it knew when to trigger. So I placed a card in front of the pop up flash but allowed some light to leak to the left so the flashgun would see it.

The shot below is the end result of this quick set up and its completely unedited, straight from camera, and whilst it’s not going to win awards, it does go to show you can get creative with off camera lighting and a compact point and shoot.

I fully realise that those who only own a point and shoot pretty much won’t have a flashgun, so this challenge isn’t one that they will be able to try, but those of you with a DSLR, flashguns and a point and shoot can have a go….and why not!

Dom ­čÖé

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