Using Strobe Lighting

Many beginners to using strobes have the same questions:
- How do I hook the strobes up to my camera?
- What changes do I need to make on my camera to get it to work?
- Where do I put the strobes to get the best picture?

In this post, we aim to answer these questions in order to provide you with a great starting place for your own photographs.

Hooking Up the Strobes

With most strobe units, there are three different ways to trigger the flash: sync cords, other flashes, or wireless triggers.

Sync cords are the most reliable way to hook up a strobe to your camera. To set this up, plug one end of the sync cord into the strobe and the other into the camera. The end that looks like a headphone jack plugs into the strobe, and the part that looks like a bulleye plugs in the camera. Some cameras may not have a port for the bullseye end, in which case you can purchase a PC sync hotshoe to place on your camera's hotshoe mount that you can then plug the sync cord into. Of course, this means that your strobe is connected to your camera by a cable, and if anyone trips on the cable you could cause damage to both the strobe and the camera, so make sure to use caution in when you place your cables.

Another option is using a wireless trigger. Wireless triggers come with a transmitter and a receiver so that you plug the transmitter into the camera and the receiver into the strobe. You'll need to locate a wireless trigger that is compatible with your camera model to use this. Once setup, this will work in the same manner as the sync cord, but without the cord and without the risk of tripping on your equipment.

You can also use another flash to trigger your strobe unit; this can include the flash built into your camera. By setting your camera's flash mode to manual, you can eliminate the pre-flash and easily trigger your other strobe units. Your camera's flash should not impact the lighting of your photos, as it is much weaker than your units and will be washed out by them. Some strobe units require that your strobe is placed in close proximity to the flash. If you try to do this with your camera's flash mode in automatic mode, your pictures will be washed out.

Camera Adjustments

When hooking up the strobes , there are very few changes needed to have them triggered. Mainly, just remember that if you are using your camera's flash to trigger your strobe unit to set the camera's flash mode to manual.

You also need to consider your camera's sync speed so that you don't get too little or too much light. Most camera's will have a rated flash sync speed that we recommend using (1/250 and 1/125 are most common unless you are using a leaf shutter). However, you can adjust this to your liking. If you adjust, use the fastest speed that you can that will give you full exposure and not lose light.

The camera's exposure may also need to be adjusted, but this is something you'll need to play with by trial and error. You should do this while adjusting the power of the strobe units so that you can come to a good lighting balance.

Additionally, before taking your first photos, use a grey card to set your camera's white balance.


Where you position your strobes depends mainly on how many you have and the ambient lighting in the room. We recommend using at least two strobes so that you can position them in a manner to remove shadows; adding a third will help add dimension to your subject. If you have two strobes setup, position them each on either side of your camera directed at your subject. A third strobe on a boom arm is a good addition if positioned above your subject so that you get good definition of hair and even further shadow reduction. Move these around until you get your desired results.

As with most things in photography, play around with your settings and positioning until you are happy with the results. There is not a definite set of rules, but this will get you on your way.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great post that I think clears things up for a lot of beginners. You provided the key points and products people should be aware of.