Using Canon’s E-TTL part3

Finally, I get to the part where I tell you what you get when you cough up the extra bucks for the Canon Speedlite or Nikon Speedlight.

Max, my talent was rendered perfectly by E-TTL set to 1:1. Speedlite A on the left was set about 11 o'clock. Speedlite B was at 3 o'clock

Under normal situations your DSLR will only be able to synchronize with a generic flash at a maximum 1/200 sec.

In some cases, you might get away with 1/400 sec but that would mean unpredictable results.

If this concept is new to you, read my earlier post about “Getting Started with off-camera-flash.”

After my 1st attempt with Max where I set his bed on the ground, I quickly realized my camera position was too high.

Sort of like when you photograph young children. Seeing them on their level sometimes makes the images more engaging.

Since I didn’t want to be crawling on my belly on the very soggy ground thanks to our recent rains, I chose my tent trailer as my “stage”.

Tempe reaches for my light stand when she sees the flash. Her sister Shiva never got curious enough to join her and Max on the top of the tent trailer.

A short off-camera sync cord from Canon is cheaper than a Speedlite or the STE-2. The only problem is you're tethered and restricted to the length of your cord.

After paying so much more for a Canon Speedlite, you get this ability to use any shutter speed. but there is still a “gotcha.

For the full off-camera automation and convenience of E-TTL, you have to use a Canon Speedlite capable of operating as the Master or the STE-2 transmitter.

The cheap way to get this off-camera automation for one Speedlite like the 430EX which is only able to work as SLAVE, is to buy an extension off-camera sync cord.

It’s nothing more than a cord that “fools the camera body” into thinking the Speedlite is still on the hotshoe.

High Shutterspeed Synchronization

Max can never resist his cat-nip filled mouse. One Speedlite on the left, the other on the right of the camera.

The advantage of having HSS is your shooting won’t be restricted to any shutter speed.

That means if you don’t want available light to show in your image, just increase the shutter speed and totally eliminate its influence in your scene.

Overpowering daylight and controlling clutter in the background

The picture above of Max was shot outdoors around 4 pm with plenty of daylight left. See the EXIF info under File Properties>Date Created 11/14/10 4:07:59 PM

Since I didn’t want the background, my backyard to show, I set my shutter speed higher to 1/1250 sec @ f4.

The back panel for STE-2 where light ratios and HSS is easily managed

Can you see how this would be great if you’re attempting a portrait in bright sunlight?

HSS would have been really helpful when I did this engagement portrait at the beach.

If you want to fill-flash  in bright sunlight normally you would have to be constrained by an exposure of 1/250 sec @ f8 or f11 ISO 100.

With HSS, you can now use a wide open aperture to throw the background out-of-focus.

The downside of using HSS is your batteries in your Speedlite will drain a lot faster.

Also you may have to combine a couple Speedlites to generate the kind of power to overpower sunlight.

Next time:

With a subject like Max who is so unpredictable, I can only guess where he will be. So I lit a general area. I wish I had added a 3rd speedlite behind his head to separate him from the background.

If I ever attempt this again, I’ll be sure to:

  • do the pictures in the backyard even though the light in the front yard is prettier. The distractions and loud noises aren’t as big an issue in my backyard
  • use light modifiers to sculp and shape the light the way I want. Umbrellas and softboxes might work if I can get the cats used to their strange-looking shapes.
  • add a 3rd speedlite situated high, pointing downwards and behind Max so it can see the STE-2 transmitter. That speedlite will provide the necessary separation of his black form from the background
  • get an assistant and some treats
  • have radio slaves as backup once the light levels drop like close to sunset. The Speedlites had problems firing when it couldn’t see the infra red beam from the STE-2.

Did I Forget Something?

E-TTL when it works makes it very easy to control your ambient and your speedlite, providing you have a subject who will just sit still like Max. I just bracketed by changing my shutter speed till I got the sky the saturation I wanted.

I’m sure there are folks out there with cats who have advice for me but I may have overlooked something here. If that’s the case, feel free to suggest them under comments.

The Setup

Speedlite A on a Gorillapod on the left & Speedlite B on a light stand on the right lit a small area on my tent trailer in front of my house. It was mostly a matter of patience and persistence.

Peter Phun Photography | 

4 thoughts on “Using Canon’s E-TTL part3”

  1. Hello Krysten,
    I was digging through my SPAM filter and only found your comment sorry. I would have responded sooner.

    It sounds like you have all the components to make off-camera flash work. May seem like a silly question, but have you checked compatibility of the Plus II transceivers with the MiniTT1 transmitters?

    I don’t have any experience with those exact components —only the old Pocketwizards .

    Send me an email peter[at]peterphun.coml and a phone number and time when you can be reached and if you have Skype enabled computer with webcam and I”ll see if I can help you get to the bottom of this. Also it’s probably a good idea to let me know where you are for the sake of time difference in time zone.

  2. I have been trying to set up off camera flash for a while and I kinda have some mismatched equipment. I think I have everything I need but I cannot make this combonation work. What I am working with is a Canon 50d, 580exII, one pocketwizard plus II transceiver, and a pocketwizard minitt1 trasmitter. I thought that you could use the new minis with older plus II’s but I am having extreme difficulty. I thought you simply connected the mini to the camer and the plus II to the flash and away you went. Anything helps and I really appreciate it.

  3. Happy New Year Wanda. If the 430 EX Speedlite is too expensive, may I suggest you get a Lumipro LP160 for $160?,14648.html

    It’s gotten great reviews from folks who love small flash units.

    It won’t break your bank. You can buy 2 of these for the price of a Canon Speedlite. And if you’re like me, shooting in manual mode anyway, this is perfect for you.

  4. I am saving for a Canon Speedlite 430EX. My current flash is fully automatic, which cramps my style. I want to experiment more with lighting, and I need a flash with manual mode to be able to do that.

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