The first part in a series of videos and one of our most requested video topics in the last year – how do I use my flash.  

dec_1_popup_flashYou know the popup flash on your camera? (like the image to the right) We don’t recommend using it as the flash being direct and right over the lens creates harsh lighting. While a soft light from a window or daylight would be preferable owning an external flash also called a speedlight – same name, sounds cooler is best.


  • ETTL for automatic flash exposure
  • A speedlight that lets you rotate and angle the flash direction
  • (optional) Built in wireless support instead of optical, easier to learn


Test ButtonSetup

  • Four AA batteries required, Eneloops (also listed below) are a good rechargeable option.
  • Due to the charge time leave it on and press the test button. That’s the button on the speedlight that looks like the flash symbol. This lets you double check everything is in good order.


Attach to Your CameraHotshoe

  • To start shooting you can attach the flash to your camera, it slides onto your camera’s hot shoe at the top.
  • Make sure to use the locking mechanism on the bottom of the flash by turning it to make sure it is secure.1330701884000_IMG_243258
  • Turn the flash on and check that it started in ETTL mode (setting on the top left).  If not press the mode button until ETTL is displayed.   


Taking photos

  • For a test, shooting on the camera is a good start with the flash pointed at your subject.
  • Shoot with a shallow depth of field (f/2.0), Shutter Speed (1/125) to avoid shake, and ISO 800. Generally this makes for an underexposed photo. If it’s not underexposed then don’t use the flash.
  • Turn on the flash in ETTL and take a photo. It should provide enough light for a proper exposure.



How does ETTL work?fec

ETTL works like echolocation but with light. The flash sends a pre flash out to measure the required amount of light needed to expose a photo. In the same second after that test the actual flash happens within the same shutter press exposing the subject correctly.

Sometimes when you let the camera decide the exposure, it doesn’t always get it quite right and the same can happen when you use a speedlight – that’s why you have flash exposure compensation. As easy way to adjust the power of the flash up or down relative to what the camera thinks is appropriate for your scene and subject.  

Now what if, because it does, the metering is off and the photo is wrong?

Just like exposure compensation while shooting in aperture priority you can do the same with ETTL. If you get an overexposed image adjust flash exposure compensation down and turn it up if scene is underexposed. You can either do this in camera or manually on the back of the flash by hitting the center button and raising the exposure.


Practical shooting with a flash135

Now with portrait shooting in mind having the flash straight at the subject creates flat, boring, light. As a start for portraits indoors we’d like to have a bit of depth and we can do that by turning the flash around, 135 degrees around and 45 degrees up. It seems counter intuitive but by firing the flash over our shoulder it will hit a wall or ceiling and bounce back for a larger light source.

As you can see below, shooting in ETTL 0 was a bit flat. You can adjust it by stops just like in AV mode to raise the power to a proper exposure as in ETTL +1.

Flash Scale

Gear Options

We are using a Canon 600RT but are happy to recommend the extremely similar Yongnuo 600RT

Canon 600RT, available via B&H and Amazon
Yongnuo 600RT, available via B&H and Amazon
As for other options check out our article on Yongnuo Flashes
Eneloop Batteries –

B&H Photo has a landing page for everything that has been announced at Photokina

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