Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Best Little Light in the World

Right before we left for the Florida trip, I picked a Canon 580 EX II flash - not an inexpensive "little puppy." I had been a fan of the 580 EX, but some of the new features of the 580EX II really intrigued me - like a real sync cable connection. I particularly liked how I could set the 580EX II's custom functions with the 40D camera too - very cool!

That's the background - here how I did it. Look at the set up again - here is the link right here. That's the 580EX II attached to the stand with the umbrella. I picked up a little shoe mount which holds the flash and attaches nicely with my adapter to the light stand. Check out the close up of the assembly.
Before I attached the flash to the stand, I set up some flash custom functions via the 40D. This is easily done by scrolling to "Flash Control" -> "External flash C.Fn. setting -> "3.External Metering: Manual" - see Diagrams.
Next, disable the auto "Power Off" function C.Fn. 1 - here is the screen grab.
Now you are almost good to go. Next I switched off the 580EX II and removed it from the 40D. I then attach it to the bracket assembly, and attach the radio receiver with Velcro to the top of the 580 flash - I prefer the Quantum FreeWire system. The next step is to drop the wide angle diffuser over the flash to spread the light path even wider for a nice broad light through the umbrella. Look at the next diagram and you can see how the light is spread out evenly across the umbrella with that little diffuser. I planned to shoot at ISO 400, so after testing, I settled on 1/4 power manual on the 590EX II flash. The back light was supplied by my Quantum T5d flash also triggered by the FreeWire radio. I just adjusted it to an output that just illuminated the background slightly - 1/64th power. For a higher key effect, I "goosed" the power to 1/32 or 1/16th power. That was about it.

The setup was easy lightweight, portable, fast, and reliable. This is getting a bit lengthy, so I'll get to a Part II with examples in the near future. But you have the mechanics to get you started.


  1. That new Canon is very cool, but pricey, I'm still holding myself from buying one. I'm using 2 Vivitars and 1 Canon 430 I found laying around. I've tested all the units and the Vivitars put out 1 whole stop higher than the Canon 430,one cool thing though the 430 can be set to 1/64 of power in manual while the Vivitars go down to 1/16...

  2. Just on a quick note, I really like the shoot thru effect you get with the umbrella but some reason when I try it in weddings I get some flare with my 17-40 F4.0

    Any suggestions ?

  3. Ziser Ziser Ziser, Scott Kelby led me to you, and I am so thankful. Love the demo here, Scott was right! You really are stuffing money into our pockets! Muchas Gracias for sharing.

  4. The ability of the new Canon 7D camera to trigger and fire off camera flash units is great, was wondering what the range was versus using Pocket Wizards.

  5. Having taken several of your classes, I recently purchased a Quantum T5d today in addition to the 580 EX and 580 EX II I currently have. I recently read a pro photographers comment that if one takes in excess of 1000 flash photos for a wedding, the Quantum is definitely the way to go. The little dedicated sealed flashes tend to overheat and give you about 100 flashes in a session. Can you comment if this is fact or fiction?

    I currently have multiple Pocket Wizards and you prefer the Quantum transmitter-can you tell me why? Thank you.