Technique Tip Thursday: Get the Flash off the Camera

Have you noticed when you take a picture with the flash on the camera you take decent DMV photos but not very good portraits? Are you confused why the flash that you paid several hundred dollars for delivers these types of photos?


What’s the answer?
“Shadows are the soul of the image” –Frank Doorhof

Many new photographers are so focused on removing the shadows that they fail to see the benefit that they provide. Shadows add the illusion of dimension to 2D Images. When you place the flash on top of the camera you eliminate defining shadows thus you get the pasty DMV look.

So, how do I add shadows?

There are several ways you can accomplish this. The following list is not all inclusive but it will get you started in the right direction.


  • You can use window light and position your subject so that the light casts shadows across your subject
  • You can use a reflector to redirect light to where you want it to fall, whether that be window light, sunlight, or a flash
  • You can bounce your flash on to a white wall.
  • You can use a flash that has been taken off your camera


We are going to talk about getting the flash off the camera. With technology the way it is today this is a relatively simple task. Most modern cameras (Nikon or Canon) can use IR (Infrared) to trigger a flash that is located off the camera. There are many radio triggers out there that let you do this at greater distances without line of site as well. These triggers range in price form a few dollars to several hundred like the Pocket Wizards. The more expensive ones typically have greater range and offer TTL (Through the Lens) metering. Whichever method you choose you will see a massive difference in your flash images once you take the flash off the camera. Once you get to this point you must start paying attention to where the shadow falls as well as specular highlights you may get on the flash side of the face.  If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me!