A flash unit is more than just a simple extra light in the darkness. Nowadays it is quite easy to put these small flash units not only on your camera, but also to use them separately: the so-called strobist photography. We help you on your way.

Many photographers see a flash unit as a handy accessory with which one can quickly add a lot of light at times when it gets too dark to do without extra light. Most photographers, and certainly beginning photographers, put the flash on their camera and direct it directly to the subject. If they become a little creative, they first let the light bounce against the ceiling or against a wall, but photographers usually do not try much more than that. That’s too bad, because the possibilities are endless. If you use your flash unit separately from the camera, you will get beautiful images with a subtle dose of extra light, very quickly. This way you can easily bypass the typical flash image and quickly give your photos an extra professional look. Working with flash units next to (and not on) your camera is also called strobist photography. Would you like to try this as well, but do not know where to start and what you need? We help you on your way.


What do you need?

It goes without saying that you need a portable flash for strobe photography, but with just a flash unit you can not do that much yet; you must of course also be able to manage it. There are special remote controls for this, better known as 'trigger sets'. Such a trigger set consists of two parts: a transmitter that you can put on your camera and a receiver that you can attach to the flash unit. This allows you to ensure that the flash fires at exactly the right time, so that you end up with a well-exposed photo.

Trigger sets come in all shapes and sizes. A few tenners will get you a simple set, but if you want to spend a little extra, you can get extensive sets that you can adjust entirely to your liking. This allows you, for example, to set different flash units in different groups and choose which flash(es) you want to use without turning them on and off, and it is possible to change the settings of the flash via the remote so that you do not always have to walk over to your flash. Flash units are also produced with a built-in receiver, so all you need is a transmitter.

Are you looking for a trigger, remember that you want the trigger to be used with TTL (then the flash can calculate itself with how much power it should use to fire) and whether you want to use HSS (High Speed Sync). In this mode, the flash fires a few times in rapid succession, allowing you to flash while the camera uses fast shutter speeds. If you use a fast shutter speed and a flash without HSS, you could easily get a black bar over your image. Especially if you would like to flash outdoors in bright sunlight this is a must.)

What else can you use?

With a flash and a trigger set you actually have enough to start with strobe photography, but there are countless products that make life a lot more fun and easy. For example, a good flash tripod can give a lot of space to illuminate your subject as you wish and with the right light shapers you can adjust the flash light to your own needs.

Light shapers

So many people want so much. And that also seems to be the case when we talk about light shapers. A flash gives a certain standard light, usually quite hard with clear shadows, but you do not have to do with it for a long time now. With certain accessories you can shape the light very precisely and thus create the image you have in mind. There are light shapers with which you can make the light very soft (there is no clear dividing line between light and shadow, but they flow smoothly into each other), the light can center and give a certain color. There are literally hundreds of types of light shapers, so we list a number of frequently used accessories for you.



A snoot is a kind of snout, which bundles the light strongly. This gives a spotlight effect, especially when the snoot is combined with a honeycomb.


You do not have to reflect the light via the ceiling to make it softer. A reflector attached to the head of the flash does the same. Of course, the flash must be mounted in reverse and the light is less soft than when it is reflected by a large surface such as a ceiling.


An effective way to soften the light is to use a diffuser. If you put a diffusor directly on the flash head, it works a little less effectively, but on the other hand it is very useful. There are also larger models, for example in the shape of a kind of fish bowl.

Beauty dish

There are also small beauty dishes for strobes. They offer the advantage that the light to the edge is reduced, so that the shape of the face is accentuated. However, the light is not very soft, so the beauty in the name has to be achieved partly with make-up.

Honeycomb Softbox

A softbox will give the softest light. If you add a honeycomb to it, you will also receive the effect of the beauty dish, but without its hardness. However, the softbox gobbles up a lot of light, so only to be used with powerful flash units and bright lenses and / or higher ISO settings.


A gel is a kind of colored transparent plastic that can be placed in front of your flash very easily. This allows you to quickly and effectively change the color of the light and thus change the whole atmosphere of the photo. In short, there are two types of gels: orange or blue gels, with which you can adjust the color temperature as desired (for example by making the light a little more orange and  warmer or bluer and colder) and real color gels with which you can quickly change the color of the background.

In short: with a simple portable flash a lot more is possible than just flashing from the front nowadays. With a little creativity, experimentation, and the right accessories you can make beautifully exposed photos everywhere.

Digifoto Pro

Digifoto Pro

This article is written by DigiFoto Pro. Digifoto Pro is a magazine for the photography enthusiast.  The content of the magazine consists of a mix of interviews, reviews, news and portfolio’s and photography projects.  Digifoto pro especially focusses on inspiring, entertaining, informing and moving the reader. Digifoto Pro writes unique and interesting articles, specially for Photo Specialist.