Was it the right decision to buy the Yongnuo YN685 speedlights and the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX controller kit?
I purchased my first Nikon D5100 DSLR in November 2011, that is, I have been actively taking a great interest in photography for a little over 6 years, and all this time I have done very well without sources of artificial lighting. Then there came an insight, a flash in the brain: “God, I desperately need an off-camera speedlight!” I checked prices for the Nikon SB-5000 (cost is 610 USD), then on “AliExpress” I noticed the novelty Yongnuo YN685N for 104 USD and… I bought two sets and the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless flash controller (the total cost of the order is 252 USD), and to them to the heap – the tripod light stand, the white and black/silver umbrella, the flash diffuser reflector. All this stuff chosen almost at random, since I could not find an intelligent guide for inexperienced amateur photographers on the choice of flashes and accessories for organizing a home photography studio. Well, I will try to fill this gap and tell in simple language to beginner photographers what speedlights are needed for, how to setup them, how to choose batteries and a charger for them, how to take images at a professional level. I hope that if I am mistaken about something, experienced colleagues will not throw tomatoes at me, but simply correct in the comments or add to the missing information.
Before we begin, I want to show how the characters of our today’s review look like. Dimensions of flashguns rather big. Traveling with such “gippopotams” will probably not be very convenient: 67x77x210 mm, weight – 426 grams each.
There will be a lot of text in the review. Therefore, in order not to get lost, please see the table of content with the list of topics that we will discuss today.
Content of the Yongnuo YN685N Wireless TTL Speedlite review
- Description of situations when a photographer requires artificial light.
- Pros and cons of constant light, studio monoblocks and off-camera flashes.
- Compare images shot with a pop-up flash, with a speedlight on a camera and on a light stand away from a camera.
- What is the guide number? Principles of set-up of a speedlight in manual mode “M”. What is a function of high-speed sync (HSS)?
- When do you need a fill flash and when lengthening the shutter speed (“drag” the shutter)? Adjustment of the power to balance of ambient light with illumination of flashes.
- Shooting with a speedlight in auto mode (TTL).
- Wireless control of speedlights.
- What else do you need to buy, in addition to artificial light, to arrange a home photography studio?
- A more in-depth analysis of the principles of setting the flash power when shooting in the “M” mode. Which parameters affect the brightness of a subject, and which do to the brightness of a background?
- How to build up a creative lighting system based on the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless flash controller similar to Nikon CLS. Examples of setting up the light with several flashguns for shooting interiors and a matinee in kindergarten.
- When it is better to use alkaline batteries, and when do rechargeable ones? How to choose a charger?
- Analysis of the product range of the Yongnuo speedlights. What is the difference from each other?
- Features of setting up specifically the model Yongnuo YN-685N with the transmitter Yongnuo YN-622N-TX.
- Conclusion to the review.
1. Why do photographers need for artificial lighting?
I enjoy taking images in natural light. Landscapes at the “golden hour” – mmm… a dream! Product photography, still lifes and portraits in natural soft light from a window are simply magical. However, I am an amateur – when the quality of light does not allow me to take a normal image, I either do not shoot it or have to accept the kind of lighting available at the moment or postpone the shooting for another day. Unlike me, in case of you earn with photography or would like to get great images even in difficult light conditions, you cannot do without sources of artificial lighting. Moreover, as I already understood after a brief possession of the Yongnuo YN685-N flashguns, only in a photography studio you can feel like a real creator, a light painter, who completely controls the light-and-shadow drawing (which is the essence of the photography).
Here is a list of examples of situations where an amateur photographer cannot do without artificial light:
- Insufficient light level of the scene (twilight, night, caves, basements, dungeons, dark corridors, etc.).
- There is light, but it is not suitable for correctly exposing the subject (shooting on a background of bright sky or during the day in hard light or ugly shadows from tree branches, inappropriate light from lamps on the ceiling, etc.) fall on the subject.
- It is required to control specifically the quality of light (subject shooting for catalogs of online stores, interior shooting of real estate, product shooting, etc.).
- It is necessary to use colored gels for creative lighting.
It is clear with the first example. Let us look at the situations of the second example: inappropriate lighting. For example, you rented a car and went to watch the Mayan pyramids in the Indian city of Palenque in Mexico. You climbed to the top of an ancient structure and tried to shoot a portrait against the background of the jungle and the blue sky. Due to the difference in the foreground and background illumination, you, as a photographer, have a problem: dynamic range of the sensor is not enough. It turns out either the model is dark or the background is over exposed.
Note. The portrait shot in 2012, so do not criticize, please, the pose of the model. I know that it would be possible to put her better.
In this situation, the presence of a reflector would help. However, it is better to highlight the foreground by a speedlight. I tried to turn on the pop-up flash of my Nikon D5100 DSLR – it helped, but result would be much better with an off-camera flash, since it could be put aside and create front-side illumination (we will discuss this in other sections of this review).
Here is the video showing an example of shooting with the off-camera flash in the afternoon outdoors.
Besides, to shooting in hard light, there may be other situations: for example, you and the customer have agreed to shoot, but on the street is a dull gray day, you will not be able to shoot the masterpiece.
Romantic portraits against the sunset sky will require front illumination. When shooting weddings and other celebrations in the room lamps shine from above turning people into panda bears…
Wildlife photography… Yes, many professional photographers who shoot birds and animals use speedlights. For example, watch this video with the
funny squirrels taken by a Norwegian photographer Geert Weggen.
Mr. Geert Weggen created the photography studio in the window of his private house, in which he installs various toy houses, towers, toys, and he shoots of animals in funny poses. Starting at 0:26 seconds several flashguns, the reflector and the camera are visible. At 1:58 the photo of the titmouse was captured.
Who cares, this is what Geert Weggen writes about his photo equipment in the interview: he used to be shooting with the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens, with the Nikon D7100 professional DX-camera and the Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM super telephoto lens. In case of using the Sigma 1.4x Teleconverter TC-1401 the focal range increased to 850 mm. He shoots with Beike PRO QZSD 888 tripod. The Speedlights are Meike MK 910 i-TTL HSS, controlling – by the Meike MK-GT600 transmitter.
Well, we hold off too much on squirrels. Let us return to our
muttons off-camera flashes. When does a photographer need to control light when shooting a subject? If you are an amateur and want to shoot a couple of shots of products for sale on Ebay or share needlework on Facebook, you can shoot with natural light from a window. However, if you received an order to shoot a thousand items for an eCommerce catalog, then this approach is inconvenient.
The fact is that during the day the sun moves across the sky, changing the direction, intensity, brightness and contrast of the lighting. Photos will be different from each other; it is difficult to fix it in the post-processing. An order for product photography is easier to perform professionally if shot in a photography studio with light that has constant characteristics. Then, if in a year the same customer comes to you again, you can easily reproduce the shooting conditions and supplement his eCommerce store with photos from the new collection.
The same applies to interior photography, corporate portraits photography, etc.
2. What type of light sources to choose: constant light, studio monoblocks or speedlights?
It is possible to illuminate our scenes and models with one of the three listed light generation devices, each of which has its own pros and cons. Let us look at the nuances of using each of them.
2.1. Constant studio light
To me, as to a photo enthusiast, one thing comes to mind: to construct a “big searchlight” by purchasing several energy-saving light bulbs in a home improvement store. I will not talk much (it will take a lot of time), I will note briefly – it will not work to shoot a product image, portrait, food photograph or images in any other genre when illuminated from such a lamp. The reason is that fluorescent lamps pulsate; ones have an intermittent emission spectrum, which produces color distortion (as a result, an incorrect white balance).
The second type of lighting in the studio with constant light – LED panels (for example, the same Yongnuo produces Led Video Light Panel) but they also have dips in the spectrum and low intensity of light emission.
The third type of source of constant light – in professional photo studios use halogen lamps with a capacity of 800-1000 watts. I think it is unrealistic to shoot in an apartment: imagine, in a room you have 3 heaters of 1 kW each? You will also have to buy a 3 kW air conditioner… If you would like to try to make such an illuminator yourself by purchasing a halogen spotlight in household store, also order fire insurance for your home photography studio…
2.2. Studio lights (monolights): the pros and cons
Studio monoblocks (monolights) are sources of light, equipped with a flashlamp and a modelling lamp, which allows the photographer to understand what kind of lighting pattern will be obtained without pressing the shutter release buttom. Monolights give out a more powerful flash, so if I planned to photograph in a photography studio only, I would get this type of speedlights (for a home photography studio, a model with a capacity of 100-250 Joules is enough).
Let us compare the pros and cons of studio monoblocks and off-camera flashes. This is what professional photographers write about this topic.
Power. Even small devices (150 W) are 2 times more powerful than off-camera flashes. Note, 2 times means 1 stop of exposure (+1 EV), and this is important, especially if you take into account the rapid recharge and cooling of the monolights.
For a home photography studio it can be recommend a monoblock with the power of 160 W with a large soft box of 100×80 mm with a double diffuser. Typical studio strobe settings: ISO 100, f/8.0 and shooting at ¼ power. It is located as close as possible to the subject, so that light is softer: from the bottom of the hands to the face (distance about 75 cm).
If you buy a more powerful studio monoblock, of course, it will be more convenient to work, since you have a power reserve. Although there is a dual understanding – it is easier to increase the power of the flash, but it is more difficult to reduce one to the desired value. For beginners, the purchase of a studio strobe with the power of more than 320 watts is debatable: almost all the time one will be set to a minimum. Definitely, more power is required when shooting from long distances but when shooting portraits in an apartment, this is not a top priority issue.
Studio light modifiers. It is easy and simple to install softboxes, grids, snoots, umbrellas, barn doors, color gels and so on. Studio strobes are initially designed with an eye to use with such accessories. The main advice from the pros: do not buy everything at once – will lie idle. Start with umbrellas, and then decide for yourself whether you need this or that light modifier.
Recharge time. Very short even at the full power but usually one is reduced, and then we can say that a studio monolight is ready to work almost constantly.
Built-in fan. Effectively cools the lamp, you do not have to wait until the studio strobe comes to life after the serial shooting.
Pilot (modeling) light. Allows you to direct the light flux and “see the image” in advance. Although, the power of the pilots is less than that of the main lamp. Most often, the pilot light is adjusted in proportion to the main settings. Convenient when working in the studio to use a flash meter (exposure meter). Modeling light mattered in times of film photography, and nowadays, of course, it will help, but we can quickly see the image on the trial photo. When working with low-power monoblocks, the lamps of the modeling light of 100 W are turned off to of the power and there is not much use of them. Nevertheless, a photographer can see the shadows on the face and reflections in the eyes of the models, but you need to take a test shot.
Studio monoblocks are designed to work in manual “M” mode: if you work with several strobes and would like to be able to quickly adjust light, quickly replicate the color setup the next time, it is better to buy a flash meter.
Strobe settings can be started with the following parameters: f/8.0 for key light, f/5.6 – for filling light, f/8.0 or f/11 – for background light, if the background is white. Hairlight depends on the hair color of the model. Customize better for test photos. If you often have to work with several studio monoblocks, be sure to think about buying an exposure meter – it helps to set up lighting easily and simply, and you know exactly what you are doing.
2.3. Off-camera speedlight flashes
They are not as powerful as monoblocks, they work from AA rechargeable batteries or alkaline batteries (AA), but they are portable and more convenient when shooting. Moreover, they certainly give a lot more light than constant light sources.
You can work with the following settings: ISO 100, f/8.0, exposure time 1/200 seconds, and with one white shoot-through umbrella only, if it stands where it should (as close as possible: the model can reach the light stand with her hand). The closer the light source is located in relation to the subject, the brighter and larger it is. Therefore light becomes softer (the normal rule: the size of the umbrella or softbox should be comparable to the distance to the model… one with a diameter of 120 cm at a distance of 1.2 m gives a fairly soft lighting and illuminates approximately an area of 120 cm2). ISO 200 will allow using ½ power and reducing recycling time. However, at a very high ISO, the camera will “capture” the yellow light of the surrounding incandescent bulbs.
If, when shooting with an umbrella, to turn on the maximum power of a flashgun, recycle speed will be longer (you will have to wait before taking the next image). In this case, the faster the shooting, the higher the likelihood of overheating of the lamp and its damage (it takes time to cool).
Speedlights with manual control “M” are inexpensive: 60-100 USD. Rarely, but sometimes photographers place two flashguns under one umbrella (double the power +1 EV).
The need for AA rechargeable batteries, which need to be constantly charged, is the weak side of speedlights. However, the wires do not interfere when shooting – mobility.
Light modifiers, with the exception of umbrellas — mmm, let us say, is not very easy to attach. However, the off-camera flashes work well with umbrellas – enough for home photography studios. Softboxes are not so convenient, because there are Fresnel lenses in speedlights that amplify the luminous flux, from which they form a bright spot on the front panel. Unlike speedlights there is a simple lamp in the softbox of a studio monoblocks described above, which gives out a 180-degree beam of light that fills all the internal space and forms a softer stream of light.
TTL system in off-camera flashes. Usually in studio shooting the automatic mode is not activated, you shoot by adjusting the flash power manually. Moreover, you need to understand that the camera can measure light via TTL of key and filling light, but not of the background or backlight. Using more than 2 flashes with “TTL” is a problem. In general, the “TTL” mode is for reporting photography, and the “M” mode is for shooting in a photography studio (plus a flash meter).
Watch a video comparing the studio monoblock and speedlight flashes.
3. Comparison of a built-in flash, a speedlight on the camera and a speedlight on the stand away from the model
I never use a pop-up flash of a camera. At first, when in 2011 I bought the first DSLR Nikon D5100 with the Nikon 18-55 lens and after 2 weeks I went on holiday with it, I took images in the “Scenes” mode, and the camera sometimes turned on the pop-up flash. However, the images turned out to be flat, so from that time I preferred not to shoot images at all, than to shoot with the built-in flash. Moreover, situations on vacation are such that, indeed, without a controlled artificial light source, it is difficult or impossible to capture quality images.
Let us do experiments on shooting with the turned off flash, with the built-in one, and with the off-camera flash.
We see that due to the lack of light, I had to unimaginably high ISO up to 3200. The bulb under the ceiling left ugly shadows under the model’s eyes.
As we see, the situation with ISO has improved, and the panda-model has turned into a man (no shadows under the eyes), but it still looks insufficient.
Now we take the Yongnuo YN-685 Wireless TTL Speedlite and place it on the camera, pushing out the bounce card to create catch-lights in the eyes of the model and soften the shadows under the eyes, and bounce off the ceiling so that the stream of light will evenly fill the scene.
Note. Unlike the full-frame Nikon D610 DSLR, for some reason, the Nikon D5100 DX DSLR often spotted on focus: only every 10th came out sharp. And I don’t have a sharp portrait with a “flash bounced off the ceiling”, I had to leave one not very sharp, so that you had an idea of what the lighting pattern looks like in such lighting.
Probably, here comments are unnecessary: break the piggy bank and run to the store for a new speedlight flash to your camera. Most of the scenes for shooting in the apartment, even when using a professional camera and fast lenses, require external light sources. Perfunctory we list the advantages of a speedlight over the pop-up flash:
- Speedlights are more powerful than built-in ones, which allows you to illuminate a large area and “reach” to subjects located far away. In addition, the power means that we can more freely use modifiers to make the light softer, more natural looking.
- Speedlights use their own batteries – the camera’s battery does not discharge.
- Off-camera flashes are a larger source of light, and this, in turn, gives a softer light.
- Flashguns have a swivel head that allows a photographer to change the direction of light, that is, it does not limit his creative ideas.
- Recharge time of speedlights is much shorter than that of the pop-up flashes – time and interesting frames are not lost.
- An off-camera flash can be removed from the camera and set aside – even more options for controlling light.
- When using speedlights, unlike pop-up flashes, there are practically no red eyes, since the luminous flux is emitted at a certain distance from the lens axis.
- Flashguns can be used in groups to enhance the power or to create a complex configuration of a light pattern.
In addition to a speedlight, you can purchase a variety of accessories: color gels, reflective cards, light beam forming devices, additional battery packs and radio control systems.
Here is a snapshot that gives insight into how shots were taken of the product photography in this review. On the right – a speedlight with a white shoot-through umbrella, on the left – a white reflector to soften the shadows. The background is a piece of gray polymer sheet, purchased in a shop for needlework. With the help of clothespins I attached it onto the drawer which created a smooth transition from a vertical to a horizontal plane.
Why did I not limit myself to buying one off-camera flash only, but took two. On top of that with the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter? First, it is not always possible to light into the ceiling or on the wall: if the surface is colored, then there will be reflexes, if it is dark, the light will not reflect, if the ceilings are high, there will also be little use. Professional photographers say that in a room with the brown wooden ceiling a speedlight will not help, even if it is located directly above the model’s head.
You can put an off-camera flash aside and illuminate people when shooting with a reflector to get fill light. However, the use of a speedlight for these purposes will allow a photographer himself to choose its intensity and direction more easily and within wider limits.
Here, watch the video on the Youtube channel of photographer Igor Gubarev, in which he shows how he sets up a mobile studio for shooting children in kindergarten. One speedlight – a key light with the softbox-umbrella, the second – for background lighting, the third – hairlight to create a light outline in the hair. A silver reflector is used as afill light. Background – white reflector.
I am trying to shoot the portrait in the same room now, with the same terrible light, but with two speedlights of Yongnuo YN685N.
Yes, how to set-up artificial light in a photography studio, in order to get a beautiful light-and-shadow drawing, I still have to learn and learn. Nevertheless, you will probably agree that this version of the portrait looks better of 4 previous ones shown in the review.
Here is how my set-up of light looked like: on the left – the Yongnuo YN685-N off-camera flash and the white shoot-through umbrella; on the right is the second speedlight Yongnuo YN685N, the background is the white side of the reflector.
Do you see why the previous portrait turned out to be too bright highlight on the right? Apparently, it was necessary to carry the speedlight away from the translucent reflector fabric so that the light spot turned out to be larger. The image shows that the white umbrella is a much larger source of light.
I will show some more examples of shooting in my home photography studio with the Nikon D610 DSLR with the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter and the Yongnuo YN685N speedlights.
Well, I will show the brilliant photographer who shot these amazing images that I showed above. Without his help, you could not now read this review.
To get such a point of view, I had to climb into a chair and photograph from above.
Note. Do you see that my translucent mat, purchased for a product photography, is not very suitable for use as a background in a home photography studio? The flowers on the curtains show through and it seems that the fabric is dirty.
When shooting, it was not always possible to shoot images so that the background completely covers the curtains. The “Fill” (Content-Aware) function in Photoshop turned out to be very useful: you select the desired area, click Shift + F5, Content-Aware… and the software magically fills in this area with a background texture!
4. Guide Number (GN), “M” mode, setting of flash output, flash sync speed
Before diving into the technology of automation available in most modern speedlights, let us see how to control the power of the flash manually. Here we need to remember the basic photo lesson how to adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and how these parameters are interrelated, and how they affect the exposure.
The Guide Number (GN) is a standardized numerical way to show the flash output power. The higher this indicator, the greater the power of the flash. The guide number is calculated as the multiplication of the f-number to the distance at ISO 100 and f/1.0:
GN=F*L (at ISO 100).
This formula is directly related to the Inverse Square Law, which states that the illumination of a subject falls in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from it to the light source. In other words, if we install the speedlight to 1 meter from the model and got a normally exposed frame (0 EV), and then we take the light source off to 1 meter (L=2 m), then the illumination decreased 4 times (-2EV, remember, one stop changes the exposure 2 times). Another 1 meter taken away (L=3m) – the illumination decreased by 9 times (-4.5 EV)…
I will try to give a simpler example. Suppose we shoot a portrait with a speedlight GN 60, the subject is located 4 meters away, and we had to set f/4.0 aperture for normal exposure. Then, for shooting from a distance of 8 meters, you have to open the aperture to f/2.0 and from a distance of 5 times less (0.8 m) – close to f/22.0, approximately.
Since usually the guide number indicated at ISO 100, we can calculate how exposure will change during ISO changing: for example, at ISO 800 and a distance of 8 meters, can be set f/5.6.
Another variable parameter that we must take into account is that we did all the calculations above on the assumption that the speedlight is turned on at the full power. However, in practice, a photographer does not shoot at the maximum power (to extend the battery life, provide fastest recharge and control the exposure more accurately at short distances to the subject). Then one of the two parameters in the guide number equation compensates for this reduction in the flash power.
For example, when shooting with the speedlight GN60 at ¼ output power and at a distance of 4 meters, we need f/2.0 aperture (which is aperture in the sample above).
One thing to remember when comparing the guide numbers of different speedlights: in those sources of light where there is a zoom head, manufacturers measure the GN at different focal lengths (zooming – the light beam narrows or expands in proportion to the focal length of the lens). Then it is clear that a wide beam, say, with focal length 35 mm of speedlight, will not be as powerful as a concentrated beam with focal length 105 mm, even if the other parameters are exactly the same on the flashgun.
Therefore, it is difficult to compare the power of speedlights provided by different manufacturers. For example, the native Nikon SB-910 has the GN 34 (at ISO 100), and my Yongnuo YN685N has GN 60 (ISO 100). It seems that the Chinese flashgun is 1.76 times more powerful, but if you dig deeper, it turns out that Nikon gives the GN for focal length 35 mm, and Yongnuo do for focal length 200 mm. Only if I open the paper operational manual to my model (in electronic one, for some reason, this information is not available), then I see that YN685N with focal length 35 mm has the GN 36. That is, it is almost comparable with Nikon SB-910, and at focal length 200mm, the native SB-910 has the GN 53.
It should be noted also that in most cases when shooting with an off-camera flash, exposure is almost not affected by shutter speed, by the aperture only. The reason is that the duration of the flash is several times shorter than the exposure time. Therefore, when we shorten the shutter speed, we will not see changes in the exposure, since the flash, in essence, acts as a shutter.
In addition, provided that there is no a leaf shutter in our camera (it is installed not in the camera, but in the lens of medium format and full-frame, but in DSLR and mirrorless cameras use a focal-plane shutter), we will not be able to get a normally exposed photo at shutter speeds shorter, on average, 1/250 seconds (depending on the camera model: on my Nikon D610 it is 1/200 sec., on Fujifilm X cameras it is 1/180 sec.).
The fastest shutter speed that a particular camera is capable to provide with speedlight is called “Sync Speed” (X-sync Speed, flash sync speed). What does this mean in practice? A focal-plane shutter consists of front and rear curtains. At shutter speeds longer than Sync Speed, for example, at 1/50 second, one curtain opens, light falls on the sensor for a specified amount of time, then the second curtain closes it. In the case of shutter speeds shorter than Sync Speed, for example, 1/500 sec., the second curtain starts to close when the first one has not fully opened the sensor – a gap forms. If at this moment we “blink” with a flash, then will be illuminated only part of the image that has fallen into this slot. If we flash at a shutter speed longer than the sync speed (for example, at the mentioned 1/50 sec.), we will get a fully exposed image; however, depending on this exposure time, other effects and benefits may occur.
The high-speed sync mode (HSS, high speed synchronization, FP-mode, Fast Pulse) helps to avoid the problem of too long flash sync speeds – while a speedlight emits a series of less powerful (GN decreases), but very short pulses, allowing you to use the shortest exposure time (at least 1/8000 sec.).
Such HSS mode is useful when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, when we need to open the aperture wide to blur the background.
In HSS mode, there is a limit of the output power: you may find that 1/1 or ½ of the flash power is not available. Well, it should be understood that the HSS mode is very hard to the speedlight electronics.
Here is a video demonstrating what is Sync Speed (X-Sync) and what happens if you shoot at a shorter shutter speed and in HSS mode.
1:06 – How a shutter of two curtains is made.
1:11 – Opening the front curtain.
1:17 – Start closing the rear curtain.
1:27 – How the shutter works with a very short shutter speed of 1/1000.
1:48 – Shooting with speedlight at shutter speeds longer than X-Sync.
2:03 – Shooting at shutter speeds shorter than sync speed.
2:22 – It is explained that the image is reversed in the optical system; therefore the bottom of the frame is darkened.
3:26 – Shooting in high-speed sync mode (HSS, High Speed Synchronization or FP-Sync, Fast Pulse).
3:49 – It is explained that, depending on the model, the pulse frequency can be 50 kHz (50,000 times/sec), so the flash looks like a constant beam of light (first a test flash is given).
It should be noted that not all camera models support high-speed sync (see the specifications of your camera).
5. Fill flash and “draging” the shutter
Although speedlights are used often to illuminate the whole scene either due to low light conditions or because we had to close the aperture to expand depth of field (DOF), ones are used in conjunction with ambient light in order to gain additional creative benefits also.
Returning to such parameter as sync speed — if we use shutter speed close to that needed for the normal exposure of the surrounding scene, together with the use of a speedlight, we mix the light of a flash and ambient.
This technique is called “drag” the shutter and it is used to light up certain subjects on the scene. Example – shooting subjects at dusk, when the foreground immersed in darkness, and the sky is still quite bright. Alternatively, we shooting people in a room so that the dark corridor in the background does not “go off into blackness”, but normally exposed.
In such scenes, a speedlight is used to light up the subject in the foreground, and the shutter speed is chosen to ensure the normal background exposure. As a result, in one photo we get a balanced exposure of both the foreground and the background.
If I did not have a task to shoot silhouettes at sunset, I should have used the flash by the method of “drag” the shutter: with the same 1/20 second and f/8.0 I would get such a sky, plus normally exposed portraits of people.
In the next photo if shutter speed would not 1/60 but 1/200, the modest author of this review would have been exposed exactly the same, but the background would have fallen into blackness. Conclusion: shutter speed does not affect the flash exposure, but affects the background exposure.
The same “drag” the shutter approach works well when it is necessary to “freeze” movement at dusk: we light up and “freeze” the object with a speedlight and by continuing to remain the shutter opened the background can be exposed.
The same concept, but using the opposite protocol, is fill flash: we use speedlight either to light-up a darkened front subject in the foreground or to dim the background that is too bright. This method is used either on a bright day or in situations with good light, even if ambient lighting is sufficient for hand-held shooting, when there is a difference in foreground and background exposure values (that is, with backlighting or silhouettes).
First measure the exposure on the subject, then on the background to use properly fill flash. The difference is what needs to compensate by an off-camera flash. Now we set the camera’s settings so that it correctly exposes the background (remember that the front one will be dark) and the flash settings are such as to take into account the difference in EV steps, which we calculated earlier.
This approach allows you to get a uniformly exposed image (a chart for calculating the exposure compensation of a speedlight is presented below in subsequent chapters).
The same approach is used to deliberately make a subject brighter than the background, so that it attracts more attention of the audience. We need to perform the previous steps, but in the camera settings, set the parameters so that the surrounding space is slightly underexposed, and flash at the same time normally illuminates the object. We get the photo with the well-exposed subject and the muted background.
6. Automatic mode (TTL) of a speedlight
Above, we looked at the manipulations that the photographer executes when setting up the speedlight in manual “M” mode. We have seen that here he has ample opportunities for creativity: by increasing or decreasing the power of flash he can make the subject brighter than the background or equally illuminated with it, the shadows are deep or very soft. We control both: speedgun and camera settings.
However, sometimes the automatic mode is the faster and more convenient way, which called “TTL” (from the abbreviation of the phrase “Through the Lens”, “metering through the lens”). The method of determining the parameters of a speedlight in this mode is similar to the automatic mode of the camera, but takes into account more variables: the output power, the distance to the subject, if a compatible lens is mounted.
In the TTL mode, when you press the camera’s shutter release button, a speedlight sends a small light flash (usually its power is 1/128 of the total output power of our device); it reflects from the subject and through the lens hits the camera’s sensor. After that, a photocamera determines what the shutter speed should be in order to get a normally exposed subject.
Modern TTL-systems are able to control the settings of a camera and a speedlight, which allows you to get a perfectly exposed photo without having to take a lot of test shots.
This method of determining the correct exposure when shooting with an off-camera flash also depends on the model of a speedlight and a camera, moreover, both components must “speak the same TTL language.” Different photo camera manufacturers have their own TTL systems: for example, E-TTL II by Canon or i-TTL by Nikon, and when we choose a speedlight, we need them to recognize this “language”.
In addition, modern TTL systems can more accurately work with specific lenses, allowing you to enter distance coefficients to the subject. Depending on what we focused on, the flashgun sends a flash sufficient for the correct exposure at a given distance to the subject.
In order for a photographer to have the opportunity to deliberately receive underexposed or overexposed images or correct errors in the metering of automatic equipment, most speedlights have the ability to correct the exposure, like on cameras, plus or minus with a certain step.
Exposure compensation also allows a photographer to adjust the amount of fill light when shooting in TTL. Nowadays, in addition to native speedlights, many third-party models are being produced, adapted to the automatic system of one camera manufacturer or another. For example, my Yongnuo YN-685 is available for Canon and Nikon cameras.
Based on my little experience of shooting with off-camera flashes, it seemed to me that the TTL auto mode was convenient when shooting a reportage. For example, you took your Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Yongnuo YN685C to the wedding and you need to take an image during a perfomance. There is no time to adjust the flash power. Shoot in E-TTL. The second case is the product photography, model posing: when taking images with a speedlight in the manual “M” mode, you can set up lighting that is more creative without being in a hurry.
Professionals claim that the TTL flash auto mode has the following disadvantages:
- Some people have time to blink from a preliminary, estimated flash, so the portrait goes spoiled.
- A pre-flash fills the scene with unnecessary lighting, which causes blurring (re-reflection) in the eyes of models.
- The flashgun heats up and the batteries are quickly discharged.
To avoid all these problems, when possible, they shoot with a flashgun in manual mode “M”.
7. Remote control of speedlights
At the beginning of the article, we discussed in detail why shooting with a pop-up camera flash gives a worse result than if a speedligth is installed aside. Then it needs to be somehow controlled (synchronized with the camera shutter). There are several ways to synchronize:
- using sync cable;
- optical triggers (optical slaves);
- infrared triggers;
- radio triggers.
A sync cable is inconvenient as it keeps a photographer on a leash and you can drop the equipment.
Infrared triggers are installed on the camera in the “hot shoe”. A beam that is captured by a slave sensor is sent, and it triggers a flashgun. Disadvantages: an off-camera flash must be in the line of sight, it can be triggered unintentionally by other people’s triggers (uncomfortable in public places where there are other photographers), when shooting in the sun, a slave sensor can “go blind” and it do not function. An advantage of an infrared trigger is low price.
Optical triggering – you trigger a pop-up flash, a slave sensor catches the flash and triggers a speedlight. The disadvantages are the same as that of the IR triggers, the advantages – you can even use it with cameras that do not have a “hot shoe” or even with a point-and-shoot camera, even with a smartphone.
I note immediately that my Yongnuo YN685N does not have an optical salve sensor. However, suppose you took the Yongnuo YN560 II flash with a salve sensor for almost nothing (S1 mode – firing by the first light pulse, S2 – the first pulse ignored, triggering by the second one, which is convenient when the master shoots in TTL). Now take the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80 point-and-shoot camera or iPhone and shoot with a popup flash – the Yongnuo YN560 II catches up the light signal and lights up the scene. Cool! ISO needs a low, image quality unattainable for a small sensor of point-and-shoot cameras or a smartphone!
Finally, radio triggering: you install a transmitter on the camera, a receiver on the flashgun. Advantages – there are no those disadvantages that the methods described above have, the range is up to 100 meters (remember wild life photography – bears wandering through a forest glade, you can take images with flashguns installed in the comfortable places). A speedlight can be hidden even around a corner of a building.
If we talk about my kit (2 Yongnuo YN685N speedlights + the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless flash controller) then the main feature of it is as follows:
- The receiver is already built in into the speedlight – the dimensions are reduced, no needed additional batteries, the mechanical reliability of the system increases.
- The Yongnuo YN-622N-TX commander has a display and can control three groups of speedlights (A, B, C — for example, key light, fill light and backlight). This is very convenient, since the photographer does not need to run to each of the speedlights to adjust its parameters – everything done by the controller!
So, for the sake of interest, I will tell you what at the moment of shooting the transmitter Yongnuo YN-622N-TX displays here:
- First line. Flash zoom – Auto. For the group “A” – 24 mm, “B” – 24 mm, “C” – 28 mm.
- Control channel – 1 (in total there are 4 of them, you can change it if a photographer with the same transmitter YN-622N-TX in the next room is disturbing you).
- The speedlight of group “A” controlled manually. Flash power – 1/8.
- The speedlight of group “B” is also in the “M”, the power is 1/64.
- The speedlight of group “C” is in i-TTL mode with an exposure compensation of +0.3 EV (these settings remained after the test shooting, in fact I have only 2 off-camera flashes).
8. How to set up a home photography studio? What else does a photographer needs besides speedlights and wireless flash commanders?
So, to shoot at home photography studio professionally using artificial light you will need:
1. Light stands. I took one, and now I understand that it will be necessary to buy the second one for the second speedlight too. When choosing, you should take into account their weak point: they can fall in the wind if you shoot outside. Therefore, any model of light stands will be suitable for indoor photography (considering its height), for the street – special ones, adapted for placing cargo on them (sandbags or photo backpacks).
An example of a special light stand suitable for sandbags is Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand. Here is a video review, at 2:42 minute you can see how the legs are aligned horizontally to the floor.
You can make bags yourself. If laziness than search for “Saddle Bag Light Stand”.
2. The flash shoe umbrella holder is a device with a “cold shoe” for attaching to the light stand a speedlight or a transmitter. There is a hole for mounting an umbrella. It is very difficult to figure out how they differ. In outline:
Type B. The most versatile holder designed for the load of 5 kg. It is better suited for devices without its own clamping ring or a retainer, since it has a wide pad and a screw with a spring pad, holds very firmly.
Type C. Very small and light. Sustains load of 2 kg.
Type D1 designed to load of 10 kg. A speedlight can be mounted on both sides – it is convenient if the umbrella changes position simultaneously with speedlights’ inclination.
Type D2 is the same, but load of 5 kg and the “cold shoe” can be unscrewed to attach other devices (for example, a holder for two flashes).
Watch a video overview of the flash shoe umbrella holder E-Type for a home photography studio.
3. Light modifiers (umbrella, scrim, softbox, beauty dish, honeycomb grid spot filter, Fresnel lens, oktobox). It was already noted above that it is better for beginners to start learning to set up lighting with the help of umbrellas. If you compare them with softboxes, then the latter have a more luminous flux. Pros make such a comparison: an umbrella is like a hose with a watering nozzle, splashing water in all directions: we have a luminous flux everywhere, additional reflection and illumination appear.
Types of umbrellas for a photography studio
A silver or golden umbrella is well suited for shooting groups of people. Silver one provides a cold tone, gold one does warm. Both provides harsh light.
A white reflective umbrella creates soft light that does not diverge as much as when shooting with a silver-gold surface and it is not so contrasting. With such lighting you can shoot moving groups of people or couples, for example, at a wedding.
A white shoot-through umbrella distributes light evenly. This is an ideal tool to beginner photographers for learning how to setup lighting with speedlights.
Watch the video with description what is difference between a white reflective umbrella and white shoot-through one.
There are a lot of holy wars regarding shooting with those two types of umbrellas. So far, theoretically, I accept the statement that a reflective umbrella provides a softer light in view of the fact that the surface of the glow is larger. Although, it is believed that in this case light goes a longer way and its intensity decreases more noticeably.
For example, flash power of our speedlight is 1/1, the distance to the model is 1 m, umbrella depth is 0.15 m. Then, when shooting with a white reflective umbrella the distance traveled by the light will be 30% longer and the illumination intensity will drop by 69%:
L = 1m + 0.15m + 0.15m = 1.3 m
EV = 1/(L2) = 1/(1.32) = 1/1.69
As a result, I met this advice: when shooting at very small distances, it is better to use the white shoot-through umbrella; for large distances (for example when we shoot portraits of groups), it is better to use the white reflective umbrella.
On the other light modifiers there is no point in stopping now. I note only that the pros advise you to think about what kind of mood we would like to create, what kind of lighting to set up. If we photograph on a sunny day, then we choose modifiers that create hard lighting (a beauty dish, a honeycomb grid, a speedlight without any modifier). If light is soft, like at dawn or at dusk, in the shade or on a cloudy day, then choose a scrim, an umbrella or a soft box.
Watch a video of nightclub photography with a speedlight.
The author of this video review shoots in nightclubs with the following photographic equipment: the Canon 5D Mark III or the Canon 70D DSLR, the zoom lens Tamron 24-70 Di SP F2.8 VC, the Yongnuo YN-565EX II speedlight and the wireless flash controller Yongnuo YN-622C.
Color gels (films of different colors) are used to correct white balance (WB) in images and to create color effects. Example: when shooting in an apartment with incandescent bulbs, the person lit by the speedlight will be white, since flash’ light has the same temperature as daylight (5500K) and the background will be yellow, since it is lit by incandescent bulbs (2200K). If we take the orange gel, the flash will also shine with a white balance of 2200 Kelvin. Then in Lightroom we will correct white balance so that the photo looks harmonious.
As I understand it, it does not always help (due to pulsations and dips in the spectrum), but when shooting in a room lit by fluorescent light, you can try using green or pinkish gels.
The remaining color gels are used for showing off: for coloring, for example, the background or for toning the skin of the model.
What is a snoot, a gobo and a flag read in the following article.
9. How to set up a speedlight for shooting in manual mode “M” (not in TTL)
To begin with, 90% of the professionals whose recommendations I have read advised to set the camera in “M” mode and not in aperture priority “A” or shutter speed priority “S”. This is explained by the fact that shooting under conditions when ambient light is much weaker than flash’s one, the camera does not take into account the light from it in the automatic mode when calculating the exposure. In other words, the robot inside the camera believes that we have no flash: a flash freezes motion in the photo. Therefore, we will not see the difference between the image shot with 1/200 and 1/15 seconds. However, the background will be blurred if the shutter speed is long enough. Therefore, in the aperture priority mode, for example, in the dark, the camera will not take into account the presence of a speedlight and set too long shutter speed, which will lead to undesirable blurring.
Mmmm … how to start. We have two exposures: the background exposure and the flash exposure. How correctly the background is exposed depends on the ratio of the three parameters: shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. The correct exposure of a subject lit by a flash depends on four factors:
- The distance from the light source to the subject.
- Flash power taking into account the loss of light from the light modifiers used.
- The aperture.
For clarity, I place the parameters in the table.
Now carefully study the data in this table. Having switched the camera to the “M” manual control mode, we fully control ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
Changing the flash power leads to a change in the exposure of the subject, but not the background (unless it is located close to the subject) – remember the law of inverse squares of distances when light is propagated.
By adjusting the shutter speed, you can change the background exposure without affecting the exposure of the subject. This thing is beyond comprehension (the video will be presented as proof below), but we can make the background brighter or darker by lengthening or shortening exposure time, while the subject will remain the same brightness.
The reason is that the flash duration is so short that it disappears before the shutter closes (up to 1/50’000 sec.). In practice, for a photographer, this means that it does not matter what the shutter speed is 1/25 or 1/180 seconds – the same amount of light from the speedlight will still fall on the camera sensor. No more and no less. However, at the same time, the background will have more or less chances to catch the surrounding light, and this is important for its correct exposure.
We pass more or less light on the camera sensor changing the f-number, which affects the brightness the subject as well as the background at the same time. That is, we can choose the desired aperture, and then adjust the flash power to it.
If we keep a speedlight closer or farther of the subject to 2 meters, it almost does not affect the background exposure (if it is far enough), but according to the inverse square law of distance, which we considered at the very beginning of our review, the exposure of the subject changes 4 times (i.e., 2 stops), which will require an increase in flash power.
Two conclusions we have from these deliberations. First, theoretically, we can control the brightness of the subject by installation of speedlights closer or farther. In practice, this is not aplicable because the farther the light source, the harder the lighting and the more powerful flash is required (the batteries sit down, the electronics overheat). Secondly, despite the presence of artificial light, a fast lens is of help: if we opened the aperture in our Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens to a maximum of f/5.6, and at 1/60 shutter speed the background is still dark, and we would like to keep it without blurring (for example, guests at the wedding in the background for the bride and groom), we have to increase the ISO value. Surprise!
Okay, let us watch the video, which demonstrates the effect of changing the brightness of the background depending on the different settings of the flashgun and the camera.
To make it easier to understand, the author fixed ISO at 200, changing only the shutter speed and aperture, the flash power.
4:29 – The first image was shot without a speedlight (ISO 200, f/8.0, В=1/50).
4:32 – The same settings, but with the speedlight turned on (the subject has become bright, the background unchanged).
5:38 – The shutter speed was shortened by 2 times (to 1/100 sec.). The background darkened, the subject remains the same in lightness.
6:59 – The aperture was opened to f/4.5. The background blurred and brightened, the subject brightened too.
Taking into account everything that we learned today, a photographer may have three situations:
- The background is so bright that at minimum ISO and small aperture it is impossible to set the shutter speed shorter than X-Sync (1/200 or 1/250 sec., depending on the camera model) – then you have to turn on HSS (if possible on your camera and on your flashgun).
- Shooting on a uniform background, when the aperture does not have a special purpose (more definitive, the depth of field is not important) and we can choose small one to control exposure.
- Shooting in conditions when you want to control the depth of field (to adjust the bokeh) – that is, you need to adjust the aperture.
Let us consider an example of a setup algorithm for this third case:
- Image format – RAW.
- White balance – “Auto”.
- The Auto ISO function should be turned off. Put the base ISO on the camera (for example, ISO 100 for a Nikon DSLR, ISO 200 for a Fujifilm X mirrorless camera).
- Autofocus mode – AF-S (single mode).
- Exposure – let us start with 1/100 of a second and with the desired aperture (say, f/4.0, if we shoot a group portrait).
- The method of exposure meter does not matter as we photograph in the “M” mode.
- Turn off Active D-Lighting (this is the name of the dynamic range expansion function when shooting in Nikon JPEG; Canon names it Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO), Sony do Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO)) as it does not applicable when shooting in RAW.
- The flash power of the key light speedlight is 1/8. The rest of the flashguns off.
- The fill light speedlight – 1/32…1/64 of the flash power. After we have adjusted the key light, set up the fill light. See the result.
- If there is the flashgun of background light, try it at 1/16 of the flash power.
I would like to note that the specified above algorithm is only an outline. The flash power settings depend on the distance to the subject and on the modifier used: agree that the amount of light from a white shoot-through umbrella and a white reflective umbrella, a softbox and a white reflector will be different. Even if we photograph with the white shoot-through umbrella and the reflective one, power of the light flux will be different, since the distance to the subject differs (see Figure X “b”). This means that the flash power will be necessary to set up properly.
In order to the flashgun does not heat up and to recharge faster, it is recommended not to shoot at maximum power: optimally 1/8, if needed 1/4, 1/2 or 1/1, it is better either to raise ISO instead or select a wide aperture of several exposure steps.
Note. Since we are talking about the safe operation of a flashgun, shooting on a wide zoom with a wide-angle reflector can also cause overheating. Pros say that the flash zoom needs only when shooting “direct flash” and in other cases zoom can be adjusted manually. Instead of a wide-angle reflector better to use plastic diffusers.
Oh, I forgot to mention about one more tip: a bounce card. When we photograph on the “bounce a flash up at the ceiling” method, a bounce card serves to highlight the shadows under the eyebrows (“kills the panda”) and creates catch lights in the eyes, making them alive!
Well, here we understood that we have to adjust the exposure of the flashgun, change the aperture of the lens, ISO of the camera and the flash power. The following table will help us set the correct settings.
What does it show us? For example, at the given distance of 6 meters, ISO 100 and f/16 aperture, we get the correct exposure at a flash output of 1/1. Then the safe value of 1/8 can be obtained by setting f/5.6, and my fast-aperture zoom lens Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G will anyhow allow setting 1/32 of the Yongnuo YN685N’s flash power due to the opening of the aperture to f/2.8.
Another example – for the given aperture, according to the scene illumination conditions, we need to set flash power to 1/1. We cannot open the aperture, and in order to reduce the flash output to 1/8, we will have to raise ISO from 100 to 800.
Basically, if you saw the table of depending exposure on ISO, shutter speed and aperture then you realize that they are related.
10. What is the Nikon CLS system and why does my Yongnuo YN685N + Yongnuo YN-622N-TX kit displaces it?
In this section, I finally explain why I bought not just one Yongnuo YN685N speedlight, but two ones, and in kit with the wireless flash controller. I think the easiest way to do this is by show examples.
So, based on all the above, we realized that the highest quality image can be obtained if you take off the flashgun from the camera and install it aside. Moreover, if there are several light sources, and their parameters can be set up individually, the image will be like that of professionals. This is because in this case we have several types of light in our home studio:
- A key light is our main source of cut-off light.
- A fill light softes the shadows made by the key light speedlight.
- A background light is the one with which we illuminate the background. If we put a color gel on the flashgun’s head, we can get a creative multi-colored background.
- A backlight (a rim light) – serves to add volume, to illuminate, for example, the hair of a model in a portrait.
- A side light – to highlight parts of the scene from the side.
All these light sources need to be controlled. Nikon created the Nikon CLS system for this (Nikon Creative Lighting System). It includes a control object (Master, commander – camera, commander flash or transmitter) and obey speedlights (more often the pros say “they work in a slave mode”), which obey from the master’s command.
The master can be either the camera itself (if it is one of the advanced models: Nikon D70, D70s, D80, D90, D200, D300, D300s, D7000, D7100, D7200, D7500, D700, D600, D610, D750, D800, D800E, D810, D810a) or the wireless speedlight commander specially purchased for extra money like Nikon SU-800, Nikon WR-R10/WR-T10, Nikon WR-A10 (Nikon SB5000), Nikon SU-4. Another way is to install a native flashgun capable of working as a “Master” on the camera: Nikon SB-700, SB-500, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910 and SB-5000.
Well, if you consider how much it costs to create “Nikon CLS” with native speedlights and transmitters, you will immediately understand why I replaced all this stuff with the Chinese Yongnuo YN685N + Yongnuo YN-622N-TX kit.
- Nikon D5600 DX-format Digital SLR w/ 18-55mm VR II Kit – 529 USD.
- Speedlight Nikon SB-700 – 2 pcs. (326*2=752 USD).
- Wireless speedlight commander Nikon SU-800 – 337 USD.
Total: 1618 USD.
If instead of the entry level DSLR Nikon D5600, you buy the Nikon D7500 mid-range enthusiast DSLR DX-camera for 1247 USD, which can be a “Master”, then you don’t have to buy the Nikon SU-800 transmitter (all parameters can be set on the camera display) and the total cost of the kit will be decreased: 2000 USD.
Well, the investment in the same system based on Yongnuo equipment will be:
- Nikon D5600 DX-format Digital SLR w/ 18-55mm VR II Kit – 529 USD.
- 2 speedlights Yongnuo YN685N + the wireless speedlight commander Yongnuo YN-622N-TX – 252 USD.
Price: 781 USD.
Examples of shooting a portrait with multiple flashes.
The creative lighting system is based on Canon flashguns in this video. First, the presenter Mr. Ben Long introduces to the viewer Australian musician Mr. Stephen Kent.
2:35 – Shows an image shot without flash. Shoots in “S” mode as the subject moves. Shooting made on the Canon EOS 7D DSLR with the Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4.0L IS USM lens.
3:57 – The photographer examines several images and invites the musician to look at the lens, but he refuses, because he does not feel that way about the connection with the musical instrument.
5:17 – Explains that the musician will play, and the photographer will use 3 flashguns. But now they will install only the key and fill light.
6:10 – The key light is on the left at the light stand. It is usually set high to mimic the sun, at an angle of 40°-45° to the plane of the subject. Light will pass on the left and leave hard shadows that will need to be softened with a second speedlight.
6:28 – It is explained that the speedlight is on the light stand, for control, the radio transmitter on the body and the receiver on the light stand are used. The mode is “M”, not “TTL”. The flash output power – 1/32.
8:00 – Switchеs the body also in the “M” mode. Shutter speed set at X-Sync: 1/250 for Canon EOS 7D. Since the “TTL” is off, the aperture and ISO is set a rough guess: f / 5.0, ISO 200. The test shot is black.
8:54 – The aperture had to be open up to f/4 and lengthen the shutter speed to 1/125, ISO 800.
9:07 – Examing the test photo, he realizes that the light is very hard and there is clipping in highlights. The reason is too much flash power, because it is a point source of light and you need a white umbrella to mitigate glare.
10:42 – An example of shooting with the white shoot-through umbrella. The shadows became softer and the glare disappeared.
11:04 – Increases the flash power from 1/32 to 1/16 (1 stop, 2 times brighter). He could move the speedligth closer to the subject, but the illumination area is very wide, so in this case it is impossible to do so.
12:13 – Until the end of the video the photographer runs from the shooting location to the stand and adjusts the flash power, explains that it is necessary to do this every time.
The video tutorial ends with the fact that in the following lessons the fill light (on the right side of the speedlight on the light stand) and the background light will be adjusted in exactly the same way.
Once again, I note the advantage of the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter over Canon’s own speedlights in this video: I do not have to go to the light stand, lower/raise the flashgun to adjust – everything is configured immediately on the controller.
Another use of creative lighting is to shoot interiors for a real estate agency catalog. The Nikon D750 DSLR camera, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 wide-angle lens. The tripod with the geared head, allowing you to precisely set the horizon — it’s important that there is no distortion when photographing at a wide angle (I don’t understand why the photographer needs such a precision “head” because in the Nikon D750, similar to the Nikon D610, there is a built-in horizon level). The Phottix Odin radio sync – 3 pcs., Manfrotto stands. The photographer does not pinch the upper section so that the umbrella holder can be fastened quickly.
2:23 – The photographer says that he usually uses the CamRanger system to use the tablet to view images. However, he has already taken a million images, so in this video he does not connect it, as time is spent on uploading images
3:20 – When you need to use a reflector and a white umbrella. This time the room has white ceilings and doors – it is convenient to reflect the light of flashguns.
3:40 – Begins to setup the lighting. Every time when shooting interiors there is a problem how to avoid glare.
4:33 – We can see that the selected location of the flashguns is not suitable, since reflexes were formed in the windows. Moves the light stands.
4:45 – Now the ceiling is clipped in the frame on the left.
4:51 – Decides to reflect the flash light from the white kitchen door.
5:11 – The photographers adjusts the settings a bit and gets the final image at 5:14, which will then be finalized in “Lightroom” and “Photoshop”.
In interior photography, it must be said that there may be a lot of speedlights to properly illuminate all secluded corner, and the setting principle is as follows: the camera is adjusted so that there is no clipping on the brightest subject (for example, over the window in the frame), and then speedlights balance lighting dark areas in the room.
I would like to note a feature that exists in the Yongnuo YN685N models: they can work as slaves in the “S. Slave” and “M. Slave” modes. In the first case, using the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter, you can configure all the parameters; in the second, it only triggers flashes, but they remain in the “M” mode with the parameters that we set up manually. I think in this example the light sources of groups A, B and C can be configured under the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless controller, and D and E should be triggered in “M. Slave” mode. Thus, we see that the creative light system Yongnuo allows you to set an infinite number of options for the power of lighting.
Example of shooting a matinee in a kindergarten using a creative lighting system
Well, all these interior photographs are something theoretical for most photographers. Let us look at the practical example of photography, which may concern the life of a good half of the readers of my blog: photography of children’s matinees. We need to shoot at the professional level Christmas’ performances in kindergarten. We arrive in advance and setup the lighting (Creative Lighting System, not with Nikon but with Yongnuo).
The white shoot-through umbrella, mounted on the light stand near the piano (01) provides main key light.
A Christmas tree stands in the corner of the hall. It is illuminated by Flashgun 02 (fastened to curtains with either a clothespin or a rope). To prevent color cast from the wallpaper, we screen it with a sheet of white paper. The settings for this speedlight are the following: 14 mm zoom, power – 1/32 (maybe, after test shots, you will have to reduce it so as not to light up the background).
The background behind the Christmas tree at our party in kindergarten is illuminated with Speedlight 03 (with the soft box).
The children who are on the bench, we illuminate with Speedlight 04 (FL = 70mm, flash power 1/16, beam of light directed into the ceiling).
Now you need to go to the middle of the hall and make test shots. Typical settings: ISO 1000, shutter speed 1/250 (X-Sync), f/2.8-4.5.
In most cases, the choice of shooting points for photographers is limited – “A” and squatting in front of parents-viewers. However, sometimes you can change the location (2-3 points of shooting). So, from the point “B” you can take images of children-spectators.
A more detailed description of the creative lighting system for shooting a performance at the children’s matinee can be found on the web-site of the photographer Igor Gubarev (in Russian, Google translate is necessary, but sample images available without translation).
Needless to say that a similar lighting setup with several speedlights, controlled by a radio trigger (and/or optical slave sensor), can be built for shooting a wedding banquet, a corporate party, etc.
If we are discussing portraits, let us see the backstage of the short photoshoot of a brutal man on the background of the airplanes. Shot with the full frame Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR with Carl Zeiss Jena 135mm f/3.5 and Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM prime lenses with the Yongnuo YN560 IV, Yongnuo YN560 TX speedlights, the Phottix beauty dish.
Who cares the video itself was shot on the Sony FS700r camcorder (25fps/50fps/100fps/S-LOG) and the Sony 16mm f/2.8 + Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses.
In addition – a backstage of professional photoshoot with softboxes in the bar with the model on the motorcycle.
If we are talking about shooting with speedlights, I would like to suggest considering the algorithm for shooting a portrait of a group photoshoot. Here are tips from professional photographers.
0:14 – To get natural emotions in the images, try to bring all family members into the game (offer games, pose competitions, run for short distances all together, try photo portraits in a jump).
0:32 – Keep your camera ready (be prepared to shoot unexpected moments). Examples: a wave that rolls the whole family from head to foot, children falling into the water, etc.
0:50 – Be prepared to photograph all possible combinations of family members (start with a photo of the whole group, remove or add someone). Examples: photos of grandparents only, grandchildren, parents and children, children only, mother and children, father and children, etc.
1:07 – Shooting in a natural setting (direct their attention to each other, photograph the natural interaction).
1:24 – Shoot the mini photoshoot of the father and mother: let the children rest for a while, and you will photograph the parents (photograph the bride and the wedding photo shoot – a love story, staged exercises and natural poses)
1:42 – Do not be afraid to look silly (funny faces, catch a bright mood in the shooting). Shoot something that looks silly, catch the reaction of family members at this moment.
I note that the creative lighting system can be built not based on the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless flash controller only. Here are analogues of controllers from other Chinese manufacturers:
- Godox XPro Wireless Flash Trigger – available for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm X, Olympus and Panasonic cameras.
- Phottix Odin II TTL – for Sony, Nikon and Canon.
11. Difficult choice for speedlights: alkaline battery vs rechargeable battery. What kind of a charger to buy?
I admit honestly: until I decided to take the Yongnuo YN685N speedlights, I did not know that there are a problem with such a choice. However, as the order came and the flashguns appeared in my hands, I realized that I did not know anything about the power sources for it.
Let us figure it out. Conventional lithium batteries, more powerful alkaline or nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries (NiMH) can power flashguns. Depending on what type of power supply we have chosen, we will have different recycle times and capacities (the number of frames on one charge).
Here is a table of parameters for Nikon speedlights depending on the type of batteries.
We see that the recycling time for a speedlight with rechargeable batteries can be shorter than for batteries. Now let us see how many images we can shot on one power source (according to the Nikon speedlight operating manual).
The table is formed based on condition of maximum flash power. In practice, we use a weaker flash, and therefore we can get more shots on one battery than indicated in this table. Bigger flash power is required at a greater distance to the subject (especially when we bounce light from the ceiling), small aperture and low ISO. Normal parameters: ISO 400, f/5.0, although it all depends on the height of the ceiling (2.5 m – you need a smaller charge, 3.5 – bigger one).
Who cares, here is another table comparing the recycling time of the Nikon SB-800 speedlight, laid out in the Internet by amateur photographers.
11.1. The differences between the various types of power supplies for flashguns
Zinc Carbon Batteries are the cheapest, but also the least suitable variant for speedlights. Simply, they cannot provide the right voltage (short recharge cycle), so before they die they will give too few shots. Maybe they are acceptable for flashlights and MP3-players, but as a source of power for off-camera flashes they can not be considered.
Alkaline batteries. You can buy everywhere. Speedlights need high voltage, and although this power sources themselves cannot be compared with rechargeable batteries, they are better than salt ones: the recycle speed is worse than that of nickel metal hydride batteries, but better than zinc carbon ones. The lifetime of such power sources is 7-10 years. As a fallback, you can carry them with you in a camera backpack.
Nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries (NiMH) – fastest full power flash recycling and low internal resistance. They can be recharged hundreds of times (subject to the use of high-quality charger). This type of power supply for flashguns is super popular with professional photographers.
Note that there are two types of rechargeable batteries: regular and low self-discharge (or Pre-Charged, or Ready To Use). Regular batteries are all good, but after a month or two they discharge completely (you need to charge again before shooting). Thus, they are not the best choice for a watch or for an “emergency reserve” in a camera backpack, but if you charge them before the photoshoot itself (at least a week), then everything is Ok!
The latest nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries (NiMH) of the “Ready to use” type (with low self-discharge) are held for a long time, that is, they do not discharge while they lie on the shelf in the store (several months). According to most professional photographers, this type of battery is the best choice for powering speedlights. They can be inserted to the camera “immediately from the package”, although note that at the factory such power sources charge somewhere around 70%.
The most popular brand among photographers is Eneloop Pro, the leader in battery manufacturing for flashguns. However, the developer has now sold production licenses to several third-party factories. Batteries of this brand give a high voltage (more than alkaline batteries, which is good for off-camera flashes). And they have a low level of self-discharge – this means that ordinary NiMH batteries may be better for “shooting tomorrow,” but will lose in one or two weeks, since Eneloop holds the charge for a very long time.
The Eneloop manufacturer claims that after 5 years of storage, batteries contain 70% of the charge. Therefore, such batteries are an excellent choice for rarely shooting photographers who want to have normal power sources during unscheduled shooting. Also, unlike nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCd), nickel-metal hydride ones have no memory effect, they can be charged at any time, without waiting for discharge.
If you search the history of M&A on the Internet, the Eneloop brand has intricate roots: at first, it belonged to the Japanese Sanyo Eneloop, but then Panasonic bought the company and moved production to China. Nevertheless, the Japanese government banned selling the patent to the Chinese, and it stayed for Sanyo Twicell, which was later sold to Fujitsu (production in Japan, a very high reputation).
Anyway, the manufacturer of “Eneloop” must comply with all the technology, and all batteries of this brand are famous for reliability: with proper charging with a “smart charger” – up to 10 years of service life.
If you carefully compare the characteristics of alkaline batteries and nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries, the first ones have a higher starting current, but it is quickly lost. And rechargeable batteries easily win.
11.2. Battery charger for speedlights
We already have understood that the rechargeable batteries are fine for speedlights, but there is a nuance: if we charge them correctly. What does it mean? Use the correct value of the charging current, do not overheat, and turn off as soon as the charge reaches its maximum.
And to execute it, as it should, expensive “smart chargers” can only. Cheap charges come in several types: some just charge while plugged in; others are turned off by timer not taking into account how badly the battery was discharged at the beginning of the cycle, or what capacity it has; still others measure the temperature of the battery and turn off when it is hot, believing that the charge is sufficient.
Good chargers have a computer-controlled electrical circuit to monitor the voltage and condition of the battery, and turn off only when it is fully charged. And it is not just about reaching the maximum voltage as in car batteries. There is a small jump on the graph, after which the voltage smoothly drops (called “Delta-V”), and this process is much weaker in nickel-metal hydride batteries than in nickel-cadmium batteries, it also depends on temperature. Finding the right charging mode is not easy, relatively difficult, good battery performance is ensured by the “smart charging algorithm”.
Some chargers control the charge of only dual cells (without seeing the parameters of each battery separately). They cannot charge only one cell – you need two or four at once. However, good charges control the charge of each battery separately (several electrical circuits with an indicator of the status of each battery), so they charge according to their algorithm, independently of the others. No matter how badly the batteries discharged before the cycle, they all have the same charge at the end.
If we do not have a “smart charger”, and there is no individual monitoring of the battery, there may be situations when fresh and old batteries get mixed up, which is bad. The fact is that a speedlight is powered by 4 batteries, and if they are unevenly charged, the full charge causes problems: when one battery reaches zero, the others (more charged) pump the current through it. Such a forced reverse current can spoil a single battery and, of course, the overall power of the system drops.
In short, the cost of a good charger is reimbursed by the low cost of buying new batteries. At the same time, a flashgun will also work, reliably and quickly reload.
If the batteries charged correctly, the NiMH models can withstand up to 500 charge cycles, if not, then recharge and discard them after 10-20 cycles.
Furthermore, batteries should be charged with a given current and temperature, it is necessary to observe a number of other conditions: prior charge to discharge to zero (with low current condition – about 0,2s – 0.8V/cell).
In addition, approximately 1 time for 10 cycles of charging NiMH batteries, it is required to arrange a “discharge – charge – discharge – charge” training in order to destroy the memory effect. Considering that the time of charging the battery with a capacity of 2700 mAh is 13 hours, imagine how many nuances you need to keep and not sleep at night, if you do not buy a smart charger!
When on the site I asked the question, what kind of charger to buy for speedlights, holy wars started! The main model of “La Crosse RS-700” (aka “Technoline BC-700”). However, it is expensive! I made calculations, how many I will shoot photoshoots, and put them into a table.
Rechargeable batteries (NiMH)
1. The charger – 37 USD.
2. 8 pcs. of batteries – 46 USD.
8 pcs. – 6 USD.
Total: 83 USD.
So, to achieve a return on investment in the charger and the battery for my off-camera flashes (we do not take into account two batteries for the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter), you need to spend 11 sets of batteries. Given that 1 set holds 150-250 shots, that is, 3-4 photoshoots, I need to capture 45 photoshoots. But I take portraits once every 100 years…
It is easier to buy batteries. I stopped at the fact that I took different power sources to experiment.
Experienced photographers give this advice: the nickel-metal hydride batteries have a lifespan of about 5 years (if properly charged). If you take images 10 times a year, it is easier to buy alkaline batteries (always at hand, you do not need to spend money on a charger, you do not need to immediately invest a large amount). If you shoot 10 times a month, then, of course, take the rechargeable batteries.
But… it’s not for nothing that the devil-tempter stokes the stove in hell: a video stating that cheap LADDA batteries in Ikea stores are Eneloop Pro in a different wrapper (see the video review with parameter measurements). I could not stop the soul of the photographer – in a fit of passion on “AliExpress” I pay for charging “Opus BT C3100 V2.2”, which, it seems, is analogous to “La Crosse RS-700”, but is 15 USD cheaper. I read reviews – there is something wrong with the charge voltage, I cancel the order and paid for Technoline BC-700 “(45 USD with delivery to Ekaterinburg).
Watch video with comparison LADDA and Eneloop Pro batteries.
In short, here… the Technoline BC-700 system + the LADDA 2450 mAh, AA system, which is not necessary for my shooting conditions.
Watch video review of the Technoline BC-700 charger.
12. Comparison of different models of Yongnuo speedlights. How do they differ from each other?
This Chinese company produces inexpensive, fairly high-quality light sources. However, their marketing is lame. Therefore, I could not find a comparative table anywhere, what is the difference between the different models of Yongnuo speedlights. Only a scattered description is avaiable.
However, now you can see the detailed analysis of the differences on the site «Hypop». In addition, here is a brief analysis from StackExchange site.
Professional photographers say that the ability to control an off-camera flash with a trigger is a great thing, but much depends on the performance of the system. Almost every model requires its own transmitter, even from one manufacturer, does not always work with its own wireless flash transceiver. Only Godox Company, it seems, is trying to restore order, but still there is the Wild West.
Unfortunately, this means that it is not so easy to take a speedlight and a transmitter and start shooting masterpieces. The Yongnuo brand is one of the most popular flashguns on the market. After reading all 50,000 letters in the review above, you understood how to choose the correct speedlight: it should be able to shoot in TTL (but not necessarily), have a swivel head, be powerful enough, have zooming to concentrate/scatter a beam of light, be able to sync on the second curtain.
Yongnuo does not adhere to a strict strategy in assigning numbers to its models, but, in general terms, the differences between them are as follows.
The Yongnuo 4xx line is the first generation speedlight. Cost inexpensive, functionality is limited. They can work in optical slave mode (SU-4 mode), do not have TTL, do not work with a trigger, and cannot shoot in the HSS mode.
Yongnuo 5xx is the second generation. Basically, the models in this series are now on the market.
Yongnuo 6xx is the third generation of Yongnuo flashguns.
Yongnuo xx0 – speedlights whose model numbers end in zero (for example, Yongnuo YN-460, Yongnuo YN-560) have only one contact (pin) in the hot shoe and work only in manual mode. They can only “understand” the sync signal (exception is Yongnuo YN-500EX, partial exception is Yongnuo YN-560EX and Yongnuo YN-510EX, see explanations below).
Yongnuo xxx (any non-zero numeric designations) – models that do not end in zero (for example, Yongnuo YN-468, Yongnuo YN-565EX, Yongnuo YN-568EX II) have the full number of pins on the hot shoe and may contact the camera for TTL shooting. Each camera brand has its own specific model: Canon version, Nikon version. There is one model for Pentax. For other brands, for example, Sony or Fujifilm are not available. If for the model there are versions of “Canon” and “Nikon”, then on the body of the first inscription they write in silver, on the second – in gold.
Yongnuo EX – if the model name ends with “EX”, it can be used as a master in the Creative Lighting System (CLS) and as a slave in eTTL.
The higher the model number, the better or newer it is. In addition, of course, the larger the Roman numeral, the later version of the speedlight is in front of us.
The Yongnuo lineup is constantly expanding so read reviews before buying and check what the current version is different from oldest one. Yongnuo is not the only brand on the market, just one of the cheapest and great for undemanding lovers. If you take images constantly and often, that is, the load is planned to be high, it is better to take a more reliable speedlight by LumoPro, Godox or Phottix.
The main Yongnuo models that most photographers look to are the following.
Versions of Yongnuo YN-560 (and II, EX, III and IV). It is a simple manual speedlight with two “blind” optical slave modes. Between different generations of the YN-560 there are the following differences:
- Mk I: there is only one row of LEDs on the front panel for all settings.
- Mk II: LCD available to make it easier to view/change settings.
- EX: Yongnuo YN-560EX is, in fact, a Yongnuo YN-560 II, but with an added TTL slave sensor, so it can only be manual when it is in the hot shoe of a camera, but being installed separately on a light stand, activates the “optical slave trigger” mode and it can shoot in iTTL/eTTL in the CLS system as a slave. The Yongnuo YN-510EX is a less powerful version of this flashgun. Both modifications cannot perform HSS.
- Mk III: added a hand-held radio receiver for RF-60x triggers (for example, RF-603II, RF-605, etc.).
- Mk IV: a radio transmitter added to work as a master.
The Yongnuo YN-660 model is similar to the Yongnuo YN-560 IV, but controls 6 groups of speedlights, not 3, the head swivel 360°, the zoom is up to 200 mm (which increases the guide number), and the body and control are the same as in my Yongnuo YN-685.
Yongnuo YN-720 speedlight (aka YN-860Li) – in principle, this is the Yongnuo YN-660, but it works on a lithium-ion battery instead of AA batteries. The battery pack, in general, is similar to the case of using an external battery without the problems of it. You get much more battery power and faster recharge time.
Note for the Yongnuo triggers: among other things, the transmitter YN-560-TX, used as a master on the camera, can control the power/zoom/flash group of the Yongnuo YN-560III & IV, Yongnuo YN-660 and can turn the groups on and off using trigger Yongnuo RF-605, used as a receiver. It can run Yongnuo RF-602 and Yongnuo RF-603, Yongnuo 603 II and Yongnuo 605 triggers, but only one or the other: not both at the same time, as they have incompatible signal protocols.
The Yongnuo YN-500EX model is an exception to the “zero at the end” marking rule. This speedlight is the “younger brother” of Yongnuo YN-568EX: less body and lower flash power, but with TTL, HSS and CLS/eTTL wireless slave control through the sensor and foot.
The Yongnuo YN-565EX flashgun can be used as a slave in the CLS for Canon eTTL, or as a blind optical slave device. Its output power is approximately equal to the power of the native Canon 430EX II or Nikon SB-600, and is equal to the YN-568EX. The head swivels 270°. It can work in TTL mode, but does not work in high-speed sync mode HSS.
Yongnuo YN-568EX (and Mk II, and Mk III) is a top TTL-compatible flashgun with flash power like that of the Canon 430EXII or Nikon SB-600. The head can be rotated 360°. The speedlight can be used as a master or as a Canon eTTL slave, or simply as a “blind” slave. It has TTL and HSS, but is not equipped with an external port for connecting an additional battery.
The Mk II version adds the master capabilities in the eTTL wireless control setup. The Mk III version adds a USB port for updating the firmware and has a faster recycling time.
Yongnuo YN-585EX is a model for Pentax with TTL operation; does not support HSS.
A note on the operation of the Yongnuo triggers: flashguns by this manufacturer that have a TTL are probably best communicated via the YN-622 trigger (the letters “C” or “N” in the designation indicate the versions for Canon and Nikon). These triggers can control TTL, FP/HSS, remote power setting, etc., and you can overpay for them if you bought a speedlight with a TTL mode.
Since TTL speedlights do not have a built-in receiver, you need two YN622 Wireless Flash Transceiver: one to work as a receiver on the foot of the off-camera flash and another to work as a transmitter on the camera. The owners of Nikon and Canon will be delighted with the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX and YN-622C-TX triggers, respectively, which allows you to control flash settings using the built-in LCD display.
Yongnuo YN-685 for Nikon – (my flashgun) is similar to the Yongnuo YN-568EX with the built-in receiver Yongnuo YN-622C + Yongnuo RF-603/5, but it does not have an optical sensor for sync to other speedlights.
Yongnuo YN-968N is available only for use with Nikon cameras. It has the built-in YN-622 receiver, not the transmitter. It also has the optical sensor for the Nikon CLS (cannot be a master) and the LED lamp on the underside of the head for shooting video.
Yongnuo YN-600EX-RT is a clone of the Canon 600EX-RT native flashgun and has a built-in receiver that perfectly receives signals from the original Canon 600EX-RT speedlite and the Canon ST-E3-RT transmitter, as well as the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT. However, this speedlight can only be a master for a radio signal (but not for optical eTTL, although it may be an optical slave CLS/wireless eTTL) and does not have an external sensor or color mapping capability, depending on the mode. This is not an exact Canon 600EX-RT clone.
Yongnuo YN-968EX-RT – at the bottom of the head there is an LED flashlight to illuminate during video shooting.
Yongnuo YN-600EX-RT II model, basically, is identical to the Yongnuo YN-600EX-RT, but with the added feature of the CLS/wireless eTTL master.
Yongnuo YN-686EX-RT – basically, it is the Yongnuo YN-600EX-RT II powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Note regarding triggers: the Yongnuo YN-560 / RF-60x, YN622 and YN RT triggers are mostly incompatible with each other, do not operate together well. Until the end of 2014, the only way was to use more than one of the trigger systems – this is the stacking of transceivers (i.e. installing RF-603 over YN-622) or having YN-560TX, which controls YN-622-TX.
After December 2014, the Yongnuo 622 controllers have 603 mode, so they can be receivers in the Yongnuo 560/60x system, but lose their TTL/HSS capability, acting as a manual 560/60x. In other words: choose a specific model of the controller and buy only flashguns that are compatible with it; do not expect to be able to combine more than one of these systems.
Watch video review with description of differences between Yongnuo flashguns.
If you plan to shoot both manual and TTL off-camera flashes, you will buy additional ones with time and you want them to be combined perfectly, then Yongnuo may not be the best choice. Get better at Godox/Flashpoint, Phottix, PocketWizard or RadioPopper products.
13. Features of shooting with the Yongnuo YN-685N speedlight
Prior to the acquisition of my two flashguns and trigger I had never photographed with artificial light. Now, having tried to shoot during half a year in my home photgraphy studio, I note that it was not necessary to buy both top-end YN-685 models. For example, in fact, I practically do not use the TTL mode, as I often setup the flash parameters manually (M mode). On the street for the past 6 months, I photographed with speedlights only once, and only on an overcast day when the lighting is weak and the HSS mode is not required.
Consequently, for current needs, I would have had the opportunity of the cheaper Yongnuo YN-560 IV (or even the YN-560 III), since it also has a built-in receiver, but no HSS and TTL. It costs 50% cheaper.
On the other hand, if you exmine the price differences between the Yongnuo YN-560 IV and the YN-685 for Nikon, not in percentages, but in money, then the difference is not that significant. And the creative possibilities (in other words, creative freedom) when using the YN-685 are much greater. Therefore, I am very pleased that I bought this particular model.
What cannot do the Yongnuo YN-685N?
- Control other flashes, that is, be a master.
- To catch light from other flashes, that is, it does not have an optical sensor to work in the optical slave mode.
I think the opportunity to work with radio signals is a great advantage of the YN-685N. The optical slave mode is necessary only in the case when there is no hot shoe on the camera, and such hot shoe is available in Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Therefore, the absence of the optical sensor in this model is not a problem.
On radio waves the Yongnuo YN-685 can receive control signals from other controllers (YN-622N, YN622N II, YN622N-TX, YN660, YN560-TX, RF605, RF603II, and RF603). However, all the functions available on the YN-685 are available only when using the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX transmitter. For example, if the signals come from the Yongnuo YN560-TX II trigger, then you can only take pictures in “M” mode, but you cannot take pictures in TTL. Also with the YN560-TX II mode HSS is not available. And the zoom range in the YN560-TX II is 24-105 mm, whereas in the YN-685 it is 24-200 mm, so not all the zoom capabilities will be used.
Details on the features of setting and shooting with the Yongnuo YN-685 speedlight and the Yongnuo YN560-TX II wireless flash controller can be found on the HaveCamerawilltravel website.
Differences in the operation of the transmitter Yongnuo YN-622N-TX when setting the mode “622 R. Slave” or “622 M. Slave”
We install the Yongnuo YN685 speedlight on the light stand and long press the “Mode” button to activate the selection of the desired way of its operation together with the controller. Rotating the control wheel, select “622 R. Slave” or “622 M. Slave”, “603 Slave” or “Radio OFF”.
If you select “622 R. Slave”, then all flashgun settings can be set by the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX wireless controller (flash output, zoom, group, channel). If you select “622 M. Slave”, then the transmitter only fires the speedlight, and the settings need to be selected on the YN-685 manually.
It should be understood that when the YN-685 is not on the camera, the TTL mode only works when “622 R. Slave” selected.
Note about High-speed Sync mode
If the camera supports this function (for example, the Nikon D5600 DSLR does not have the HSS, the Nikon D7500 has it – see Nikon’s website) and the trigger can work with shutter speeds up to 1/8000 second – this is written in the passport of the YN685. When I tried to shoot at first on my Nikon D610 and the Yongnuo YN-685N, a white stripe formed at the bottom of the frame.
Use the “Mode” button to set “SS” and hold “af/ss” for a long time, enter the delay-setting mode and use the left-right cursor to set either the appropriate delay value or “Auto” on the Yongnuo YN-622N-TX trigger. Then the flashgun will simply shine while the gap of the sutter is running.
YN-685N Firmware Update Using Yongnuo YN622N-TX Trigger
There is no connector for connecting to a computer on the body of the flashgun; therefore, it will not be possible to update firmware. Although, you can find recommendations on how to upgrade firmware using the YN-685N trigger.
To start, download software from the official site. Then we start the update procedure:
- Turn off the Yongnuo YN622N-TX.
- Connect the trigger to the Windows computer via USB Micro-B cable (not included in the scope of supply).
- Holding down the [GROUP] button, turn on the YN622N-TX.
The display of the trigger should display YN | 685 | up.
- Device information should change from “Disconnect” to “Connect” in the update software.
On the Yongnuo YN685 for Nikon:
- Press the [Mode] key and [ON] key simultaneously to switch to the wireless update mode.
- In the firmware update program, click “Browse…” to find and open the “.dfu” version. For example, you had 1.2.F, and you can upgrade to Version 1.3.3.
- Make sure that the flash version is older than the update program. If everything is fine, click [Start].
Note: the blue LED on the flashgun will begin to flash and change color while the firmware is being updated (it takes about 15 seconds).
- Upon completion of the process in the update sofware, an inscription like this appears: *** the update was successful.
The speedlight will reboot automatically and a new firmware will already be involved.
- Turn off the trigger Yongnuo YN622N-TX and disconnect the USB cable.
- Close the update software on the computer.
Watch the video with detailed instructions for updating the firmware.
Watch video with examples of shooting on HSS mode with Yongnuo YN-622C and with the Nikon D7200 DSLR + the Samyang 85mm f /1.4, the flashgun Godox TT680N.
Note. I tried to take a portrait in our home photography studio with the described set not only with the Nikon D5100 DSLR and with the Nikon D610 DSLRs, but also with the Fujifilm X30 compact camera. The TTL mode on this camera does not work, but if you install the Yongnuo YN622N-TX controller on the hot shoe, then in “M” mode it normally controls a pair of off-camera flashes Yongnuo YN685.
Here, among other things, I made a typical mistake of beginners: I raised the umbrella too high, so the catch ligths disappeared on the iris – my eyes became lifeless, as in a portrait without a flash at the beginning of the review. I had to paint the catch ligths in “Photoshop” but not sucsessfully.
Watch video with tips how to setup the Yongnuo YN622N-TX.
14. Conclusion to the review of the Yongnuo YN685N with the transmitter Yongnuo YN-622N-TX
Well, my article has ended. I hope, having read this scribbling, you now understand why an off-camera flash is needed, and why it should not be installed off the camera. You realize the difference between studio monoblocks. You kbhat is better for a home photography studio: an umbrella or a softbox. You know which parameters to pay attention to, choosing from several models of speedlights and how to set up them manually. You have an idea how location of speedlights affects the lighting pattern. You understand why rechargeable batteries are better charged in “a smart charger” and perceive situations when you can shoot with alaline batteries. You have an idea of how Yongnuo YN560 IV differs from Yongnuo YN685N. It remains only to wish you to shoot your own masterpieces. Successful photos, my friends!