Doing the Strobist Thing With a Canon Rebel T1i and 430EX II Flash

by Mike on October 30, 2010

(The lovely Silvana jumped right in front of my camera after she heard I was taking my flash off-camera)

Strobist.com got me pretty darn pumped about the idea of using off-camera flash. I’m primarily a street photographer, but I’ve thrown myself into portrait work full-blast, and so I can’t always rely upon natural light.

UPDATE: I just ordered the cheapo Cowboy Studio wireless trigger & receiver set from Amazon. See my review here. (NOTE – this is the easiest and cheapest way to get a 430EX II flash off camera)

The only problem has been my confusion confusion over just how I can get my Canon 430EX II flash to cooperate with my Rebel T1i camera while off camera. It took a couple of days, but I finally figured it out.

The main problem with this particular setup is that neither my camera nor my flash has PC-sync ports that allow one to easily use cables or wireless devices like PocketWizards to make the camera-flash connection. Therefore, I needed to pick up a whole bunch of cables and adapters to make it happen.

To get a PC-sync port on my camera, I purchased the Nikon AS-15, which attaches to the hotshoe and adds the port. Don’t worry that it’s a Nikon product – it will fit right on top of a Canon DSLR camera with no issues, and I’m going to try it with the Panasonic LX5 as well.

Into the AS-15, I plugged in a 15-foot PC to PC female cable , which should give me enough range for my intended purpose (close-up portraits).

I then attached that cable to a PC to hotshoe adapter.

Finally, I stuck the 430EX II flash into the hotshoe adapter, clicked the shutter, and …

Nothing.

Somehow I managed to put the flash in backwards. My T1i actually detected a flash was there, but it wouldn’t fire.

After some screwing around, I turned the flash the opposite way, and presto! My flash was firing, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities for me. I stuck my flash on a lighting stand, popped on the umbrella, and did some quick self-portraits.

Once I dialed in my exposure, I was blown away by the results. Well, not blown away, but there was a HUGE improvement in the quality of light with the flash off the camera shooting into an umbrella – literally like night and day when compared with traditional on-camera flash.

Remember, there are more than one ways to skin a cat with this kind of stuff – this combination of components is just what worked for me. Note that Canon’s ETTL flash metering doesn’t work with my method.

If you do want TTL functionality, consider one of the Canon TTL cord or wireless Pocketwizard solutions.

These are the other items I selected for this first off-camera flash kit:

This is literally the best $150 I’ve spent on camera gear in my life, and I’m actually starting to fantasize about Elinchrom lights instead of that 135mm L lens.

UPDATE: I just ordered the cheapo Cowboy Studio wireless trigger & receiver set from Amazon. See my review here.

More samples from my one-light setup:

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd October 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I started fooling around with Strobist stuff about a year ago, and you’re right about getting hooked on it.

One thing I found I wanted right away was a second flash. Until I got one, I made do with a Photoflex round reflector. It was quite educational! ;-)

I grew tired of using a PC cable quickly. I got radio triggers pretty quickly after starting, in my case CyberSyncs. You won’t regret it if you can swing it.

BTW, I bought a pair of Nikon SB-80DX’s on eBay. They work fine with my Canon camera and the radio triggers.

Mike December 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Todd, I’ll probably be going for the Lumopro LP-160 for off-camera flash work in the future. Canon’s lack of sync ports is annoying.

I’ll probably go for Cybercyncs as well. Thanks for the recommendation.

Siroun December 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm

can you use the 430 ex II on the t1i with the wireless mode?

Mike December 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Siroun, the T1i has no wireless flash mode built-in. I believe you’d need that wireless commander thingamajig.

Sharron Clemons December 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Canon Rebel T1i Kit… [...] ss devices like PocketWizards to make the camera-flash connection. Therefore, I [...]…

Marisol Perry December 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Siroun, the T1i has no wireless flash mode built-in. I believe you’d need that wireless commander thingamajig.

Latoya Bridges December 22, 2010 at 3:32 am

[...] Nikon As-15 on hotshoe –> PC to PC female cable –> PC to hotshoe adapter –> Canon 430 EXII flash (more info here) [...]

Nona Mills December 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I started fooling around with Strobist stuff about a year ago, and you’re right about getting hooked on it. One thing I found I wanted right away was a second flash. Until I got one, I made do with a Photoflex round reflector. It was quite educational! ;-) I grew tired of using a PC cable quickly. I got radio triggers pretty quickly after starting, in my case CyberSyncs. You won’t regret it if you can swing it. BTW, I bought a pair of Nikon SB-80DX’s on eBay. They work fine with my Canon camera and the radio triggers.

Michele Foley December 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Canon Rebel T1i Kit… [...] ss devices like PocketWizards to make the camera-flash connection. Therefore, I [...]…

Paula Drake December 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm

[...] get one myself, but I’m still getting the hang of my bare-bones Strobist [...]

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