• Russ Tierney

Firing multiple studio strobes via optical sensors

Episode 8 of 1 minute 101's v2

Firing multiple strobes using their optical slave sensors. You can often spot your optical slave sensor as a protruding red piece of plastic somewhere on the strobe head. These need to be activated by a switch that is typically located on the back panel. Once on, they are pretty damn sensitive, with the smallest flash of light enough to kick your sync in to life. They may not fire every time, however. If you control your light with military precision and choose to use a modifier that solely only lights your subject without bouncing around the room any, it may not spread enough for the other strobes to 'see' it, and then of course they will not fire! There are solutions. We typically, by habit, put the receiver on the key light (your main light on the subject with the biggest output and best light direction), but you can move your receiver to the light that is not firing in a hope that it has a wider spread and then will trigger the key and the other lights. Or repeat that on any light in the set-up, as often one will pick up the others. The reason we often want the key light as the master is because that's the one we're probably going to want in every shot, and then, should we wish, we can then turn the other lights off while we're shooting and have different vibes but with minimal effort. Optical slaves not firing doesn't happen too often, but it can, and again, it will. Get creative, use another low powered light not in the set-up to spill just enough, and use that as the master if need be, it'll be more than enough of a solution for the average person who isn't obsessing over light to the point of bringing their own gear.

While this doesn't apply so much to Splash Point Photo photography studio as we typically use just the one receiver, it's perfectly possible to have a receiver in each light. As suggested in previous 101's before, fancier newer strobes may even have them built in too. Most receivers typically have groups, these are different signal channels, where from a combination of a few flicks of mini switches or digital push buttons on the trigger/receivers, they can be grouped in to different firing combinations, or all at once. Again, more convenience, more options, and less effort.. well, we say that, most of us find that grouping them in the first instance is more effort than just walking and turning them off, but hey... it's a romantic thought if you don't want to stretch your legs!


I will cover mixing brands of strobes and white balance in the next blog, so until then, stay safe my friends, and be happy!

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