• Russ Tierney

Firing your studio strobes - triggers and receivers.

Episode 7 of 1 minute 101's v2

Firing strobe lights using a trigger and receivers


There are a few ways to fire a strobe light and make it talk to your camera. You can use a wireless trigger/transceiver (the one in the video is a trigger, I just let saying transceiver slide), you can physically wire up to a light from your camera using a sync cable, or you can fire them by using their optical receiver. We're going to talk in the next video about optical receivers, as these are really best used for triggering multiple lights off of a master (so see tomorrow's blog for jargon explanations), however, you never know when you may need it!? So, imagine you can't find a lead or a trigger, or they're broken, or they've run out of battery etc. i keep saying it, stuff will go wrong eventually! After all, it's really easy to not have a spare 12v battery or a screwdriver to change it with, or to just forget something small like the trigger itself, and certainly a sync cable. Never fear however, you didn't forget your speedlite (the small flashes that you shove on top of your camera) as it's a 'just in case' option, or is chunky enough that it's harder to forget. Well, you can fire from the optical receiver using your built-in/on camera flash as a master too in a worse case scenario. If you can, power it right down, or even twist it to face the ceiling or wall so it's not an influence on your subject, and now you can use your speedlite's pulse of light to fire the studio lights that you intended on using.



As for the sync cable, it does exactly as it suggests.. well not quite, you still have to aid it with a few basic setting adjustments. Prosumer studio strobes, which are the majority that aren't too fancy and don't have high speed sync as mentioned in the Broncolor blog, well they typically can't use a higher shutter speed than 200, some 160 possibly, but maybe even 125 to be safe side! In fact, I was speaking to another photographer the other day who sometimes suggested he had to drop down to 60! It can depend on the camera, the brand of either the strobes or camera.. a few things really, but the fact is, you need to take shutter speed in to account regardless. A photography strobe pulse of light is so fast that it'll freeze basic movement, so unless you're using a shutter speed that is far too slow (which can be done creatively), a mega zoom, or there is loads of ambient light that you're mixing with the flash, you shouldn't need more than 125, possibly even 60!


If you're getting a black lines in an image, that is why. That is your camera's shutter curtain in frame, and it happens when your sync speed is too high.. 160/200/250+. This catches everyone out when they first start shooting, not least if they have experience with speedlites as they're typically faster and can often allow you to shoot up to 250th of a second. Of course, and as proved by said friend about coming down to 60, there are exceptions to every rule, but keeping your shutter between 125 and 160 with very little ambient light, will in most cases do what you need it to do!



Triggers, receivers, and transceivers all come in different shapes, sizes and levels of ability. Triggers transmit the signal, receivers obviously receiver, and depending on how you set them up, a transceiver can do both. The obvious disadvantage of using a cable is of course being attached to the light, and while these cables can be long, they often break easy, or they fall out of your camera's sync port if you breathe on them just a little too heavy, so this is why triggers and receivers are the way to go! Again, your sync speed is an issue mostly with the lights, not triggers and receivers, so you have to abide by shutter speed rules. You will also need a hotshoe on your camera, which is the little ledge of electronic magic where you attach your speedlite, and in this case, it is where the trigger will go. Not every camera has a hotshoe however, typically they're reserved for the hobbyist and professional camera market. It also means that, unfortunately, the chances are that you won't have a sync port without one either, so in this case we can only assume you're probably not invested and interested enough to be thinking about studio lighting.

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